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Paul Sanchez at the Little Gem Saloon

Paul Sanchez at the Little Gem Saloon
Mike Perciaccante By

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Paul Sanchez
The Little Gem Saloon
New Orleans, LA
October 31, 2013

The Little Gem Saloon is considered by many music historians as one of the birthplaces of jazz. The historic New Orleans watering hole, restaurant and live music venue that dates back to 1904. Located in the historic "Back O' Town" neighborhood bordering on the infamous Storyville red-light district, Jelly Roll Morton, Freddie Keppard and Buddy Bolden are said to have performed and imbibed at the establishment until it closed in 1909. Along with The Little Gem, the 400 block of South Rampart Street was home to numerous Jazz clubs including the legendary Eagle Saloon, and The Iroquois Theatre.

Today, The Little Gem has been lovingly restored and exists dually as a multi-level restaurant and live music venue. Featuring local acts with national followings, The Little Gem has hosted performances by Kermit Ruffins, members of The Radiators, Davell Crawford, Nicholas Payton, members of The Meters, Shamarr Allen, Walter "Wolfman" Washington and many others.

On Halloween night in the middle of a two month Thursday night residency, Paul Sanchez performed songs from all facets of his career. It was quite an eclectic evening. Some songs were written for Cowboy Mouth, quite a few were solo offerings, some were released by The Lonesome Travelers, a few select covers and some songs from a prospective musical, Nine Lives, written with Coleman DeKay based on Dan Baum's post-Katrina book of the same title detailing the lives of a group of nine New Orleans residents between Hurricane Betsy in 1965 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

With a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face, Sanchez began the evening by stating, "If you have a request, just shout it out and I'll play it. If it's one of my songs, it will be easier. If it's a song by another artist, there's a good chance that I'll know it and I'll do my best to play it for you. If I don't know it, I'll make up a song right here on the spot with the same title and hopefully you'll enjoy it just as much as if I had played your song."

On this night, Paul Sanchez the songwriter was clearly on display. Sanchez, who has collaborated with a diverse group of artists including Darius Rucker, Hootie and The Blowfish, John Boutte, The Eli Young Band, Tony Award winning actor Michael Cerveris, Shamarr Allen, Galactic, Bonerama, Glen David Andrews, John Thomas Griffith, Cowboy Mouth, Better The Ezra, Irma Thomas, Vance DeGeneres, Susan Cowsill, Dead-Eye Dick and others, treated the crowd to a full evening of fun. Performances included songs made famous by Sanchez while he was as a member of Cowboy Mouth "Louisiana Lowdown," "Here I Sit In Prison" and "Light It On Fire;" solo offerings—old and new—"My Little Blue One" "Irish Boy," "Hey Bartender," "Door Poppin,'" "Maria," "For The Rest of My Life," "Sedation" and "Jet Black And Jealous;" covers of John Hiatt ("Slow Turning"); Red Rockers ("China"); Lou Reed ("Walk On The Wild Side"); Beatles tunes; Johnny Cash country classics; "Where Are The Bodies?" from the Nine Lives: A Musical Story of New Orleans soundtrack (Threadhead Records, 2012); as well as many others.

In addition to Paul Sanchez, the songwriter, Paul Sanchez, the storyteller was also in the house. Each song came with a story. Some were funny, some were poignant and all were interesting. He told stories about his family, how he wrote "Mañana" after he fled the flooded streets of New Orleans for Belize ("I wrote this about the most beautiful word in the Spanish language—I thought mañana meant tomorrow... I was wrong, it means paradise."), how he and his friend John Boutte collaborated on "At The Foot Of Canal Street" and immediately began to write another song together (with Sanchez on guitar in the corner of the room while Boutte interjected his thoughts as he was on his phone booking a European tour) and how "Hurricane Party" is a true story about his misspent younger days. As the evening proceeded, Sanchez cheerfully greeted new audience members and either complimented them on their Halloween costumes or asked about the genesis of their outfits.

As the show drew to an end, the night skies had clouded-up and opened. It doesn't just rain in Louisiana, it pours. As the audience members shuffled their way into the street Halloween revelers could be seen taking refuge under balconies. Not so for the members of Sanchez' audience, many these energized souls embraced the deluge and danced their way to their cars. The scene, as witnessed trough the sheets of rain, was surreal—basketball players, pirates and others in all their colorful finery muted and blended with the warm showers. Fellini would have been proud.

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