Grayson Capps grew up in Alabama, moved to New Orleans to study acting, formed the near-miss thrash-folk bands the House Levellers and Stavin' Chain, turned into a Townes Van Zandt-style story-songwriter, lost it all in the flood, relocated to Tennessee and isn't going back to the Crescent City. He's not bitter; he just knows his hometown is gone. On the road to Kansas City, he tries to explain.
B-Sides: Describe the current situation in New Orleans.
Grayson Capps: It's fucked. You can watch it on the news, say, "It's coming back, the French Quarter is fine, Uptown is fine," but it sucks your energy dry. It's cool for construction workers and adventurous single people. But I spent twenty years there. Now people who were never there before the storm are saying, "Woohoo! New Orleans!" It's never gonna be the same.
When was the last time you were there?
I just had a show in Covington, Louisiana. Everybody who used to see me in New Orleans lives in Covington now. It's depressing. I was listening to Ike and Tina Turner, "Too many tears in my eyes, too many tears in my heart," as I was driving out of there, just crying my eyes out.
How effective have all the benefits been?
It's been mostly great. Mostly, it's the local people busting ass to get things going again. My friends down there are playing seven nights a week, they're just not getting paid what they used to. The government hasn't really helped at all.
What did you do with that FEMA trailer?
I didn't take it. First of all, they offered the damn thing three months after the storm. If I hadn't found a place to live by then, I'm an idiot. Some people got 'em and put 'em out in front of their houses while they rebuilt. But now you got all these trailers, thousands of them, sitting unused in Mississippi. But people were already having to survive. Most people can't go back to New Orleans, so what are you going to do with a trailer?
You're working on a concept album about Katrina now?
I keep hearing these voices, so I've started working on songs from different opinions, a song from Mayor Nagin or from a leader of a gang that did all the looting and burning. But I can't really get into it until I get a safe distance.
How have the last five months changed you?
It made me more political than ever. It highlighted the hell out of the neo-conservative, Christian Coalition mindset. They can't afford to fix the levees, but they're spending $9 billion a day in Iraq? Fuck them all. They're trying to bring on Armageddon. Fuck the environment, bring on the second coming. A preacher put it, "God is condemning New Orleans because it's the city of sin!" A lady in the congregation hollered back, "Then how come the French Quarter is OK?"
Grayson Capps Band at Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Avenue. Show starts at 9 p.m. Wednesday, January 25. Tickets are $12; call 314-773-3363 for more information.
Everyone knows that rock shows and beer are as standard a pairing as peanut butter and jelly. B-Sides decided to class things up a bit by recommending some wines to sample while listening to a smattering of newly released albums.
Wine: Le Vieille Ferme Côtes du Ventoux Rouge 2003
Notes: Earthy, supple, with a hint of spice and just-ripe berries. Sweet but never cloyingly so.
Pairs well with: Cat Power, herb-roasted chicken, impromptu make-outs.
Points: 95. Cat Power's latest LP is The Greatest; this Côtes du Ventoux Rouge is the greatest. But beware: With such incredible new songs as "Empty Shell" and "Where Is My Love," Chan Marshall's voice will go to your head quicker than the vino.
Wine: Sofia Mini Blanc de Blancs
Notes: Bubbly, crisp, full of bright citrus flavors.
Pairs well with: The L-Word soundtrack, Roquefort-and-pear quiche, knitting a sweater for your pug.
Points: 83. Like Sofia Coppola's eponymous sparkling wine, the newest compilation from Showtime's successful lesbidrama is way better than it has to be. Dusty Springfield, Iron & Wine and Le Tigre: Yes, please. The wine loses points for its so-cute-you'll-puke packaging (a pink can? really?); the comp loses points for its so-lame-you'll-puke Shawn Colvin track.
Wine: Trefethen Dry Riesling 2004
Notes: A light selection that offers a plucky take on things we've seen before, but etches its own name out in big, bold letters. It amuses the palate both in its spirit and its depth, with a nuance of gravel.
Pairs well with: Hayseed Dixie. Also: Skoal, overalls, barbecued chicken and sittin' by cricks on a sticky summer's day.
Points: 90. Hayseed Dixie are the ambassadors of rockgrass, and A Hot Piece of Grass shamelessly interjects banjos, mandolins and "really old German fiddles" into Van Halen, Led Zeppelin and Green Day classics.
Wine: Silvio Nardi Rosso di Montalcino 2001
Notes: This full-bodied red swells in a way that's smoky and sexy. It seduces the taster into just one more sip. (OK, one more.) It's expressive and packed with complex subtlety that comes one dense drop at a time, resulting in a woozy, head-spinning finish.
Pairs well with: Ester Drang. Best consumed in dimly lit environs, preferably already tipsy but still with-it enough to have soul-searching convo. And maybe chocolate fondue.
Points: 94. Rocinate is ethereal and at times sounds more than a little like Coldplay. But it's delicious.
From the Desk of Willy Wonka
Not everyone loves "Laffy Taffy." A veteran candy-maker responds.