Heading On Down to the Audubon Zoo with Meschiya Lake & The Little Big Horns

Here in New Orleans music permeates pretty much everything and Audubon Zoo is no exception to that rule.

Immortalized in The Meters’ song They All Ask’d For You  – written by Art Neville, George Porter Jr., Leo Noncentelli, and Zigaboo Modeliste – Audubon Zoo is also famous for its annual philanthropic event the Whitney Zoo-To-Do, a black-tie fundraiser replete with New Orleans’ customary signature blend of great food, great cocktails, and great music.

This year is Zoo-To-Do’s 40th anniversary and as part of the celebrations will feature performances by Walter “Wolfman” Washington and the Roadmasters, Jessie’s Girls, Julio Y Cesar, and Meschiya Lake.

“I am pretty excited to be performing at the zoo,” said Lake. “I adore animals and it is for a good cause. I always enjoy that.”

From a circus performer with the Know Nothing Family Zirkus Zideshow and the End of the World Circus to her current career as one of New Orleans’ best Jazz-singer-with-an-edge, Meschiya Lake is no stranger to the ups and down of showbusiness and, according to Lake, playing at Audubon Zoo definitely falls into the up category, not least because she is excited to bring her four-month-old daughter Saiorse (which means freedom in Gaelic) on her first visit to zoo.

Over the more than ten years that Lake has called New Orleans home, Lake has performed on the streets of the French Quarter, New Orleans music clubs, and even at Celtic Connections, Scotland’s biggest folk music festival held yearly in Glasgow. She was also took home the Big Easy Music Awards “Best Female Performer” of the year for 2010, 2011, and 2012.

In January 2018, she and her band are heading back across the pond to revisit Celtic Connections, something  that, she says, she is very much looking forward to.

“I loved Scotland,” said Lake. “I found Scottish people to be funny and down to earth. And they loved to hang out. Really looking forward to going back.”

“Sometimes when I sit down and think about it, it is pretty nuts,” said Lake. “Ten years ago, I was working all kinds of other jobs with bands on the side. I drove a forklift. I did migrant farm work. I worked in a lot of kitchens. In 2007, I started street performing and now I make my living with music and that is pretty cool, but, you know? But I still like to play on the streets. It is all part of the musical experience and as long as people are having a good time, that is what is important to me. It is always seat of the pants, as we say.”

Zoo-To-Do will take place on Friday, May 4, 2017 at Audubon Zoo, 6500 Magazine St, New Orleans, 70118.

More information about Meschiya Lake and The Little Big Horns is available at http://www.meschiyalake.com/

More information about the Audubon Nature Institute is available at http://audubonnatureinstitute.org/zoo

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Greensky Bluegrass In New Orleans Over JazzFest

One of the most wonderful things about the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival  is the depth and breadth of musical talent that it brings to the Crescent City over two glorious weeks of music, food, and fun – and not just out at the Fairgrounds.

This Jazz Fest season, acoustic Bluegrass rock-and-rollers Greensky Bluegrass will bring their uniquely progressive sound to New Orleans on Saturday, May 6, 2017 at the House of Blues.

Since their greenstick days performing at open mikes in their home town of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Greensky Bluegrass has come a long way both in terms of road miles and sound.  One of the hardest working bands in Bluegrass, they are both veterans of life on the road and innovators, some might even say iconoclasts, of traditional Bluegrass music.

While Greensky’s roots remain planted firmly in Americana’s musical traditions, band members – dobro player Anders Beck, banjo player Michael Arlen Beck, guitarist Dave Bruzza, upright bass player Mike Devol, mandolinist Paul Hoffman –  describe Greensky Bluegrass as more rock-and-roll than Bluegrass.

“I learned to play Bluegrass side by side with these guys,” said Mike Devol. “But over the years, we have written a lot of our own material and developed our own sound. Now we still play Bluegrass in the sense that we play Bluegrass instruments, and we also occasionally play Bluegrass sets on stage, but the way we approach our songwriting and our live performances is very much as a rock band. It is a big production, high volume experience.”

Greensky Bluegrass also experiments with electronics during their shows, something that Devol says sets them somewhat apart from not just traditional Bluegrass but also from some of the band’s progressive “Newgrass” contemporaries. Yet, said Devol, themes common to traditional Bluegrass continue to influence and inspire the band’s music.

“Paul Hoffman and David Bruzza are prolific songwriters and they write about what they know,” said Devol. “We are from Michigan, so there’s not many odes to the sweet smoky mountains of Appalachia. But there is a darkness in Bluegrass music – the old murder ballads, being poor, being heartbroken. Our band isn’t bleak but a lot of our songs capture things like the bleakness of the Michigan winter, and the work ethic of blue collar Mid-West – there is a realness to shared hardships and themes of regret, wherever you come from, that just makes for really good songs.”

Mike Devol joined the group in 2004, shortly after the release of the band’s debut album Less Than Supper. But it was the summer of 2006, when Greensky Bluegrass won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition, that “really lit a fire” for the band, according to Devol.

“I think the world of Telluride,” said Devol. “It encompasses what is best in the Bluegrass world we sort of inhabit. There is no venue like it, just the natural beauty and majesty of the place. It also gave us the chance to meet our heroes – Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Gerry Douglas, those guys – as well as virtuoso players like Chris Thile and the Punch Brother. All these people changed Bluegrass by the way they played it, and for them to embrace what we were doing was huge.”

And, after more than a decade, Greensky Bluegrass now finds itself in the position of mentoring young musicians, according to Devol.

“That is such an honor for us,” said Devol. “There is plenty of talent out there who can carry the torch farther than we can, and in a different direction from what we can because they have different ideas about taking the tradition – and respecting it – but also moving it forward, and making it their own.”

Along with Telluride, another city that enjoys a special place in the hearts of Greensky Bluegrass is New Orleans, said Devol.

“New Orleans is delicious,” said Devol. “I love the food, the street culture. I love the little adventures you can go on. I love the late nights in the French Quarter, just coming in and out the music clubs on Frenchmens. There is vibrancy to New Orleans that you don’t predictably see in other American cities. I just hope that we don’t get into too much trouble!”

Greensky Bluegrass will play on Saturday, May, 6, 2017 at the House of Blues. 225 Decatur Street, NO, LA, 70116.

More information about Greensky Bluegrass is available here