The New Orleans Bingo! Show
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The New Orleans Bingo! Show

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Band Alternative Cabaret

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Jan
23
The New Orleans Bingo! Show @ Le Chat Noir

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Jan
22
The New Orleans Bingo! Show @ Le Chat Noir

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Jan
21
The New Orleans Bingo! Show @ Le Chat Noir

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

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The New Orleans Bingo! Show
Soft Emergencies
(Scabby Lounge)

The exclamation that is Bingo! has been running on maximum power lately. After rarely touring for the many years that the act has been together, ringleader (ringmaster?) Clint Maedgen, along with supporting cast-slash-henchmen Ronnie Numbers and Mr. The Turk joined a loosened-up Preservation Hall Jazz Band for several months' worth of international dates since this spring, and still found time to release this 17-track opus.

For the unaware, Bingo! is not just a band. Bingo! is a show, a gang, and a potential entire arts movement. Bingo! incorporates sirens, bullhorns, intimidation, confusion, sharp suits, sunglasses, fezzes and all the best aspects of sleaze, crime, luck, cabaret, carnival and romance. The important thing here is that they're capable of evoking the most important parts of the multisensory experience of a Bingo! show, which includes aggressive light, noise, film screenings and actual bingo games on a record.

Soft Emergencies is incredibly diverse. The nasty, distorted grit of "Looking For That Lucky Five," with its clanging found percussion sounds and fuzzy organ is a junkyard creeper that gives way to Maedgen's angel-sweet vocals and smooth saxophone on the whimsical, romantic "Little Kitten." "Requiem #9" is a Kurt Weill-influenced cabaret tale that seems to be about pirates, and "She Loves A Circus" is a shivery, autumnal track with a dizzy, drunken calliope sound. Soft Emergencies should go with the Mardi Gras beads and pralines in your next New Orleans care package to someone far away; it's a perfect snapshot of New Orleans' most original band. -- Fensterstock - Gambit Weekly


Vocalist brings edge to Preservation Hall
By Christopher Blagg
Boston Herald
Friday, October 13, 2006

Look at the roster of New Orleans’ legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band musicians and you see a lineup of mostly older African-Americans.
Then there’s Clint Maedgen.
He’s young, sports spiked hair and an earring and is most definitely white. The vocalist and newest member of the Preservation Hall band, which plays at Symphony Hall on Sunday, is injecting a vibrant and edgy spark to the trad jazz outfit, a group celebrating its 45th anniversary.
Purists need not be worried about Maedgen. He eats, breathes and sleeps New Orleans, a city where he’s spent the past 10 years or so eking out a living delivering fried chicken to strip joints in the French Quarter while moonlighting as one of the city’s most creative and intriguing songwriter/performers. When you’re talking about New Orleans, that’s saying something. Maedgen (pronounced ‘‘may-gin”) already owned a cult following among the hipster set in New Orleans with his punk cabaret lounge act the Bingo Show, as well as his explosive art-rock group Liquidrone, when he got the call from hallowed Preservation Hall.
‘‘I was very excited. Definitely a bit nervous,” Maedgen said from New Orleans earlier this week. ‘‘I’d like to think that as a musician I wear a few hats, but I never thought I’d be trying that one on. It’s been incredible, it really has.”
Turns out Ben Jaffe, the band’s director and bassist and the son of founder Allen Jaffe, had seen one of Maedgen’s infamous Bingo Shows, in which he sings through a megaphone Tom Waits-style and a spirited brand of vaudevillian bingo is played between sets. Jaffe saw something fresh the Hall could use, though jazz buffs can be taken aback by Maedgen’s punk-rock presence.
‘‘It’s a little bit shocking at first,” Maedgen said. ‘‘But I have to say, the audience has been incredibly receptive. They’re a bit surprised, but I hit the mike as hard as I can, and it’s been working. These cats in the band, we’ve developed a certain chemistry together, and I think the audience can see we’re having a lot of fun. They look at us and think, ‘Well, the older guys seem to be OK with it, everyone seems to be having fun. I guess we can all relax and see where this goes.’ ”
Maedgen’s addition to Preservation Hall makes more sense when you learn he is an accomplished saxophonist who spent the first half of his life woodshedding Sonny Rollins tunes before going in the art-punk direction. He was just getting his feet wet with Preservation Hall when Hurricane Katrina struck. Lake Pontchartrain poured into his house, destroying everything.
‘‘It’s a heartbreak, man. It really is,” he said. ‘‘My house got 14 feet. I went down there today. It’s like a ghost town, like a zombie movie.”
The storm changed everything for Preservation Hall, too. Of the rotating 60-odd musicians in the band, only eight still live in New Orleans. The band has soldiered on, playing all over the world while its hometown slowly crawls back to life.
Ironically, the tragedy also brought opportunities. Last April, U2 guitarist the Edge, whose New Orleans charity Music Rising has been replacing instruments lost to the hurricane, stopped by the Preservation Hall building for the reopening of the historic venue. With Maedgen singing lead, the Edge and the band played a swinging version of U2’s ‘‘Vertigo,” which you can see at www.youtube.com.
‘‘When the Edge came to town we did one rehearsal, one run-through,” Maedgen said. ‘‘Next thing you know, I’m looking at like 150 cameras, singing this song at Preservation Hall with one of my childhood heroes, sharing a microphone with him! It was beautiful.”
Sunday’s Symphony Hall show will feature pianist Ellis Marsalis as Preservation Hall’s guest. But before and after the band’s set, Maedgen and his offbeat Bingo crew will set up shop in the venue’s hallway and perform their own material, bringing a carnival atmosphere to the usually stiff-upper-lip venue.
‘‘We add a guerrilla theater element to Preservation Hall,” said Maedgen,mischievously adding, ‘‘I do bring a little somethin’ somethin’ to the party.”
Preservation Hall Jazz Band, at Symphony Hall, Sunday at 5 p.m. - Boston Herald


