As Pitchfork declared, Bogalusa, LA is Nowheresville. Most folks think Baton Rouge is nowhere; Bogalusa is an hour-and-a-half from nowhere. It's a scrappy little paper mil town that is far enough off the grid that you don't even pass through it on the way to something else. So when news hit that avant-garde radio-in-my-head upstart Ariel Pink was bring his freakshow to the city's normally quotidian Centennial Fest, I had to make the trip. The good money back in Baton Rouge was that Ariel Pink would not make it out alive.
I discovered the darkened city park in which it all went down almost by accident, I pulled in to turn around when my headlights caught the tell-tale sheet-metal pavilion that denotes a southern park. The festival had long shut down for the day and I walked though a trail of abandoned, homemade carnival games that glistened in the moonlight. Actually I figured I must have my dates wrong until I passed a woman walking her dog who said I better hurry if I wanna catch that Pink boy, he's just starting. I conned a corndog off the vendor near the stage, that was waiting for the truck to pick him up, to bolster my resolve.
Pink and his girlfriend Geneva Jacuzzi and a bass player named Nick were set on the outdoor stage where the stage lights were the only thing separating them from the dark. Pink's family, a few contractors, a homeless guy, a film crew of two and myself were the only ones in attendance.
I remembered Pink's somewhat, ok not somewhat, amazingly disjointed live fever dream that I witnessed a few months back and I felt sorry for everyone at first. I though maybe his parents didn't know what they were in for, nor he and it would just be an amazingly awkward incident, involving a city council member asking a number of people what they hell they were thinking. I mean, I think Ariel Pink is rather glorious in how he brings his cracked vision to like, but Bogalusa is not what any would call the most open-minded place. I am no South-basher by any means, but Bogalusa is a pretty hick town.
Much to my surprise, the trio played tracks off The Doldrums and Worn Copy straight, changing them from being the songwriting equivalent of scanning the AM dial to sweet, reverberating pop songs. I thought "The Great Silence" might be the best synth-pop tune I ever heard when it first wafted from my headphones, but here it arced up to the heavens with crickets and tree frogs mixing seamlessly with the hisses and burbles of Pink's 4-track. Geneva's keyboards and Nick's bass were both perfect sympathetic accompaniment to his songs. His signature tune "Haunted Graffiti" also erupted out of a pleasing mish-mash of synth and static.
As I took photos, his proud mama, Linda Rosenberg-Kennett, ran up and beamed about her son, his fame and successes and claimed she wanted to put up a huge mural Pink had done as the backdrop of the stage. (l-to-R: Linda Rosenberg-Kennett, Ariel's sister Michelle and some relative, quick with the rabbit-ears) It's sweet. You expect music like Pink's to come out of extreme alienation and isolation, but now he appeared to have full loving support from his family. The group, listed in festival flyers as Ariel Pink and Company packed it up after 5 or so songs as the mosquitoes were starting to starting to detract from the spectacle, so I took my final pics, shook everyone's hand, hugged his mama and hiked back through the haunted graffiti of the carnival ghost town in Cassidy Park back to reality.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com