In the My Spilt Milk podcast, the clarinet player talks about a fundamental problem in the New Orleans music community - one that goes deeper than noise and neighborhood relations.
Clarinet player Evan Christopher has been one of the leading figures in the current conversation about noise and neighborhoods, but that didn't come from an inherent desire for activism. He was looking out for his own interests as well as those of other musicians when he would periodically write me at OffBeat to express concerns about tip jars as the primary source of income, and how that practice compromises the artist and leaves many underpaid.
He found a platform to express his concerns when he began writing "Riffing on the Tradition," a column published at NolaVie.com. In it, he hasn't shied away from talking tough, whether it's encouraging musicians to shake off the jukebox mentality and hold themselves to a higher standard, or to confront the forces he sees threatening the musician's livelihood, particularly City Hall. His writing can be sarcastic, ironic, and impassioned, but it's always driven by a core intelligence and desire not just for better for him but for the musical community. He set up the site NewOrleansNoise.com to become an online outpost for those concerned about the ongoing zoning and permitting-related issues and how they affect musicians. Earlier this year, the site also became the online home with MACCNO - the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans, with whom he shares concerns and interests.
Our conversation took place at Clever, which let us in while they got ready for service. Christopher talks about music as cultural practice, music as entertainment, and the structural weaknesses that come when the only places to play are bars. Tonight, Christopher will play in one such bar - Chickie Wah Wah - when he hosts the 5th Annual International Jam Session, which starts at 8 p.m.