The Bingo! Show is an eight person, multimedia, audience-interactive, carnivalesque, game-show-rock band. Their shows might include music, films and games with prizes, led by a master of ceremonies – once there was even a wedding. The group is both bizarre and intriguing, which is a good combination of traits if you want to gain national attention.

These seven men and one woman are jokesters, clowns and musicians. The Bingo! Show started several years ago and gained popularity in New Orleans, often selling out shows that were mostly held in the French Quarter. Now, the group’s reputation is spreading. The troupe played at the Bonnaroo music festival in Tennessee, which Ron Rona, aka Ronnie Numbers, says was a terrific experience. “They really made us feel like rock stars,” he says in a moment of seriousness – as he applies white clown makeup.

Though the group may be wacky and outrageous, its members are humble and say they feel honored that they have made it this big. Recently, they were featured at the Hollywood Jazzfest, playing along with the Preservation Hall jazz band. — S.R. - New Orleans Magazine - Sept.2006




The Clowns are Back in Town

By J. Lloyd Miller


The year is 2002. Somewhere in the French Quarter, in the darkened back room of a family-style café, a drum roll is sounding. Through air made thick with the competing aromas of fried chicken and cigarettes, a standing room only crowd of costumed regulars and disheveled miscreants is fumbling for their cards. A foul-mouthed clown in a ruffled tuxedo jacket is waving an air raid siren while a one-eyed drum major with a dead raven perched perilously at the peak of his chin-strapped hat is handing you what you hope is the luckiest board in the room. And seated at the pump organ, Clint Maedgen, the spiky-haired troubadour of Lower Decatur Street, has a question for the audience:
“DOES ANYBODY WANNA BE… A WINNAH?”
Used to be, if you wanted to catch up with Clint Maedgen, all you had to do was call up Fiorella’s Café on Lower Decatur Street and order yourself some fried chicken. As long as you were somewhere in the near vicinity of the French Quarter, you could count on him showing up within the hour on his beloved cruiser, chicken in his basket and a story at the ready. Used to be, if you wanted to attend a standing room only performance by Maedgen’s oddball-fiasco Bingo! Show, one of the most innovative acts ever to spring from the fertile loins of the downtown New Orleans music scene, you need wait no longer than it took to get to the nearest Thursday.
The past year has seen many changes in the life of the band that was born as Bingo!. The musical core of the group itself has shifted from its original acoustic line-up to incorporate the founding members of Liquidrone, Maedgen’s more hard-hitting, electrically driven art-rock project. Now billed in venues across the country as The New Orleans Bingo! Show, the group finds itself positioned to hit the national stage in a big way. Already, Maedgen, along with Bingo! Show veterans Ron Rona, Matt Vaughan-Black, and Casey McAllister, have spent the better part of the past year in what might amount to a sort of boot camp for touring musicians.
It’s no small honor to be named Special Guests to the venerable Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Criscrossing the nation in a tour billed as The New Orleans Revue, this regal French Quarter institution has seen fit to invite the boys along for the ride as they celebrate 45 years of pursuing their mission to celebrate and protect the sounds of New Orleans Jazz. The month of October alone finds Maedgen and his clown-painted cohorts providing support to the revered institution in twelve different cities, bringing them home just in time to perform as The New Orleans Bingo! Show at the Voodoo Festival on October 28. Couple this high-intensity education in the business of the touring band with the amount of national exposure to come their way in the last year, and you’re looking at a band that’s ready to break.
