Trolly Stop Welcomes Paul Sanchez And The Rolling Road Show
By J.T. Ryder
Paul Sanchez, who has been a featured performer on the HBO series Treme, has concocted a flavorful bayou stew featuring performers that represent some of the various styles of music that comprise the New Orleans sound. His fellow players include such Louisiana luminaries as Alex McMurray, Matt Perrine and Washboard Chaz. In advance of their Wednesday, August 18 appearance at the Trolley Stop, Sanchez recently spoke with DCP about the tour, the tragedies that have befallen The City That Care Forgot, and those who have stepped up to help out the musicians who have had their lives and livelihoods virtually torn apart.
DCP: Is there an ever-changing lineup for the Road Show?
Sanchez: It is an ever-changing lineup and it was quite by accident that the Road Show took that form. I had a gig and the guys I had just started playing with after I came back from the flood were unavailable so I called some other friends who were available. It ended up being really fun for me. It just became a floating lineup of all my favorite players and not everyone is always available because everybody has their own gigs. And it grows. Like from Dayton to Oshkosh, it will grow by 10 people. So, yes, it’s a rolling lineup, and I love the guys that I’m bringing to Dayton. Alex McMurray is a fantastic guitar player, Matt Perrine is genius on the tuba and Washboard Chaz is one of the most charmingly engaging stage personalities that I’ve ever seen.
DCP: One of the things you said was that everybody was kind of surprised because they just thought they were being brought in for guest sets or for backing and then you had them front and center, singing and performing their songs.
Sanchez: Well, I was hiring people whose stuff I liked and so it was just natural for me to say, ‘I want to play your song.’ When I’d e-mail everyone the set list, they would say, ‘Well, but my song is in here.’ and I’d be like, ‘Yeah. The rest of the group has it, I sent them MP3s of it and they’ll learn it and they’ll know it.’ People were a little suspicious at first and then they’d get on stage and people who had played in rock bands and had never played with horns, heard their songs, for the first time, played with horns, and their faces would just light up. Then the brass band guys would hear these rock guys playing their stuff and they’d start laughing and saying, ‘This is great! I never thought it could be played like this!’ The musical and cultural interchange and exchange between new and old players, white and black, male and female, and just crossing all of these musical New Orleans styles, was invigorating for the performers and the response from the audience members has been just overwhelming. My most favorite response, and one that is the most consistent one, is people will come up with a smile and say, ‘That’s what I thought New Orleans music was.’ That is what it is: it’s a little bit of everything and it’s everybody sharing the stage and that’s what you get when you come to one of our shows.
DCP: Since Katrina, and now the oil spill, I’ve noticed that the music has been tinged with sadness and loss.
Sanchez: Yes, and it has to be. That is the nature of our existence. Katrina was the sadness of an innocence lost. We’re all born with the knowledge that we are all going to pass, but to have that thrown in your face in such a brutal way…to have the people disappear…to have your life and the signposts of your youth disappear: it was very jarring. But we were able to come back with help from people from Ohio, Chicago, all around the country and even around the world. We were able to rebuild the city and the mood was just joyous. The Jazzfest this year was brimming with people and the Saints won the Super Bowl and the world cheered for us. I think, in part, because they feel that if New Orleans can come back, we can all come back. I think that’s why people around the country pulled for us, because we are a symbol of hope for the people who are downtrodden. The oil spill is so much heavier, man, especially knowing that when the newspapers are gone and the cameras have been turned off, the people are not going to be just dealing with it, they’re going to be out of work. Some of them are like five generations of fisherman; it’s all they know how to do. So, the mood has been extremely heavy and the capping of the oil leak has lifted that somewhat, but those of us that live here know that it’s not a sprint – it’s a marathon.
DCP: With the tragedies that have befallen New Orleans, I’m hearing sounds in the music similar to the feeling Irish music conveyed during the diaspora and famines when people were forced to leave their homeland.
Sanchez: I grew up in a part of New Orleans called the Irish Channel, and there were people there that came directly for that reason. It’s that heartiness of spirit. I was talking to somebody about Ireland the other day because I really want to play there. There are people that have looked death in the face and they know that life is absurd and they embrace great joy and they embrace storytelling and they embrace music and they embrace life knowing, in that fatalistic Irish Catholic way, that you die, but it’s through great tragedy that you have that balance. I think that it makes your days kind of sweeter as it has for New Orleans and, as you mentioned, that it did for the Irish, it makes you a stronger and more joyous people when you survive it and endure it.
DCP: Is there anything you would like to mention specifically for your Dayton engagement?
Sanchez: The Dayton show is the direct result of The Threadheads. This is a group of music fans from around the world, some of whom are right there in Dayton, who are fans of New Orleans music and, before the flood, they met off the Jazzfest chat forum and would post, ‘Hey! I’m so and so from such and such and I’m coming to the Jazzfest. Does anyone want to hang out?’ They started calling themselves The Threadheads because they had all met online. Well, once Katrina happened, they said, ‘Well, we can’t just go down there and party. We have to do something to help these people that we love so much.’ They started doing fundraising events and, in the last five years, they’ve raised a quarter of a million dollars for the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic, which gives free health care and gigs to New Orleans musicians. Then they started a not for profit record label. Some of them have a lot of money while others can only afford to donate $5, but they love the music that much. They donate the money to the New Orleans musicians who make a record. The Threadheads (are) the most trusting group of people. There was a fundraising event here at Jazzfest and a Threadhead from Dayton stepped up and said, ‘Hey, I’d really love to bring you guys to Dayton. If I got some other Threadheads to pay your expenses, would you come?’ I said, ‘Sure! I’d love to do it. If you can make it happen, let’s make it happen.’ And he made it happen.”
Paul Sanchez and the Rolling Road Show will perform Wednesday, August 18 at 8:30 p.m. at the Trolley Stop, 530 E. Fifth St. Admission is $10. Tickets can be purchased at the Trolley Stop, the Cityfolk box office or Rue Dumaine restaurant. For more information, contact Tom Perlic at (937) 496-3863 or visit online at www.TrolleyStopDayton.com
Reach DCP freelance writer J.T. Ryder at email@example.com