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Monday, October 24, 2011

The Greatest Show on Earth: The New Orleans Bingo! Show

The Greatest Show on Earth: The New Orleans Bingo! Show
Interview conducted and written by: Lisa Papale
Photos by: Clay Hardwick

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.”

About halfway through their set, Ronnie Numbers, Trixie Minx, and Mr. The Turk distribute bingo cards to everyone in the audience. “Who wants to be a winner?” Ronnie screams into his bullhorn, getting the audience excited to play some bingo, but reminding them that “bingo is a relaxing game. That’s why old people play it. So relax!” Like the fluid motions of a well-oiled machine, Mr. The Turk draws the numbers and displays them on the Show’s projector system, while Ronnie calls out the numbers and banters with the crowd. “I-17—just one year away from being legal, people!

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.

Weirdly enough, my horrible dancing skills are not the craziest thing to have happened at a Bingo! Show performance. Clint explains, “Systematically, without a doubt, every show has at least one component which makes me stop and say ‘What is going on here?’” The most memorable moment: “Well, there was that lady that exploded. But I’ve been sworn to secrecy on that. They made me sign a waiver. I shouldn’t even be talking about it, right now. But it happened once.”

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.”

Until then, The New Orleans Bingo! Show continues to be a staple of the music scene in New Orleans, Louisiana. This coming Saturday, the Show will take stage in New Orleans’ City Park for this year’s VooDoo Festival. In the meantime, Bingo! Show fans can get check out the group’s eclectic sounds by visiting the band website at www.neworleansbingoshow.com, or by purchasing their newest album Vol. 3, Memory Parade on iTunes.

Interview conducted and written by: Lisa Papale
Photos by: Clay Hardwick

Contact: mshappening@gmail.com

We leave you with this amazing Fatboy Slim Halloween Mix that was just sent to us by their label. Enjoy!!!!!

Zombies take over Fondren in Jackson, MS!!!!!!
Read more below and click on pic to go for more info:
The Zombies are coming to Fondren. But, don't be alarmed, we are making it family friendly and fun! Join the Mississippi Optometric Foundation, as we raise awareness about children's vision issues, in our first ever ZOMBIE CHARITY CRAWL from Dusk till Dark and ZOMBIE PROM after Dark on Thursday, October 27 in historic Fondren. The Mississippi Optometric Foundation (MOF), the Fondren Association of Businesses (FAB), and the Fondren Renaissance Foundation (FRF) have partnered to bring something new to the neighborhood streets. Another part of the event, The FAMILY FESTIVAL, from 5:30p.m. until 7:30pm., will feature a children's costume contest, zombie costume contest, pumpkin decorating contest, face painting, inflatables, trick or treating, MOVIE MADNESS, and the MARKET in Fondren in St. Luke's parking lot. After dark, adults 21 and over may attend the ticketed Zombie Prom at Duling Hall featuring live music by "The ROCKING Dead" (The Jason Turner Band).

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