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The Bedford rocks New Orleans

Balham’s iconic south London music venue took its brand to Louisiana to host three shows at New Orleans’ Hard Rock Café. Paul Watson was there – and as he relates, in this twist on the usual eLive feature – got more than he bargained for...

Earlier this year, Balham’s iconic south London music venue took its brand to Louisiana to host three nights of international acoustic songwriter shows at New Orleans’ Hard Rock Café. Paul Watson was there – and as he relates, in this twist on the usual eLive feature – got more than he bargained for. The three Bedford events took place at the end of the summer as part of the Cutting Edge music business conference in New Orleans. They were hosted and broadcast live across the internet by Tony Moore, the south London pub’s director of music, art and development as part of his plan to inject The Bedford as a brand into the US. The thinking behind the billing was to combine British and American singer/songwriters and have them perform on the same stage under The Bedford’s banner. The Hard Rock Café is located in the heart of New Orleans’ famous French Quarter; and ‘The Bedford Presents’ took over the upstairs of the building for the Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with music running until the small hours. There was a feeling of true unity throughout the city, perhaps more so as the shows coincided with New Orleans’ midsummer Mardi Gras and the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina; and President Obama was in town of course – though sadly not at the Hard Rock. Moore hosted a few live acoustic shows during last year’s Cutting Edge, but due to the scheduling of them – most of them were billed very early in the day, or clashed with other bigger shows that were on in town – attendance was on the whole, disappointing. This time around, with a better-located venue, a much improved sound, and more artists, he hoped things would run a lot more smoothly. “It takes a lot of work putting these shows together, especially as I can’t physically get involved in much of the promotion from the UK,” explains Moore, the day before the first Hard Rock show. “Last year we tested the water; and this time round we chose a much more vibrant part of town for the shows.” The upstairs at the Hard Rock was kitted out appropriately: like a mini-Bedford, just as Moore had intended. A black ‘live at The Bedford’ banner was draped at the back of the stage behind the compact PA system, which consisted of a pair of 150W B-52 Professional Matrix-1000V2 10” speakers and several house wedges. All microphones were by Shure – SM58s and BETA58s; and all DIs were BSS AR-133s. At stage right, FOH sound was controlled using a Yamaha MG166CX mixing console; either Moore himself or one of the local crew members were riding the faders. Backline comprised of a cajon, to accommodate any drummers or percussionists; and a Fender Twin Reverb guitar amplifier. The first show was well attended and was all about local talent. It featured an all-American bill with three local acts: Olga, Sue Ford and Andrew Duhon (pictured); and Texan, Maggie Warwick. Then, at midnight, there was a ‘songwriters jam session’. On the Friday night, one of the acts cancelled at the last minute and Moore was forced to call in another fine act from the UK: me. It was a bizarre, yet fantastic evening; Moore brought in a Yamaha stage piano and opened the show with a pretty amazing hour-long set, which happened to be attended by one of the world’s most popular spoken word musicians: Chicago-born Malik Yusef; and featured a guest appearance from one of New Orleans’ most renowned percussionists: Rosalie Washington, AKA Lady Tambourine. Recognised locally as either a genius or a nuisance, I was informed that Ms Tambourine is an only-in-New-Orleans institution. For me, she was one of the highlights of the event; she accompanied Moore on her namesake instrument using various parts of her body: her fist; her elbow; her knee; her thigh; and even her ample backside. After a really nice performance on the piano from UK artist Brooke Parrot, I took to the stage, making sure I got Ms Tambourine up for theduration of my set; and Moore hopped on the piano and provided BVs; it was a blast. When discussing the Hard Rock shows on the Sunday morning with Moore, there was an air of accomplishment in his voice; and he was already talking enthusiastically about Spring 2011, when The Bedford will feature at the Folk Music Alliance in Memphis in February; and then at its third successive South by Southwest music festival in Texas in March. “These shows were a great success and it was a really good little PA; and the Hard Rock room actually sounded great too,” says Moore. “I also think there was something special happening in that room that made all of the performances massive; and I can see how over the years Cutting Edge could help bring more international artists into New Orleans. This unique city has so much to give.”