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  • Writer's picturedavidlancecallahan

New Orleans blues

Updated: Jul 9, 2021

Moonshake head to Louisiana for an ill-fated industry 'shake-and-fake', all the time pondering how this will count as 'looking for work'.

Moonshake well out of their natural habitat. Photo: Michael Rother.

It’s a warm, clear Louisiana evening in one of the function suites of one of the tallest hotels in New Orleans. We look out over the red, yellow, blue and white lights strewn over the cityscape as we eat chilli king prawns and a wide selection of Cajun finger food, while chilled Blackened Voodoo Lager and tequila shots are passed around successful people splayed on leather banquettes, as we watch a huge paddle steamer churn its glistening way around Algiers Point and down the Mississippi towards the Gulf of Mexico.

Moonshake have been met at the airport by a chauffeured limousine, the rear fender of which was still pulling away from the curb as the bonnet came to a stop outside the New Orleans Marriott on Canal Street in the city’s French Quarter. The fact that none of us have been in a limo before makes us slightly speedy and flushed, even though my pockets are empty, owing to a neglect of needle and thread as much as not having any money to fall through the holes.

Naturally, I’ve been hoping that the result of this trip to the land of milt and money will result in us eventually earning a small amount in royalties from our prospective new record label – just becoming the smallest Russian doll inside the Universal Music Group – and I’m livid at the idea that this could be eaten up by the costs of hiring the car and throwing the beano.

I immediately accost Clark, our press officer, on entering the party suite, and begin to yell at him about how we’re virtually starving and have worked for years to get a break that wouldn’t result in penury. He looks at me, first dazed, then with the calmness of a cheetah batting away an annoying cub.

“It’s being paid for by BMG, Dave. And limos here cost barely more than a cab.”

Soon, I’ve calmed down and we’ve relaxed into the scented, manicured vibe of the night, shaking hands begrudgingly and even occasionally looking our betters in the eye. We’re surfing the crashing wave of the grunge explosion, our experimental pop music seemingly deemed different enough to lure in major labels to consider licensing our inexplicable racket, rather like one of those weird underground bands that were signed after The Beatles had grown their hair.

We’ve been flown across the Atlantic, passed through a snowbound New York, sat in an airport lounge in an also snowbound Philadelphia while we waited for a transfer plane to be cleared for take-off, and then been fêted in a grand hotel in New Orleans, followed by a packed showcase at The Howlin’ Wolf on St Peter’s Street, with a soundman who disliked us so much he seemed unable to get us a decent onstage balance, despite a two-hour soundcheck.

Our essential sampled and sequenced backing track had packed in after we had played one and a half songs, and we had left the stage in front of the assembled representatives of the entirety of North America’s major music industry. We’d flown our own soundwoman over with us for no reason – as the venue refused to let her take over the mixing desk – and I was under the clear impression that there was going to be a riot when we left the stage so abruptly.

It’s our first American gig after the release of our fourth LP, Dirty and Divine. We’ve come to bring the future to America, and we’re already the past. I stink from not having washed for two days.

Both myself and our drummer have a ‘restart’ interview at the Department of Social Security the following Monday where someone will ask: “What have you been doing to find work over the last two weeks, Mr Callahan?”

My honest answer – that I’ve been genuinely looking for work by being flown to America by our record label in the hope of showing that the multinational organisation funding our record hadn’t made an awful mistake – won’t go down well.

“Er, I checked The Evening Standard and The Guardian, and popped into the job centre every other day to see what had come in.”

“Okay, thanks. Sign this please.”

I’ve just been licensed to what is probably the biggest record label on the planet. But there is no money and I’m still on the dole.

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