U2 will likely never perform at the Ponderosa Stomp.
The multi-night concert and multi-day music conference and record show showcases the “unsung heroes” of American music, an eclectic array of veteran artists whose influence and/or legend far outstrips their commercial success. Soul, rhythm & blues, swamp pop, punk, garage rock – all are eligible for inclusion.
Initially an annual event in New Orleans, the Ponderosa Stomp is now staged every other year. The 2017 edition opens Thursday with a daytime conference and record show at the Ace Hotel, followed by “Hip Drop VIII,” a kick-off dance party with deejays from around the country spinning vinyl 45 rpm records at d.b.a. on Frenchmen Street.
The music conference continues at the Ace on Friday, followed by the first of two nights of “all killer, no filler” concerts at the Orpheum Theater.
The Stomp concludes with a gospel show featuring the Electrifying Crownseekers and the Mighty Rocks of Harmony on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. in the Ace’s Three Keys venue. The gospel show is free and open to the public.
In the words of the Stomp’s web site, organizers “bulldoze the slick detritus of contemporary music to find the rawest, deepest stuff out there, simmering under the surface, waiting to be rediscovered before it’s too late.”
On Friday night, the “rawest, deepest stuff out there” includes Austin legend Roky Erickson performing the music of his 1960s psychedelic rock band the 13th Floor Elevators. The 13th Floor Elevators’ lone hit was 1966’s “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” but it is considered a classic of the era. Erickson’s saga in the ensuing decades, which involved mental health struggles, arrests, involuntary electro-shock therapy and years of seclusion, only made his comeback more dramatic.
Friday’s bill also features the Gories, a garage rock trio that formed in Detroit in the mid-1980s; Archie Bell, who scored the hit “Tighten Up” as lead singer of soul band Archie Bell & the Drells; Doug Kershaw, the wild-eyed country/Cajun fiddler and singer; renowned swamp pop/R&B singer and guitarist Barbara Lynn; Chicago blues harmonica man Billy Boy Arnold; Roy Head, whose group the Traits notched a No. 2 hit in 1965 with the blue-eyed soul song “Treat Her Right”; and a swamp-pop revue with GG Shinn, Warren Storm and TK Hulin.
On Saturday night, the Stomp features the Mummies, an influential garage-punk band that formed in California in the late 1980s and specialized in intentionally crude, lo-fi recordings. Saturday's bill also includes Gary U.S. Bonds, whose breakthrough 1960 hit was “New Orleans”; he followed it up in 1961 with the No. 1 smash “Quarter to Three.”
The Saturday Stomp also boasts Charles Connor, who, as Little Richard’s original drummer, pioneered the “choo choo train” rhythm of successive eighth notes with a heavy backbeat; Memphis soul/jazz band Don Bryant & the Bo-Keys; 1960s-‘70s singer-songwriter Evie Sands, perhaps best known for the single “Any Way That You Want Me”; Johnny Knight, who released the single “Rock ‘n’ Roll Guitar” in 1959 and then essentially disappeared; and Texas blues guitarist Roy Gaines, who backed Ray Charles and recorded with Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight.
The music conference fills in perspective and historical background. Charles Connor, Gary U.S. Bonds, Evie Sands, Willie West and Doug Kershaw, among other performers, are scheduled to sit for “oral history” interviews during the daytime conference.
The conference opens at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Ace with “Bourbon Street Parade: A Look at Bourbon Street Clubs in the ‘60s.” Featured panelists include Meters bassist George Porter Jr., who performed at Bourbon Street's Ivanhoe six nights a week in the ‘60s, and drummer “Wack-O” Wade Wright, who backed Freddie Fender and many others, and has led Little Freddie King’s band for years.
A 12:45 p.m. session on Thursday looks at “The Music and Geography of South Rampart Street” with musician Deacon John Moore, Hogan Jazz Archive curator Dr. Bruce Raeburn, and writer and geographer Richard Campanella.
The conference consists of 15 sessions over two days. Thus, in keeping with its mission, the Ponderosa Stomp serves up the stories behind the music, as well as the music itself.
Two-night passes for the Orpheum concerts are $128 plus fees via Ticketmaster. Single-night tickets are $70 plus fees.
Admission to the daytime music history conference at the Ace is $25 at the door, cash preferred; that also includes admission to the record show, which runs Thursday-Saturday at the Ace. Admission to the record show only is $5.
Festival passes good for the entire event are sold out. Go to ponderosastomp.com for more info.