MELODY MATTERS: TYSSON proves that pop can be profound.
New pop-rock group TYSSON is breezily bypassing the less glamorous stage of musicianship characterized by lack of recognition and little money. But it’s not because the band members are lucky — it’s because they’ve already put in the work. TYSSON is composed of musical veterans from groups like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Cardinal Sons and the Bridge Trio.
Bandleader John Michael Rouchell, who created full-bodied, brassy pop-rock group MyNameIsJohnMichael, describes TYSSON’s sound as leaning “a bit to the left” of pure pop. He notes that the group aims to bring musical interest and soul back into the genre. “We all grew up in a time when ‘pop’ wasn’t a bad word,” Rouchell says. “The ’80s and ’90s were a golden age for interesting, forward-thinking music that appealed to a great number of people. That’s the goal.”
Along with bringing some substance back to pop music, the group hopes to unite listeners with different musical preferences. “What’s been great thus far is that our audiences have been so diverse in all aspects,” Rouchell says. “We really admire groups like Sly & the Family Stone, and Prince, who could bring a lot of different people together.”
Rouchell sees TYSSON’s first-rate musicianship allowing the group to take on previously unchallenged terrain — at least in this city. “I haven’t seen a lot of people doing what we’re trying to do in New Orleans,” he says. “From the vantage point of other acts making this kind of music, the guys can really play. I mean really play.”
TYSSON includes Rouchell on vocals and guitar; Max Moran on bass and vocals; Joe Shirley on keys and vocals; Joe Dyson Jr. on drums; and Alvin Ford Jr. on drums and vocals. The group originally came together late last year, when the five band members discovered a new sound during a recording session. “The plan is to make more music and play as much as we possibly can,” Rouchell says. tyssonband.com
STORYVILLE CALLING: An unusual group offers poetry without the pomp and circumstance.
The New Orleans Poetry Brothel knows that sex sells — so why not to use it to sell poetry? The first “poetry brothel” was created at Scotland’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2007. The New Orleans incarnation was born in 2011, influenced in part by the city’s legendary Storyville red-light district, say co-directors Jordan Soyka and Veronica Barnes.
In addition to hosting regular events, the brothel runs a weekly poetry hotline every Thursday from 8 pm to midnight, when “poetry whores” read poems over the phone to curious callers. So far, there haven’t been any inappropriate preconceptions or behavior, Soyka says. “Most people calling for the first time seem to have done it impulsively and don’t know what to expect,” he explains. “We always ask if they have a request, or if they’re open to anything, which people seem to appreciate. But we haven’t had any people who seemed to be expecting something different.”
All of the organization’s efforts are geared toward making poetry more accessible to the average person — and winning over those who don’t like poetry. “Our goal is to bring poetry out from behind the podium — during our events, we turn the audience into participants, transforming the entire space into a stage,” Soyka says. “We want to make poetry intimate and approachable without compromising it or dumbing it down.”
In addition, the New Orleans Poetry Brothel emphasizes poetry’s real worth. “We also want poets to realize how valuable they are,” Soyka says. “Most poets have accepted that they can’t make a living off their art; at our Brothel events, people pay the poets to get private readings. It’s not much, but it sends an important message that people value art.”
The brothel plans to install Take a Poem/Leave a Poem boxes at local bars and cafes, so if you’re not ready to call the hotline, just keep an eye out! Hotline: (504) 264-1336, neworleanspoetrybrothel.com
LIVES OF LUXURY: Experience the everyday opulence of life as a member of Spain’s New World elite.
Behind Closed Doors: Art in the Spanish American Home, an exhibition running from June 20 through Sept. 21 at the New Orleans Museum of Art, will offer a peek at Spanish American art collections and luxury objects spanning 1492 to 1898. Originally organized by Richard Aste, Curator of European Art at the Brooklyn Museum, Behind Closed Doors is grouped by rooms within the elite Spanish American home; in other words, each gallery will contain a specific set of objects that would have been found in a given room. “The idea for the exhibition came from an interest in exploring the ways in which elites in the Spanish American territories expressed their tremendous wealth through their private art collections,” says Lucia Abramovich, Curatorial Fellow of Spanish Colonial Art at NOMA.
Along with art, textiles and furnishings, the 160-work exhibition will offer biographies of notable Spanish Americans. “The individuals featured in these special labels vary in ethnic background, location and gender, presenting the diversity of the affluent Spanish American population,” Abramovich says. “The purpose of showcasing these histories is to emphasize the intimate environment of the homes where the objects in Behind Closed Doors would have been displayed.” The show will also display “counterpoint” objects to highlight the differences between Spanish American values and those of other societies, some in different countries, during the same period.
Abramovich notes that the emphasis on luxury goods was motivated in part by Spanish Americans’ “rapid rise to prosperity,” and by their drive to prove themselves equal to their Iberian Peninsula counterparts. “Over the course of four centuries, the desire to display status through material wealth never disappeared,” she says.
Because of our city’s Spanish colonial history, New Orleans is an excellent place to host Behind Closed Doors; in fact, the exhibition includes 12 pieces from NOMA’s own Spanish colonial collection. “I think that New Orleanians will notice the similarities between the styles of the pieces in Behind Closed Doors, and the fine and decorative arts of Louisiana in the 18th and 19th centuries,” Abramovich says. noma.org