On October 20th, Jacksonians eagerly gathered to hear the mind behind Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk, speak at Hal and Mal’s while on his “Blow Your Brains Out” tour to promote his newest novel, Damned. The night, sponsored by Lemuria, promised to be devilishly entertaining, complete with local bands Bloodbird and Spacewolf, Hell-themed food from Jackson’s own Parlor Market, and Hell-themed drinks from Mississippi-based Cathead Vodka. But one of the event’s most entertaining components was a performance by The New Orleans Bingo! Show, an incredibly eclectic band from our neighbor to the south, New Orleans, Louisiana.
“We’re not a bar band,” Clint Maedgen says. “And we’re not Strawberry Shortcake, either.”
What exactly is The New Orleans Bingo! Show, then? “It’s a theatrical production,” says Clint, the troupe’s front-man singer and guitarist. “We have primarily three components: original music, we make our own movies, and we play live rounds of bingo. It’s definitely a theatrical presentation that we’re most interested in getting across. We’re not a bar band.”
The validity of Clint’s statement was made perfectly clear once the Bingo! Show took stage at Hal and Mal’s last Thursday—the atmosphere of the venue was decidedly not that of a bar. The stage had been converted to something else completely, dressed up like something out of vaudeville in honor of the evening’s myriad festivities. The Show’s musicians took to the stage one by one, beginning with cellist, Helen Gillet, followed by Keith Hajjar on drums, Lucas Davenport on keys, Michael Miller on bass, and of course, Clint on guitar and vocals.
Covered in black and white face-paint, Ronnie Numbers, one of the Bingo! Show’s clowns, roams the stage and audience with a bullhorn and a spotlight, acting as a sort of ringleader for this bizarre New Orleans circus. Also among the ranks of the Bingo! Show clowns are burlesque dancer, Trixie Minx, and the mischievous Mr. The Turk. The clowns dance, sing, mime, interact with the audience, run the rounds of bingo, and play a host of “different” instruments.
Aside from the usual suspects, The New Orleans Bingo! Show incorporates homemade instruments into its performances. Alongside electric guitars and cellos, members of the troupe play musical saws, theremins, air raid sirens, rubber chickens, and pots and pans, just to name a few. “We brought some cool toys. Just not all of them. Unfortunately, we have to leave most of our toys at home,” Maedgen says. Some of the toys the Show couldn’t bring to Jackson? Carburetors, abandoned toothbrushes, and an old broom discovered by the side of the road.
The New Orleans Bingo! Show’s performances are eclectic and full of energy—it’s obvious that the troupe is influenced a great deal by everyday things around them. “Take a blender and throw in a lot of different things, mix it up and you’ve got the Show,” Maedgen says. Don’t be fooled though—not everything makes it into the Bingo! Show blender. Only very specific things make the cut. Maedgen explains that the Show is, “Santa Sangre, mud hunting, Joel Grey’s character in Cabaret, a little bit of ABBA. Couldn’t do it without a little Conway Twitty in there. The way a jackhammer sounds when you’re downtown, three blocks away—the way it bounces off the buildings. How the fire truck will crank off in the French Quarter. Feel-good movies, like maybe Rocky. The color magenta—the color as it reflects off your retina and the experience that you have seeing the color magenta. Navy blue, black, Lucky Charms—that’s a big part of the show. A big part. Bacon when it’s sizzling in the morning and you’re still lying in bed. Maybe your mom’s making bacon. That’s a real Bingo! staple, right there. Get out of bed for some bacon and eggs. Maybe some biscuits. And maybe Charles Mingus.”
Winners from the Bingo! Show’s games are given the special treatment for their efforts—I should know. I was among the three winners at last Thursday’s show. My prize? Being pulled onstage by Ronnie to dance the robot in front of the whole crowd.
Luckily, no explosions took place Thursday at Hal and Mal’s—just some mild to moderate ego bruising. Nevertheless, the Bingo! Show’s set was a smashing success. Despite the fact Thursday night was The New Orleans Bingo! Show’s first performance in Mississippi, the troupe would love to come back for another show sometime in the future. Other plans for the Show include hopefully setting up shop and establishing the act in San Francisco, New York City, Berlin, Paris, Bangkok, Japan, and Clint’s ultimate dream--“maybe a thirteen-year residency in Hawaii at some point. That’d be fun.”