Outside of the basic desirable ephemera a place like New Orleans attracts lies the wants of its citizens. In the autumnal sunrise comes a glimmer of hope that we've once again risen from the crumbles of near perish. The call for regeneration in the arena of performing arts venues has been answered. The movement started with the Joy and Saenger Theatres; two projects that have proven to be quite illustrious. On the constructive end of the latest big re-opening are the Solomon Group, Brian Gibbs, and Bryan Bailey. The trio has resurrected the nearly three-decade shuttered Civic Theatre. The Bowery Presents South, an Atlanta based baby to The Bowery Presents parent company out of New York City, is responsible for the production of events and scattered performances. The group brings their expertise in the entertainment industry to the stage and is well equipped to handle the Civic's music launch.
Far removed from the sanctimonious dreck of gilded European playhouses, these newest renovations provide an approachable, yet history-rich take on the transitory process. Established in 1906, Civic is the oldest theatre in the city. Original details like the beaux arts plaster work still remain. Modern technical upgrades dance with chaste elegance creating an atmosphere that is still aware of its rooted place in time. A state of the art modular flooring system, the NIVOflex airstage platform, is equipped with an orchestra pit infill and adjusts to customized event configurations. From the balcony seats, it has a coziness reminiscent of the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. When the lights dim down, pure, meticulously-leveled sound greets you with such precision it makes your hair stand up on end. It takes me back to the Fillmore in San Francisco - a place so known for its sound that musicians have nightmares of missing notes while playing the stage. Opening night act Empire of The Sun was preluded by Alpine, a Melbourne, Australia-based six person band with heaps of stage presence. Led by two attractive female singers, blonde Phoebe Baker jammed out barefoot and bob-haired brunette Lou James's glitter lined eyes sparkled in the platform lights. I spotted Lou's polka dot tights in the crowd and took the opportunity to thank her for coming to Nola.
WYAT: How's your tour been going?
Lou James: "Well funny story. We left Minnesota and missed our gig in Atlanta last night. We saw the next stop was New Orleans and we were definitely not missing that. We left so early to make sure we'd be here. Slept in some weird backwoods hotel room last night; paid the price, you know? It was worth it."
WYAT: What did you like most about this venue?
LJ: "It's very beautiful. And the crowd has great energy."
For an opening act, they were ace. Mainlining electronic music duo Empire of the Sun also hails from Australia; Sydney to be exact. Leading man Luke Steele arrived on stage in a cloud of smoke festooned with the usual iced-out mohawk and stage makeup. A member of The Sleepy Jackson and a performance veteran of the electro-dance outfit Pnau, when it comes to pleasing a crowd with sight and sound, Steele is no novice. Lights in the shape of his notorious avant-garde metal headdress illuminated the mic stand while his ensemble of dancers took on various forms and colors with creative wardrobe. Evidenced by happy shrills upon dropping the first note, without a doubt the most favored songs of the evening were the radio-worn and Youtube-d to death. If Nina Hagen and Cut Copy had a love child, that euphemistic progeny is how I'd describe the band's newer material, proving the sound spans time and genre. Wiz Khalifa's Empire of the Sun Mash-up introduced electro-indie-rock to hip hop in the popular tune of "Walking on a Dream," taking its title, "The Thrill," from one of the chorus lyrics. The track, which pre-dated his Deal or No Deal album release, seems to have helped hype Wiz to success. That said, the Civic's music launch crowd was a mixed bag. Concert goers wearing hip hop tees, hipster glasses, polo shirts, and sundresses danced together under falling white confetti, sang in unison, and hailed the music with raised hands. Wayne Adams, a Fess Security Guard working the venue admits, "This theatre being open is great for the city. People around here see local artists all the time. I think this place is nice because I'm seeing more of a younger crowd and more of what they want to see - on a national level." Exactly the sentiments of Tim Sweetwood GM and Talent Buyer at The Bowery Presents South.
WYAT: What made New Orleans a viable market aside from the obvious tourist heavy conditions and musical culture?
Tim Sweetwood: Those are both two of the big reason, the other is it fits into the Bowery South model and routes very well with the other cities that we promote in.
WYAT: You're responsible for Shaky Knees Music Festival in ATL. Do you have plans to bring or develop something similar here?
TS: I do own Shaky Knees and look forward to growing the event. We would love to eventually produce a bigger event in NOLA.
WYAT: Given the nature of the territory [how it revolves around local music], how do you plan to promote growth in Nola's entertainment scene?
TS: Hard to say, we just want to produce as many quality shows as possible, and hopefully being creative with some special shows that other promoters aren't bringing in.
WYAT: How do you personally feel about the revival of entertainment venues here?
TS: I think venues are progressing very well actually and lot of them are coming around, with more venues naturally comes more competition, but we are doing our best to work with the already passionate music scene in the city.
Adam Smith, a bartender in the area, tells me he discovered Empire of the Sun while listening to the radio at work. "The band came on the Daft Punk Pandora station I was listening to. I later introduced the music to my girlfriend and they've been in the CD player ever since. It's great to have an electronic show in town. Electronic and rock music [shows] are lacking in this city," says Smith.
So there you have it, Mr. Sweetwood, from the horse's mouth. Kudos and thank you, kindly.