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How to get people to go see Woodenhead

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  • How to get people to go see Woodenhead

    One of my favorite NO bands of all time is Woodenhead. Every year, they put on a show at Carrollton Station and very few people come. Their music is intricate and jaw dropping, but very few folks know their stuff. Jimmy Robinson asked me for a suggestion as to how to get more people out to see them. I am wondering if any of you have ideas.

  • #2
    I think I saw them there in the early 90s.

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    • #3
      Venue choice. Not sure that is the best spot for them to draw a crowd. They should get on a bill with other risk taking bands that draw folks seeking something different. Carrollton just isn’t that place. Just a thought. That and get a Fest gig so get some exposure and buzz. So many options.

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      • #4
        They are an awesome band, but I don't have the answer. The only thing I can think of is if they opened for a big named act somewhere, but it would have to be the right one.

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        • #5
          I miss their gigs at Checkpoint Charlie's but that's for me not them as I would sit by the rail 2 feet from Jimmy Robinson and have my mind blown. I don't see how they could make much money there. I used to say, "If Woodenhead can play here, so can I" (meaning if a band that good can play there, it is not beneath my humble offerings.)

          I think they could sell out Tipitina's back in the early 90's. Strange musicianship at that level is not appreciated the same today but it is also true people who went to Tip's in the early 90's probably aren't going out to hear music as much today. For all the chops Woodenhead displays, their music is very accessible...fusion-based but with actual songs. Jimmy Robinson is incredible and revered by musicians here who know who he is. And he is a hell of a nice guy. I played with drummer Mark Whitaker quite a few times at the work-a-day gig at the Riverwalk many of the Frenchmen St. guys played in the last decade and had no idea he could play like he does in Woodenhead because he kept it simple to fit the music played at that gig. He is a f'n beast and also the nicest guy.

          I agree Carrollton Station might not be the best venue for them given its somewhat diminished status as a music venue in recent years. I did see them last year at the Broadside and they fit better there with some of the more esoteric lineups that sometimes play that venue.

          I also agree the proper co-bill would help. And they should be at Jazz Fest. I know Jimmy usually plays there with Cranston Clements and John Rankin in The Guitar Masters but Woodenhead deserves to be at the Lagniappe Stage, too, if not the Jazz Tent.
          Last edited by chopitulas; 2 weeks ago.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by chopitulas View Post
            I miss their gigs at Checkpoint Charlie's but that's for me not them as I would sit by the rail 2 feet from Jimmy Robinson and have my mind blown. I don't see how they could make much money there. I used to say, "If Woodenhead can play here, so can I" (meaning if a band that good can play there, it is not beneath my humble offerings.)

            I think they could sell out Tipitina's back in the early 90's. Strange musicianship at that level is not appreciated the same today but it is also true people who went to Tip's in the early 90's probably aren't going out to hear music as much today. For all the chops Woodenhead displays, their music is very accessible...fusion-based but with actual songs. Jimmy Robinson is incredible and revered by musicians here who know who he is. And he is a hell of a nice guy. I played with drummer Mark Whitaker quite a few times at the work-a-day gig at the Riverwalk many of the Frenchmen St. guys played in the last decade and had no idea he could play like he does in Woodenhead because he kept it simple to fit the music played at that gig. He is a f'n beast and also the nicest guy.

            I agree Carrollton Station might not be the best venue for them given its somewhat diminished status as a music venue in recent years. I did see them last year at the Broadside and they fit better there with some of the more esoteric lineups that sometimes play that venue.

            I also agree the proper co-bill would help. And they should be at Jazz Fest. I know Jimmy usually plays there with Cranston Clements and John Rankin in The Guitar Masters but Woodenhead deserves to be at the Lagniappe Stage, too, if not the Jazz Tent.
            Carrollton Station was a bigger deal years back when it was near Jimmy's and then a few blocks away was Muddy Waters and The Maple Leaf. We'd go up there even if we didn't know who was playing and just check out all 4 clubs like people do today on Frenchman.

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            • #7
              My guitar playing partner in my 2004-era band Shotgun House was watching Woodenhead with my girlfriend and me at the Broadside last year and said, "I've got an idea...a Woodenhead cover band!" which caused all three of us to laugh out loud at the absurdity.

              Yeah right, bro...you come back having learned to play like Jimmy Robinson and I'll get to work on Paul's bass parts. The trick will be finding the drummer...

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Jordan View Post
                One of my favorite NO bands of all time is Woodenhead. Every year, they put on a show at Carrollton Station and very few people come. Their music is intricate and jaw dropping, but very few folks know their stuff. Jimmy Robinson asked me for a suggestion as to how to get more people out to see them. I am wondering if any of you have ideas.
                It is very difficult to attract people to creative music that requires deep listening. I guess the (partial) answer is to create a special event.. Back in February during the Instigation Festival Mars Williams played the Monday night Instant Opus session along with Ben LaMar Gay, Helen Gillet, and Jason Marsalis. It drew a little better than the usual Instant Opus but probably no more than 25 people. Last Thursday Helen, Ben, and Jason all performed in Mars's Devil's Whistle spectacular at the Music Box to several hundred people. It is hard to judge if Jazz Fest had a positive, neutral, or negative effect on the turn out, but New Orleans has always been excited by spectacle while taking the wonders of the everyday for granted.

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                • #9
                  Several friends invited me to that show but I wasn’t able to make the schlep having other plans. I’m not sure if those friends made it or not. I’d simply suggest sharing the bill with some others and maybe a more central location. I’d like to go but tough choices need to be made during jazz fest.