And if their reception at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee is any indication, the world may indeed be ready for them as well. Afforded the opportunity to perform every night of the festival in the Preservation Hall Tent, the group managed to introduce a national audience of hippies and hipsters alike to the sort of cabaret-fiasco carnival revelry that has made them the darlings of the local media here at home for years. Given their theatrical leanings, it’s hardly surprising that fellow punk cabaret artists the Dresden Dolls so happily honored the band by joining them onstage to perform one of their own quirky hits. Nor is it shocking that magazines the likes of Jane and Spin both found The New Orleans Bingo! Show worthy of mention within the pages of their well-circulated publications in recent months.
Meanwhile, if you find yourself longing for simpler days when the band formerly known as Bingo! was still one of the best-kept secrets in the French Quarter, you’re in luck. Pressed for wide release and now available at both Tower Records and the Louisiana Music Factory, The New Orleans Bingo! Show Vol.1: Soft Emergencies is a sterling representation of this group at its acoustical best. Originally made available only in a limited run, this 17-track album features some of the most touching and quirky songs ever written about a life led in this anachronistic American city. Fueled by the softer side of instrumentation, from pump organ and violin to upright bass and crash-box percussion, this compact disc is a must-have for any who remember, or want to know more about, our life before the storm.
And if that’s not enough of a fix for you, you can get down to the same stores (or order online at louisianamusicfactory.com), and pick up Clint Maedgen’s newly pressed self-titled album. Sometimes listed as Apt.11 (the result of a mix-up regarding the album art), this CD represents Maedgen’s first effort in a solo capacity. Backed up by The Bingo! Show’s Casey McAlister, this sublime six-track offering features the same transcendent songwriting that we’ve come to expect through Bingo! and Liquidrone, but set over a primarily electronic backdrop that shifts from the sparse to the lush with a practiced ease. Especially captivating is track six, in which Maedgen appears to be performing a ballroom version of “Halloween,” a song from the Bingo! songbook, backed up by an anonymous philharmonic orchestra.
Of course, there’s no substitute for the real thing. And while it may be a bit further off than the nearest Thursday, New Orleans certainly has cause for celebration in the fact of two separate performances by The New Orleans Bingo! Show by October’s end. If you like the big shows, you can catch them at the New Orleans Voodoo Festival on October 28th at 6 pm. And if you’re feeling a bit more local, there’s a very special Halloween performance scheduled at One Eyed Jacks (615 Toulouse Street in the French Quarter) to look forward to. See one show or catch them both, but do it before we have to share them once more with the world at large.
- Where Y'at Magazine, November 2006


WILD NUMBER:Clint Maedgen's Bingo! moves from underground darling to local favorite

By Allison Fensterstock

The New Orleans Bingo! Show has come a long way from its days as the boys(and girls) in the back room.

With five years of relative mayhem under their belts, the band-cum-interactive spectacle is now something of a local fixture, well on its way to a place in the pantheon of beloved New Orleans oddities.

The act was just a twinklen in ringleader Clint Maedgen's eye, until he happened on a cache of 500 vintage bingo cards for $25 at a junk show in 2001.

