Live Review: Shaun Wolf Wortis’ Mardi Gras Ball

March 5, 2011 at TT The Bear’s Place; Cambridge, Ma.

The 18th edition of Wolf’s annual Mardi Gras benefit show, with proceeds going towards support of the New Orleans Musicians Clinic, kicked off the night for a festive, in-the-mood-to-party crowd, some of whom were wearing outrageous costumes.  Atop one celebrant’s head was what looked to be a cross between a ballerina’s tutu and the complete contents of a cotton-candy machine.  Her companion sported a multicolored, enormously spiked faux-hawk wig.  Many feathered masks, battery-lit flashing necklaces, and the customary ropes of shiny Mardi-Gras beads were in evidence as well.

The evening’s opening act, Dressing the Debutantes, held forth with a low-key but tasty acoustic program.  This three piece group, including banjo, pedal steel, and mandolin, delivered a very well-expressed set of alt-Americana songs, the gruffly delivered vocal complimenting the material nicely.  Highlights included an original, All We Had Were Diamonds, and a surprising re-arrangement of Mack the Knife.  Unfortunately, they were all but drowned out part way through their performance by the loudly booming bass cabinets of the band at the adjacent club playing directly under the room.

Local guitar favorites Charlie Farren and Jon Butcher followed.  These two are still a delight whenever they can find the rare occasion to play out live.  Nobody’s Somebody was a standout in their short set.

Following a brief lull it was time to ratchet the night’s festivities into full gear.  Vudu Krewe All-Star Band members and friends emerged in a long line from the dressing room and snaked their way through the assembled throng, playing infectious Mardi-Gras tunes as they went along; some of them throwing beads into the excited bunch, who dived on the trinkets just as they do in New Orleans.  Eventually finishing a full circuit of the club, the group assembled itself onstage.  There, led by Mr “Rex” himself- Shaun Wolf Wortis – a raucous audience participation event broke out as giant cue-cards were displayed, encouraging the crowd’s call-and-response to the bawdy song being played.  The stage full of musicians, complete with a horn and saxophone section, launched into several feel-good party tunes before the first of many guest singers took their turn.  There were too many to review separately, but lending their talents in this year’s edition were Nate Rogers, Andrea Gillis, Barrence Whitfield, Rick Berlin and others.  Between acts, a few of the Boston Babydolls provided sweetly R-rated burlesque, and even the “Monkey fights Bear” costume skit from years past was revived.

Finishing out the celebration, Wolf led the remaining happy revelers with Certain Girl, Iko Iko, and The Meters’ whimsical They All Asked for You.  A great night- Mardi Gras partying done in proper New Orleans style, and all for a good cause.

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