A New Orleans Institution Turns 40: The Radiators Celebrate Anniversary At Tipitina’s – Review, Videos & Photos

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Words by: Andrew Wetzler

Images by: Jeffrey Dupuis

The Radiators :: 01.18 – 20.2018 :: Tipitina’s :: New Orleans, LA

Many bands have their sacred venues and there’s no denying that the mothership for The New Orleans Radiators is Tipitina’s. They began playing there in the late 1970s as a combination of two former bands: The Rhapsodizers and Roadapple. This year marks The Radiators‘ 40th anniversary.

Since formally getting off the road in 2011, The Radiators have solely performed for their anniversary shows at Tipitina’s and last played Jazz Fest in 2014. This year’s shows were not the usual reminiscing affairs, but rather an opening salvo into an exciting new chapter for the band.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival producer Quint Davis delivered the second set introduction on Saturday and marveled that The Rads sounded better than ever.

The days leading up to the weekend began on a rocky note as the city continued to deal with the effects of the coldest weather to hit the Crescent City in over two decades. Fisheads flew in from all over the country for these sold out shows and many who had planned to arrive on Wednesday were disappointed as dozens of flights were canceled.

Additionally, the city remained under a “boil water advisory” until Saturday evening and guests at a number of French Quarter hotels had to be relocated due to a lack of water pressure. There was actually ice on the ground and road closures throughout the city. Nothing like “roughing it” to catch these Rads shows!

It was widely observed back in 2011 during the band’s countdown to the end, that their energy was waning, tensions were high and the road had taken its toll. The decades of traveling were particularly impactful on singer, songwriter and piano impresario Ed Volker. While each of the other band members (Dave Malone, Camile Baudoin, Reggie Scanlan and Frank Bua have spent time performing on the road over the past seven years (Raw Oyster Cult, New Orleans Suspects and other makeshift groups), Volker has limited his playing to sporadic solo shows and with his band Trio Mollusc in New Orleans.

Instead of being just another Rads reunion weekend, the band had something fresh to talk about and new material to perform. For the first time since 2011’s The Last Watusi, The Radiators released a new album, Welcome To The Monkey House. All three shows opened with the title track and other songs from the album were sprinkled in throughout the weekend. An additional date at Tipitina’s on May 2 was announced during Saturday’s show and the band will be performing at this year’s New Orleans Jazz Fest as well.

The anniversary shows featured a solid run through of many of The Rads classics like “Red Dress,” “No. 2 Pencil,” “Cocktail Music,” “Little Sadie,” “Screw Loose,” “Papaya,” “Confidential”) along with a robust dose of covers such as “Chevy 39,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Down South in New Orleans,” “All Along the Watchtower,” “Mountain Jam” and “Spanish Moon.”

Guests during the shows included Darcy and John Malone (Dave’s kids), Jeff Watkins (New Orleans Suspects) and former band member Glenn Sears.

The crowds seemed incredibly happy to be there, loved the music and soaked up each late night note. “Late” being the operative word as the shows continued until nearly 3 a.m. each evening (morning). The Radiators @40 is an amazing phenomenon – I’m looking forward to what’s coming next!

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