That purchase, paired with his recent acquisition of a pump organ, galvanized a nascent plan to expand his megaphone driven art-noise band Liquidrone into something more theatrical, something quieter, that would showcase his growing sheaf of ballads about New Orleans' downtown Bohemian scene.

Those ballads came to him on his bicycle as he delivered food to the bartenders, exotic dancers and assorted night owls of the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny.

Soon, Maedgen and a crew of costumed revelers and troublemakers had gained a cult following for their Thursday night shows in the rear dining room of Fiorella's Cafe on lower Decatur Street, home base for his bike-delivery day job. They served up music, original short films, the curious sounds of homemade instruments and theatrical antics alongside fried chicken and mac and cheese.

Fast forward to 2007, and the Bingo! Show has a new record, a set of successful gigs at the Contemporary Arts Center, and a Wednesday night residency at the cabaret venue Le Chat Noir. And thanks to an unlikely artistic partnership with the traditional jazz stalwarts Preservation Hall, the ever-inventive gang of clownish miscreants has lately been taking the Bingo! Show on the road.

The pairing makes more sense than is immediately apparent. A New Orleans resident since 1992, Maedgen - who, like most of Bingo!, plays multiple instruments during the show - studied clarinet at Southern University with the late Alvin Batiste. That experience, along with more than 15 years absorbing the sounds of New Orleans life and the memories of his grandparents' old jazz records, turned on the experimental rocker to traditional sounds.

The partnership began when Preservation Hall's creative director, Ben Jaffe, caught the Bingo! show one night at Fiorella's.

"Ben Jaffe with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band has put us in some incredible situations over the past three years," Maedgen acknowledges, sitting in the homey back offices of Preservation Hall with Bingo! members Ron Rona and Casey McAllister. "To the point where we really honestly don't know what's going to be next."

He rattles off a list of accomplishments the band's association with the Hall has wrought, from sitting in with Allen Touissaint on sax to playing the White House to meeting Tom Waits at a post-Katrina benefit gig in New York City. The band also shared a tent with the Preservation Hall Band at the sprawling Bonnaroo Music Festival last summer, alternating shows several times a day.

"At this point, he could say we're booked for an exclusive three-week gig on Neptune."

Over the past three years, Maedgen has sang and played saxophone with Preservation Hall in Bermuda, Japan and Australia. But it's far from one-way association. The partnership has also found Bingo! performers like Rona, who goes by the stage name Ronnie Numbers, in full clown costume before Dixieland jazz audiences.

Last week, members of Bingo! made it onto national network television, when "Live with Regis and Kelly" taped several segments in New Orleans with Preservation Hall as the house band. Their episode, filmed at Harrah's casino on May 23, aired later that morning.

"Turk and Numbers had a shakedown with Kelly Ripa," Rona said. The band was playing 'Saints' and Turk and I came out right at the end for the second-line. I watched it, and they cut the best part, right when we were jumping onto the stage. But Kelly did not...(CONTINUED ON PART 2) - Times Picayune


...hesitate to dance with the clowns."

At a Bingo! show, Rona acts as Master of Ceremonies and caller of the between-set bingo games; he also writes and directs the black and white silent narrative films and music videos of the band that are screened during the show.

He's one of several essential non-musical performers in Bingo. Along with Matt Vaughan-Black (known onstage as an eyepatch- and fez-wearing character named Mr. The Turk), he walks through the audience climbing on tables, shining high powered flashlights into faces, and playing bullhorn and siren based instruments that Vaughan-Black invents and constructs.

We walk a fine line with that," says Maedgen, of insinuating the Bingo! aesthetic into a Preservation Hall show. "We're very,very,very - let's go ahead and do four them, very - respectful of that institution that is traditional New Orleans jazz. We don't spend a whole lot of time onstage when the guys are are doing 'St. Louis Blues' or 'Bourbon Street Parade.' "

He and the band perform skits between songs, or as the audience files in and out of the show, or during the end-of-show second-line. They also show the music video for Bingo!s song "Complicated Life," which features a cameo from the Preservation Hall band as members order food from Maedgen at Fiorella's before he leads a Carnival-esque bicycle parade into the streets of the French Quarter.

