Band: JoJo’s Slim Wednesday
Date: Sunday, April 9, 5:30 p.m.
Stage: Hargrove Stage at Cathedral Square
JoJo’s Slim Wednesday will give SouthSounds attendees a taste of Mardi Gras in the middle of Lent. The last time this side project headed by Widespread Panic keyboardist JoJo Hermann slid into town, the group performed under the name “JoJo Hermann’s Mardi Gras Band.” However, Hermann says a particularly raucous Fat Tuesday performance made the following day feel more like “Slim Wednesday,” and the name took root.
Between this project and Widespread’s extensive tour schedule, Hermann rarely takes a break from music. However, a life packed with music is just what he wants.
“I never take a break from music,” Hermann said. “I definitely believe in taking a break from the road and performing, but I’m playing at home a lot these days and really enjoying it.”
JoJo’s Slim Wednesday specializes in the festive boogie-woogie and funk sounds for which New Orleans is known. Hermann has filled the group’s setlist with the sounds of Dr. John, The Funky Meters and many other Big Easy icons who inspired this keyboardist to dedicate his life to music. Of all the New Orleans musicians to which he pays tribute, Hermann cites Professor Longhair’s versatile “Rock ‘n’ Roll Gumbo” style as being the most influential.
“I love [Professor Longhair’s] songwriting,” Hermann explained. “I love his lyrics and his attitude. I remember hearing the song ‘It’s My Own Fault for Coming Home from Work Early Last Night,’ and I was like, ‘That’s the right attitude! I like that attitude!’ There’s something with the rhythms and the way he just mixed these different rhythms from different places like out of left field and put them all together.”
Not only has this project allowed him to delve into a musical passion, but Hermann’s exploration of New Orleans sounds has allowed to him to play with a number of the sonic pioneers of the Big Easy music scene. Over the years, Hermann has shared the stage with such notables as Zigaboo Modeliste (The Meters, Dr. John), Ivan Neville (Dumpstaphunk), Billy Iuso (The Wild Magnolias) and Russell Batiste Jr. (The Funky Meters). The keyboardist cites George Porter Jr. (The Meters) as one of his favorite Crescent City collaborators. A few weeks after his SouthSounds performance, Hermann will join Porter, Modeliste and Jimmy Herring (Widespread Panic) at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival under the moniker “Foundation of Funk.”
“George played on all those Meters records and Dr. John records,” Hermann said. “These are the records that changed my life. George Porter, for example, he’s a musician whose music saved my whole life. What can I say?”
Those familiar with JoJo’s Mardi Gras Band will notice some familiar faces in the group’s SouthSounds lineup. This tour will feature founding members of JoJo’s Mardi Gras Band, including guitarist Bill Elder, who also founded the Nashville group The Dynamites. Before meeting Hermann, drummer/founding member Kevin Mabin was keeping the rhythm at a church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. John “J.J.” Jackson will be taking a break from his run with Macy Gray to join Slim Wednesday. Ben Clark will be providing his trumpet, and Greg Bryant will provide a funky bass line to this musical carnival.
“We’ve just got a great lineup with a great bunch of guys,” Hermann said. “We’re just gonna go out and have a good time and play a bunch of music. I’m hoping to eat a bunch of crawfish on this run. I’m begging all the enues on this run to have some crawfish available. I know I’ll be getting some crawfish in Mobile.”
Hermann says his group’s performance at SouthSounds will be filled with upbeat New Orleans funk and boogie-woogie from the legends who made it great. However, the SouthSounds crowd should not expect JoJo’s Slim Wednesday’s set to consist exclusively of covers. Hermann says the band has been “woodshedding a little bit and bringing in new material,” so SouthSounds will serve as a testing ground for the band’s original songs.
JoJo’s Slim Wednesday’s Azalea City performance will include an entire set of original material the band has never been played live. As far as an album is concerned, Hermann says the band will retreat to an Atlanta studio where they will press “record” and lay down all their original tracks. As far as when and where the public will be able to get their hands on this material, Hermann says it will eventually spread through the masses somehow.
“I guess we’re just gonna stick it [the album] out over cyberspace at some point,” he said. “We’re not going to get record deals or any of that stuff. We’ll definitely put it all out this year. We might put out a couple of songs a year or the whole record. We don’t know yet until we see what we’ve got. It’s always good to go into the studio. It’ll be fun.”