You can be sure that any festival founded by an organization that calls itself the Mystic Knights of the Mau-Mau isn’t going to be the same old Lollapalooza. And the annual Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans does not disappoint. Now in its 11th edition, this celebration of old-school rhythm-and-blues, garage rock, swamp-a-billy and the all indefatigable syncopated hoodoo that abides in the Crescent City October 3-5 is made all the better by its choice of venue: A bowling alley.
The Mid-City Lanes, to be exact. No ordinary rock’n’bowl scene, the site is long fabled in the memory of righteous New Orleans Jazz Fest veterans, having been the backdrop for many a show over the decades. The festival is headlined by none other than Swamp Dogg—aka Jerry Williams Jr.–the 71-year-old soul music songwriter, producer and performer whose colorful stage name anticipated Snoop Doggy Dogg by several decades. This Dogg, a shameless humorist and raconteur, is notorious for outrageous albums from the 1960s and ‘70s that meshed adventurous grooves with swaggering social satire (“Total Destruction to Your Mind,” “Rat On!”).
In keeping with its theme of “the best music you’ve never heard of,” the Stomp also features local favorites such as zydeco hero Lynn August and R&B hellraiser James Alexander. Also notable are early ‘60s hitmaker Baby Washington, once a member of New York vocal groups like the Hearts and the Jaynetts, and Chitlin’ Circuit warrior Sonny Green. Add performances from ‘60s garage legends The Standells, The Sonics and The Sloths and there’s plenty to stomp about. The fest also features a sidebar music conference at the Wyndham Riverfront New Orleans, where many of the musical guests will be interviewed. A separate $20 admission per day includes entry to a record show.