Summer in New York City is pretty brutal. But among the strangers' BO, the sense that I'll never walk outside again without getting sweaty, and fearing to tread outside, the thing I hate most about summer in the city are all of the crustpunks. Maybe it's always been this way and I just hadn't really ventured downtown, but to me it seems like they've descended on the NYU/Union Square area in droves for the past two years, and the numbers are constantly increasing. I don't know why they bother me so much. Maybe you just can't take the Upper East Side (read: Wall Street money) out of the girl, but I just feel like if I'm going to give money to a homeless person, I'd rather give it to someone who can't get medical care and housing because of a racist, warmongering, neoliberal system rather than somebody who "chose"* to opt out of the system and is literally sitting around waiting for a handout. If you hate the way society works so much, try to change it instead of abandoning it and acting like it's some grand gesture.
Or maybe I wish I was cool enough to leave it all behind and ride trains. Tim Barry makes it sound pretty fun.
But the fact of the matter is that some of the best and smartest folk music on the scene today is produced by folks in the crustpunk scene, like Blackbird Raum and Alynda Lee Segarra in Hurray for the Riff-Raff. Segarra came up through jam sessions in the French Quarter. New Orleans seems to have carved out a space for crustpunks in their alternative lifestyle scene, and watching all these kids with piercings and guitars huddling together to hone their skills in the pouring Mardi Gras rain was a beautiful sight. So I get why they flock to NOLA, but unless there' some kind of squatter enclave in Alphabet City I cannot imagine for the life of me what's in the brutal heat of a New York City other than the sheer number of people to get money from.
Enter Yes Ma'am, a NOLA-based old-time band that I saw when they set up in the middle of a street in the French Quarter and began to play. They sold their hand-burned-and-stamped CDs in paper bags (hence the lack of a cover image in the review.) While the band takes their cues from roots and folk music, the shake and swagger of New Orleans -- not to mention the city's unbridled sense of fun -- spices these songs about " the best things in life: fried food, pretty women, ramblin', and loving your mother." These songs are fun, loose, and bawdy (see "Blue Ball Blues") -- this must be what a dancehall must have been like in the 1800s.
Yes Ma'am went ahead and made another album between Mardi Gras and now. I haven't listened to the whole thing but it seems to be more of the same -- banjo music for parties and making you want to shake your butt. You can check both of them out on Bandcamp.
Yes Ma'am -- Facebook, Bandcamp
*I work with enough teens in the Bronx to know that leaving the house often isn't really a choice, even if the kid thinks they're doing it on their own terms