Backbeat: Louisiana Makes Touring Sales Pitch With Ledisi, Trombone Shorty
Backbeat: Louisiana Makes Touring Sales Pitch With Ledisi, Trombone Shorty

ledisi Ledisi gets funky with guitarist Nate Mercereaux and Trombone Shorty at the Only in Louisiana brunch.

Louisiana has long popularized the tax breaks it supplies film and television shows, but at Saturday's annual Only in Louisiana brunch, they added a message more directly targeted at the music industry: Start a tour in Louisiana and get a 25 percent of your costs back.

The plan to benefit touring productions has been around for almost three years, but rarely used. A tour of the Broadway musical "The Addams Family" started last year and two weeks ago George Strait and Martina McBride launched their January-February trek at the Cajundome in Lafayette, La.

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"They rehearsed and did the tech there. Now that (Louisiana) has someone like that in play, the program should get a boost," Philip Mann, director, Live Performance and Music Industry Development for Louisiana, told Billboard.biz at the brunch that brought in music from around the state and the food of New Orleans chef John Besh. Mann added that Chicago and Toronto are looking into offering similar rebate programs for touring shows.

shorty Ledisi and Trombone Shorty go old school with the New Orleans classic "I Hear You Knockin'," first made famous by Smiley Lewis.

The message that came through louder related to the music that came from the stage in a ballroom at the Millennium Biltmore in downtown Los Angeles. The funk band Playing for Change and gospel group Trin-I-Tee 5:7 opened the show with high energy music; Cajun accordionist Steve Riley jammed with guitarist CC Adcock, and Ledisi and Trombone Shorty threw down on Dave Bartholomew's New Orleans classic "I Hear You Knockin'." CJ Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band closed out the brunch with some rollicking zydeco. Scott Aiges, director of Programs, Marketing and Communications, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, handled emcee duties in front of a crowd that included music supervisors, publishers, Louisiana government representatives and visiting musicians such as Derek Trucks and Big Star's Jody Stephens.

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Bug Music president David Hirshland was engaged in conversation with Go Music's Gary Calamar, who uses a considerable amount of Southern roost music on " True Blood." Hirshland was particularly bullish on the Woody Guthrie catalog; the family will receive 100 percent of the rights to "This Land is Your Land" on March 30 and plans for Guthrie's centennial include box sets of Wilco's work with Billy Bragg on Guthrie songs plus James Farrar and Yim Yames' Guthrie tribute project "New Multitudes." In addition, the Dropkick Murphys version of Guthrie's "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" has become an extremely hot piece of sheet music for marching bands, Hirshland noted.

calamar Music supervisor Gary Calamar, left, and Bug Music president David Hirshland enjoy the sounds of Louisiana acts.

Some might say it's heresy to talk about an Oklahoman at a Louisiana gathering, so Billboard.biz visited with chef Besh, who was cooking for a crowd that included Verve Records A&R executives Jaymes Foster and Dahlia Ambach Caplin, producer Peter Asher, music publisher John Anderson, producer-music supervisor Jonathan McHugh, Nu Image/Millennium Films' head of music Selena Arizanovic and Go Music's Alyson Vidoli.

Besh, whose eatery August is the flagship of his restaurant group, plans each year's menu based on the performers booked and Saturday he had twists on porchetta, eggs in a cup with shrimp, sausage and grits, and pasta shells stuffed with crab. We sought his advice on foods to serve with various Louisiana musicians. His thoughts:

cj C.J. Chenier watches Ledisi perform while waiting to take the stage.

Louis Armstrong and other early jazz: "Straight Creole. How did Armstrong used to sign his letters - red beans and rice? That dictates classic Treme style."

Professor Longhair, James Booker and other pianists. "With Fess you have to break away and funk it up. You have to break some rules -- green onion sausage with eggs sounds delicious."

Neville Brothers. "Mardi Gras food -- big bowls of jambalaya and gumbo with fried chicken."

Zydeco. "That's all about slow roasts - a whole suckling pig, field peas, corn bread, crackling."

Cajun. "One pot meals with chicken and sausage."