Mr. Blotto to record live album at the Maple Leaf Bar, 11/16–11/17

It’s kind of surprising that the Chicago-based jam band, Mr. Blotto, has never played in New Orleans. The two principal members of the group, bassist Mike and guitarist Paul Bolger, have been coming to the city for decades and have great stories about wandering the decadent streets of the French Quarter as children. That oversight in Mr. Blotto’s long history will be rectified this weekend when they play two epic shows at the Maple Leaf Bar. Both nights will be recorded for an upcoming live album.

Besides childhood memories of hippies washing their hair using rainwater runoff flowing from French Quarter downspouts, the brothers have has also visited the city numerous times over the decades. Paul even busked on the streets in his younger days.

Mike says, “We grew up in musical household; our Dad loved listening to (the) Preservation Hall (jazz band).” The bassist even took a solo road trip from Chicago to South Bend, Indiana in the 1980s to see what the fuss was all about. Though he was more into punk and metal at the time, he said, “it was one of the most profound shows I’ve ever seen.”

Mr. Blotto is often placed in the jam band category because of their love for the Grateful Dead, Phish, Widespread Panic and other veterans of the genre. But the members of the band have deep and varied influences. They can and will play virtually any style including tunes off their seven albums of original music.

Paul Bolger, who is also the lead singer, is really into soul and R&B. Alan Baster, the drummer, is a Polish expat who played on the other side of the Berlin Wall in the 1980s. Now he’s living the American Dream, playing in a rock band and adding Caribbean and Latin grooves to the music. Mark Hague, the lead guitarist, loves prog rock and jazz and expertly channels the lead work of the Dead’s Jerry Garcia.

Playing and recording in New Orleans is a dream come true for the musicians. They have been so enamored of the city for so long that their 1998 album Ancient Face features a three-song section telling an original New Orleans ghost story. It also references the famous shadow of the Christ statue that appears on the back of St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter at night.

Friday night they will play two full sets. Mike emphasizes that they are an improvisational band and asked that we put out the word for any musicians who might like to sit in. Saturday night, they will play one long set with Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes playing a late set.

They are expecting a large number of their fans from Chicago to be in attendance. I would encourage New Orleans listeners to come on out. After all, it’s been a long time coming for this band, which has been together for nearly 30 years.

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