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                  • #10
                    My advice to him would be that second Sunday is the worst night for that performance (people are tired and that night belongs to Dumpstaphunk at Tips)and that Carrollton station (even though it has the best sound) isn't the ideal location (although people trek to the Maple Leaf all the time). Perhaps Snug Harbor is a better choice, although I'm not sure if that room draws anymore or if they would book a band like Woodenhead. My next thought is Chickie Wah Wah, but I wonder if they will even be around next year and if they have an interest in Woodenhead. My last thought would be DBA as they do book bands like John Medeski's Mad Skillet; Vidocovich, Medeski & Bloom,; and Iceman Special, but I'm not sure they would draw without a famous jamband name (Medeski, Dillon, Skerik, etc) and I doubt anyone can even sit in with that band. Maybe they need to go on Jam Cruise or something to build a name. I would also suggest the Threadhead Patry, but I don't think that is the appropriate place to listen. Still more questions than answers

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                    • #11
                      MAn, Woodenhead clearly one of THE most unappreciated groups to ever come out of New Orleans. My local friends turned me on to them ni the mid 90's at fest and they were and are JAW DROPPING. If I was local I would see them anytime,anywhere. Admittedly I'm an old Yes,ELP,AND Dixie Dregs fan so the fit was natural. They should be at fest EVERY YEAR, no questions asked. Hearing their mind blowing Kashmir for the 1st time at Fais do-do years ago with 50-100 other people while Steve Mller or somebody stupid had 50,000 was puzzing but delightful. Hope they can get some gigs and keep playing. Jimmy slayed at that Guitar MAster show at fest. It's just bonkers.

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                      • #12
                        You can't argue with Jimmy's playing (I also assume he's the primary composer on most of their tunes) and the band's overall locked-down arrangements. What may be difficult to talk about is the notion that instrumental rock/funk/fusion is a niche attraction in the best of times, with predominately male audiences. It may have always been thus. What could change that dynamic is adding elements to the band's line-up, even if just for Fest, that help bridge the perception of the music as a guitar-heavy jazz freak-out and make the music more inclusive for a mixed-demographic audience. I don't know how prolific Jimmy is as a writer, but I can't help but think of instrumental whiz-kid Scott Henderson's Torn-Down House collaboration with Thelma Houston - taking blues/rock riffage and blending it with smart, funny and seriously soulful vocals. Y'all do see Galactic right over there, don't you? If adding vocals, even for a few songs, isn't Woodenhead's thing how about bringing in some of the badass music program kids coming out of the local schools? It wouldn't have to be every song - but I guarantee that the infusion would make for a lasting imprint on the folks seeing them for the first time during Fest. It doesn't have to be pandering... I'm thinking of the bands that get elevated whenever Jenn Hartswick sits in with them.

                        Last edited by duende; 1 week ago.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by duende View Post
                          You can't argue with Jimmy's playing (I also assume he's the primary composer on most of their tunes) and the band's overall locked-down arrangements. What may be difficult to talk about is the notion that instrumental rock/funk/fusion is a niche attraction in the best of times, with predominately male audiences. It may have always been thus. What could change that dynamic is adding elements to the band's line-up, even if just for Fest, that help bridge the perception of the music as a guitar-heavy jazz freak-out and make the music more inclusive for a mixed-demographic audience. I don't know how prolific Jimmy is as a writer, but I can't help but think of instrumental whiz-kid Scott Henderson's Torn-Down House collaboration with Thelma Houston - taking blues/rock riffage and blending it with smart, funny and seriously soulful vocals. Y'all do see Galactic right over there, don't you? If adding vocals, even for a few songs, isn't Woodenhead's thing how about bringing in some of the badass music program kids coming out of the local schools? It wouldn't have to be every song - but I guarantee that the infusion would make for a lasting imprint on the folks seeing them for the first time during Fest. It doesn't have to be pandering... I'm thinking of the bands that get elevated whenever Jenn Hartswick sits in with them.

                          Fran (keyboards) writes a lot of songs too. But your point is well-taken. The main issue with Fest is that I believe Jimmy puts in for both Woodenhead & NO Guitar Masters (essentially replacing Twangorama), but Woodenhead hasn't been booked for a number of years. If he only submits Woodenhead, he may get shut out

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Jordan View Post
                            My next thought is Chickie Wah Wah, but I wonder if they will even be around next year and if they have an interest in Woodenhead.
                            Besides popping up at Checkpoints, they would appear at Chickie Wah Wah fairly regularly. I believe they did some live recording/video there before the pandemic with Steve Daffner who also recorded a recent CD by Walter "Wolfman" Washington. Not sure if that is still true in the current situation.

                            Some of it is that the people who would come out for them in their heyday don't really go out like they used to. And younger people who didn't grow up hearing the likes of fusion-era Jeff Beck that Jimmy sometimes will remind you of aren't as inclined towards a heavy dose of guitar. Yeah, they need to find a better Jazz Fest gig/co-bill (though I believe the recent Carrollton Station gig also featured The Guitar Masters,) but it is difficult to have a locals audience once Festival season ends and the doldrums of summer arrive. Having played on Frenchmen St. for many years, I can attest to how difficult it is to get much of an audience in the summer 'round here. I agree it would be good to have them play with the likes of Naughty Professor or Iceman Special, younger bands that do draw a younger crowd.

                            My buddies from the Bay Area came to Jazz Fest 2019 and seeing The Guitar Masters at the Lagniappe Stage was a highlight of their trip. I only wish I coulda taken them to see Woodenhead at Check's.
                            Last edited by chopitulas; 1 week ago.

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                            • #15
                              A different venue would definitely help. I like Carrollton Station but it, like the Maple Leaf, is a bit out of the way especially if you’re staying in the Quarter, Marigny or Bywater. As a solo traveler that can add an extra $40-50 to the cost just for transportation. It’s kept me from attending some Maple Leaf shows.

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