New Orleans is hard on singer-songwriters. It’s not that the city is hostile so much as just … indifferent. If a band doesn’t have a sousaphone or accordion or banjo or something with an identifiably local sound we just don’t relate to it.
A consequence of the indifference is that there’s not much of a market and precious few venues to attract singer-songwriters to the city or support the ones already here. Places like Chickie Wah Wah and the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse try to plug the gap to some extent, but they’re largely doing it without much of a fan base.
Fortunately, just up the river we have a unique venue that offers great local, regional, and national talent and seems to be making a go of it. The Red Dragon Listening Room in Baton Rouge is a comfortably funky venue that pretty much looks and feels like how they describe it – your living room. It’s full (packed!) with sofas and overstuffed chairs and other odds & ends for seating. They don’t serve any refreshments and all of the money goes to the headliner. It was attractive enough as a venue to host Joan Baez on her recent Louisiana swing. (The venue operators are also hosting a related series at the Manship Theater.)
Last night, patrons of the Red Dragon were treated to a delightfully intimate, personal, and entertaining concert by John Gorka. Gorka is a New Jersey resident that rarely performs in this part of the country. Last night was his first visit to Baton Rouge and, hopefully, the Listening Room was a good enough experience to entice him back in the future.
Gorka’s opening performer was Gina Forsyth, a New Orleans treasure. She only did a short set but featured some of her best work … and had the courage to open with an accapella song in front of a Gorka audience.
What a double-header treat – definitely worth the drive upriver.