By Laura Cayouette
Despite the unpredictable weather, Irma Thomas and the Threadhead Players drew large crowds for this week's Wednesday at the Square benefitting the Youth Leadership Council. Irma Thomas and Margie Perez graced the stage.
Louisiana Music Hall of Fame artist, Irma Thomas, is known as the Soul Queen of New Orleans. She won her first Grammy in 2007 after several nominations in a career spanning 50 years thus far.
Thomas' trip down memory lane took the crowd through 60's doo-wop, contemporary blues, New Orleans standards like "Pocky Way," and bump-n-grind inspirers like "Hip Shakin' Mama." Though she sang, "It's raining," the weather held out and the crowd got drenched, instead, with sweat from dancing.
Her Majesty interacted with the crowd several times, encouraging us to wave hankies in a faux second line, teasing with a dancing fool who'd been following her career for decades, and giving a rare autograph to a nine year old girl who'd drawn a picture of her while standing on the fence-line at the front row.
Among the throng was guitarist, Jeanine Duhe, from all-female blues band, 30×90, who was there to watch earlier act Margie Perez, with whom she's played several times. Ms. Duhe has been playing with 30×90 since they formed their band in the wake of Katrina. "Me and Terri Cranford and Yvette Watkins, bass player, we'd been wanting to do this for years and so we decided to do it after Katrina. My band broke up and their bands broke up and we got together and the three of us have been together for five years… Thirty by ninety is the latitude and longitude of New Orleans, it's our place on the planet." 30×90 will be playing Friday night at Peggy Sue's Lounge and at the Paradise Inn Pensacola Beach Memorial Day weekend and the following 4th and 5th.
Though I'd missed her show, I did catch up with Margie Perez afterward. She performed at the Square along with Threadhead Records artists, Paul Sanchez, Alex McMurray, Glen David Andrews and others.
Fresh from her first Jazz Fest as a solo player with her own band, Perez, who sang back-up for Marva Wright at Jazz Fest 2006, and for Allen Toussaint in 2007, declared, "My life changed when I moved to New Orleans, for the better, and its gotten even better now that I've hooked up with the Threadheads… My favorite thing about being a New Orleans musician is that I get to make music with other New Orleans' musicians."
This was Perez' first time playing Wednesday at the Square. "I go to every music event that there is. If I'm not playing it, I'm in the audience and so I've met so many people through all that and seeing a lot of them here – and I've been coming to Wednesday at the Square for years, and to be able to play it for the first time – to look out and see all those people that I always say hello to when I come here as an audience member, to see them in the audience was… it was so special."
Next up for Ms. Perez is the Creole Tomato Festival in the French Market on June 13th at 3:30 pm. This will be her second appearance at a New Orleans festival playing with her own band.
Threadhead Records, for those not in the know, began as an effort to help musicians who were victims of Katrina to help themselves. It is run by volunteers and funded by fans. Threadhead loans artists money to produce a CD and in turn, the artist agrees to pay back the loan within six months along with a 10% donation to the Threadhead Records Foundation or other recognized charities benefitting local musicians. The loan money is then returned to the investor-fans. Sounds like a great way to help local musicians help themselves.
Only three more Wednesdays remain in this year's program, sponsored by our world champion New Orleans Saints. Geaux Saints!