Their songwriting, ranging from clanging John Lurie-style experimental jazz to smooth-as-butter lounge numbers, has always been the core of the act. But Bingo!'s stage show and supporting cast are powerful, and these days, the act is looking to play venues that compliment that aspect.

Often, a table with teacups and cocktail glasses is set up downstage, where Ronnie Numbers and Mr. The Turk drink, flirt and argue with local actress Veronica Russell, performing as the shows ingenue, Veve LeRoux.

McAllister(as Kid Calhoun Macaluso), a multi-instrumentalist during the show, dons his white loves for a dramatic, spot-let theremin solo. LeRoux, with her back to the audience, pantomimes to the aching ballad "Something in Her Shows," a heartbreakingly wistful song about love in a French Quarter strip club.

And recently, they've added trapeze artists.

"What we're looking to cultivate now is more of a theatrical run," Maedgen says, mentioning their recent performances at the Contemporary Arts Center and Le Chat Noir. "We feel like our show is best received on a three to five to 12 night run. We're not a band in a van. We're not really in the business of selling liquor. It's more of a show.
"The CAC has been the greatest opportunity for us. We had 88 different light cues, as opposed to a lighting configuration thats on, off, or a spot. The thing that comes to mind is the movie 'Ray,' that scene where he's trying to do his country music, and the audience just won't pay attention. And then someone had the presence of mind to put a light on him, and they just shut up and let him put that song across."

And in the end - bells and whistles aside - that's what the Bingo! show is trying to do.

- Times Picayune



Friday, May 26, 2006
By Keith Spera
Music writer
Times Picayune

Ask Clint Maedgen how he's doing and he'll likely pepper his response with such adjectives as "incredible," "amazing," "overwhelming" and "beautiful."

Understandable, considering that in the past 18 months, the Bingo! frontman and Preservation Hall Jazz Band singer has:

-- Performed in front of 80,000 people in Sydney, Australia.

-- Shared a microphone with U2 guitarist The Edge.

-- Serenaded Tom Waits, a musical hero.

-- Fronted four different, 82-piece orchestras on his composition "Halloween."

-- Sung "You Are My Sunshine" at the White House for President Bush.

Not bad for a former punk rock kid from Lafayette who, at 36, is finally able to call himself a full-time musician after seven years as a bicycle deliveryman in the French Quarter.

Never mind that Hurricane Katrina swamped his rented Lakeview house with 14 feet of water. His new apartment in the Quarter boasts a view of the St. Louis Cathedral's courtyard.

And he's able to channel his considerable creative energies into both his rock band/carnival/multimedia theater troupe Bingo! and the much more conventional Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Preservation Hall creative director and bassist Ben Jaffe, the 35-year-old son of Hall founder Allan Jaffe, recruited his pal Maedgen to sing with the band two years ago in an effort to infuse it with fresh energy. Maedgen dons the traditional white shirt and black tie, but his spiky black hair sets him apart from his bandmates.

He sings "You Are My Sunshine," "When You're Smiling," "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and the occasional Kinks song. "I see my role model as being Mickey Mouse," Maedgen said. "Kind of like (in high-pitched voice), 'Hello, everybody! Glad you could make the show! Now I'm going to sing a song!' "

Audiences generally embrace him, even as some critics question whether Maedgen conforms to their idea of what Preservation Hall "should" be. Such criticisms, Jaffe says, lack perspective. "At one point in time," Jaffe said, "somebody thought Sweet Emma Barrett or (clarinetist) George Lewis or Jelly Roll Morton was the young kid on the block."

For his part, Maedgen says his Preservation Hall bandmates "have become family to me." Steady work with Preservation Hall finally allowed him to give up his bicycle delivery gig. He misses the camaraderie of the Quarter characters on his route, but Preservation Hall has opened up a whole other world of experience.

At an Australian festival, he sang in front of 80,000 people in the rain. Following September's "From the Big Apple to the Big Easy" benefit concert at New York's Radio City Music Hall, Maedgen and Jaffe performed backstage for Waits.

At a private event at Preservation Hall on the Thursday before Jazzfest, Maedgen and the band joined The Edge on a swinging version of U2's "Vertigo." Maedgen and The Edge shared a microphone on the song's chorus; the performance was posted on www.msn.com, available to a worldwide audience of 400 million.

