- Date: Oct 01, 2016
- Location: New Orleans
“There was a time when popular music was distilled from desperation, striving, raw ambition and a healthy fear of the damnation of the Lord. Menace was in the air as the odds were damn near impossible to beat, getting out of the fields and into a Cadillac, proving to the world that toughness and talent could take a poverty-stricken kid to the bright lights of town. Songs with an edge, a secret code, a punk energy that is undeniable — that is the music of the Ponderosa Stomp.”
Ponderosa Stomp is an annual music festival that couldn’t be held anywhere other than New Orleans. This music festival celebrates the architects of American music, artists that don’t need the help of auto-tune or even 100% function able microphones. It’s described as three days of the music you’ve never heard of. The artists come from generations spread throughout the decades, from genres that include, but are not limited to soul singers, country creole and a hefty dose of rock ‘n’ roll with a sprinkle or two of punk and zydeco. If you’re not doing anything for a few days come October, this is a music tradition that you’ll want to check out. And if you are doing a bunch of stuff in October, stop. At least long enough to be part of the Ponderosa Stomp Festival.
This isn’t your typical musical event. In other words, it’s several days packed with real artists with real talent and something real to say. The festival’s tagline is “Celebrating the Unsung Heroes of American Music,” so that right there ought to tell you something good is going to happen.
Produced by the nonprofit Ponderosa Stomp Foundation, the festival concert each year gives the stage to support players, sidemen, session musicians and other American music pioneers who’ve helped to shape this country’s musical heritage yet never received all the accolades they deserved.
In its early days, the festival was staged by the Mystic Knights of the Mau Mau, whose goal was to re-introduce hundreds of the real architects of American music and give big crowds an opportunity to dig into the roots of what is arguably the most popular tidal wave of sound in the history of the world. The festival started in 2002 and originally happened in the space between the two weekends of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in the spring. However, it eventually found its home in September at the Rock ‘n’ Bowl.
Meet the New Old Kids on the Block
This isn’t to say the artists and bands you’ll see here are a bunch of unknowns. Virtually every musician and group has his or her devoted band of cult followers, some large, some small. What the festival aims to do is present to the greater public the acts who’ve stood the test of time and let people know that there are some seriously worthy performers to be found in places other than commercial radio and The Voice.
Since 1971, the Ponderosa Stomp Concert has been re-launching once-famous acts and entertainers and building new followings for exceptional talent that the masses, unfortunately and for the most part, missed. Here are some of the names that have kicked it up on stage at past festivals:
Billy Swan, Jumpin’ Gene Simmons (no, not that Gene Simmons), Little Willie Littlefield, Bo Dudley, Joe South, Roy Boogie Boy Perkins, Mando and the Chili Peppers (red hot, guaranteed), Guitar Lightin’ Lee, Miriam & Nobody’s Babies, and hundreds more. How many have you heard of? If the answer’s “not many,” then you have somewhere important to go this October.
Get the Low-Down on the Stomp
Last year’s Ponderosa Stomp Festival’s kick-off party, concert, conference and record show were supreme hits, and this year’s event is expected to be even supremer.
The fun doesn’t stop with the concert; there’s also a vinyl show. Yes, you heard right….vinyl, also known as records. You know the type - they only play on turntable record players. You won’t find any CDs, or even any tapes, here. It’s strictly vinyl 45s, LP albums and 78s. You can expect to find thousands of records that, just like the concert, don’t stick to any one genre.
Music History Conference
The centerpiece of this festival is the Music History Conference (also at the Wyndham Riverfront) which focuses on musicians, historians and musicologists sharing their love of music history. Many of the musical artists at the concert will also be speaking.
Aside from the annual festival in New Orleans, the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation also brings shows to Lincoln Center in New York as well as to area schools and museums. The foundation presents an annual music history conference and oversees an ongoing oral history project.