By Laura Cayouette
Another great Wednesday at the Square featured Benny Grunch and the Bunch and Bucktown All-Stars. The evening kicked off Grunch and company, best known for their local Christmas tunes like, "The Twelve Yats of Christmas." The three man group is fun, not despite their silliness, but because of it. What local can't relate to the lyrics of "Ain't No Place to Pee on Mardi Gras Day?"
Party band, Bucktown All-Stars, then filled the stage with musicians. The band has been playing together since 1992 when many of them met through high school and college. For some of the members, the All-Stars is the only band they've ever belonged to. All of the All-Stars have day jobs, including a lawyer, a dentist, three music teachers, a music therapist, and architect, a member services rep for the Grammys, a clerk of courts and a consultant with the phone company.
Additionally, the band has a "secret weapon," honorary band member, Joyce La Nasa, an 79 year old woman who played tambourine beside the stage at the bands' gigs until they finally invited her onstage. Ms. La Nasa, who wears white gloves while playing her various instruments, began playing percussion in 2005 proving it's never too late to join the party.
Reid Wick, guitarist, started playing with the band in 1994 when the original guitarist, Doug Kinler, needed time off to study for his bar exam. Music has played a part in his whole life, "My mom's first cousin is Connie Jones, who has been Pete Fountain's coronet and trumpet player since the 50's."
"Wednesday in the Square is one of the most fun gigs you can possibly play. We've been fortunate to play it a few times now. You know, just to look out at that crowd and to see everybody just dancing and having a good time and big smiles on their faces, and really just to see the whole gamet of the representation of the music of the New Orleans community. You see grandparents and you see young professionals and you see old friends and new friends. It's really one of the most fun things to do and I really appreciate the YLC having us back and I appreciate the Saints sponsoring it. You know, it's a blast. I'd love to be able to do that kind of gig every week."
Wick's relationship to both the city and music changed as a result of the storm. The former administrator of the Music Cares Hurricane Relief Fund, Wick stated, "Music Cares is one of the foundations of the Recording Academy and they created a fund immediately after Katrina and raised and distributed like $4 million to over 3700 musicians across the Gulf coast so I was very involved with that program, so for me personally, its almost hard for me to imagine what life was like before Katrina because it was so different for me as a musician interacting with the music community post-Katrina. While I don't work directly for Music Cares anymore, still there's not a week that goes by that some local musicians were like – you know if it wasn't for the help I got from Music Cares, I wouldn't have this guitar, I wouldn't have been able to move back to New Orleans or other things like that. So, for me, it's been a really interestingly gratifying experience that's probably pretty unique, that most other musicians in this town didn't have the opportunity to give back to their fellow musicians in the way that I was afforded to in my work with Music Cares. But, I truly believe that music is one of the things that's really been a driving force of the recovery of New Orleans in so many ways."
Though Wick expressed some frustrations over the city's relationship to the music community, his commitment to both the city and its musicians is ongoing. "I'm on the board of Sweet Home, New Orleans, which is a local non-profit that continues to help musicians recover and find new economic opportunities for them and stuff like that, so I really get an opportunity to see the state of the music industry right now here locally, and know that there's still a lot of guys hurtin', there's still a lot of… a lot of the traditions still haven't found an avenue to pass it down from older generations to younger generations. Because, so much of that happened in the churches and the clubs that were in neighborhoods that don't even exist anymore so finding that transition mechanism is a tough go right now. It's one of the things that's personally driving me to continue to be involved in helping the music community better itself through professional development, economic development, and a variety of avenues like that, that hopefully will generate a better day to come."
Amen, brother. Only two weeks remain in the YLC Wednesday at the Square program. Next week, The N'awlins Johnnys will be followed by The Boogie Men.