"I pull it together in situations like that," Maedgen said. "When it's over with, and I'm sitting alone in my apartment and I realize what just happened, that's when I start to freak out a little bit."

He holds Preservation Hall in such high regard that he is happy to lose himself in the role, as when friends objected to his singing for President Bush at a White House dinner.

"It was an incredible experience," he said. "I got to sing 'You Are My Sunshine' eight feet away from the president of the United States. It wasn't about me or my politics. It was about what Preservation Hall represents, which is good time, beautiful music. To be onboard for that is an incredible honor."

He has improved as a singer and entertainer "just by being around these gentlemen, and their professionalism and experience. Having to slide out to the microphone and hit it hard every time, whether it's 80,000 people in Australia or a few hundred hardcore, longtime fans in New Orleans, I've had to step up to the plate. It's an incredible opportunity to grow as an artist. It's been very educational for me."

Maedgen applies those lessons Saturday when he stages the Bingo! Show at One Eyed Jacks; he also performs Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Ogden Museum of Southern ARt. With Bingo!, he sings, plays saxophone and directs the carnival, which invariably includes a round of bingo. Members of local avant-rock band Liquidrone now supply the show's musical foundation, freeing Maedgen and the other characters to stretch out even more.

The multimedia Bingo! Show includes a remarkable video built around the Kinks song "Complicated Life," which Maedgen sings with Preservation Hall. Shot in one long, unbroken take, the video opens with 65-year-old Preservation Hall trumpeter John Brunious ordering a cup of coffee at Fiorella's, the Quarter restaurant that was Maedgen's longtime employer.

Maedgen then sets off on a rambling bicycle odyssey through the Quarter and along the Mississippi riverfront. Dozens of bicyclists and other characters fall in behind him in the perfectly choreographed, continuous shot. The video ends with Maedgen arriving at Preservation Hall, where he delivers the coffee and joins the band for the conclusion of "Complicated Life."

Three complete takes and a police escort were needed to get it right. Filmed several months before Katrina, the clip amounts to a time capsule snapshot of the offbeat community that inhabited the lower French Quarter before the storm.

"I'm so proud of it," Maedgen said. "A lot of people in that video aren't living here anymore. It really captures our lifestyle before then. It was quite an adventure."

Smartly conceived and executed, and unfailingly entertaining, the Bingo! Show is unique, even for New Orleans. Years ago, Maedgen briefly moved the production to New York. His dreams of staging it as an off-Broadway production may not be far-fetched.

"I approach art and music in my life with a great sense of urgency," he said. "I've been doing this for a long time, and it's got to work. I've put all my eggs in this basket. Every time is 120 percent. Every time is like the last time. I'll always look at it like that.

"It's a privilege to be able to sing in front of people and to have an audience willing to sit there and listen. I spent a lot of years of my life singing to nobody. To have an audience that wants to hear something. . . . I'm going to give them something to listen to."

- Times Picayune - New Orleans, La.


BINGO! Story by Rob Cambre

"Does Anybody Wannah Be a Winnah?!" They're the first words you'll hear - and through a distorted bullhorn no less - at a show by the band Bingo! But of course Bingo! is more than a band. It'™s a show, a game (not a "game show"? exactly, but...) and a piece of guerilla cabaret theater wrapped into a band, or around it, or ...Well maybe it is kinda of a game show.

Just the mention of the word bingo conjures some pretty specific images in the minds of native New Orleans - area folk. For me, it's one of silver-haired Catholic ladies poring over multiple cards n a noisy hall thick with smoke from unfiltered Pall Malls in what was then the only form of gambling officially sanctioned by the Vatican. Well, at least that's what my aunts did in St. Charles Parish on bingo night.

But this bingo is a different kettle of fish, Rounds of songs by the band are punctuated with rounds of the game officiated by the band and played by the audience. The old-fashioned heavy cardstock playing boards with the sliding plastic windows over the numbers are here, as are the numbered wooden balls rolling in the spinning metal cage. But instead of cash prizes, winners take home plastic swords, toy noisemakers and god knows what else (I haven't seen them give away any "adult toys" yet, but it would seem that it's probably only a matter of time). The band members and their entourage are expert at whipping a crowd into a frenzy over the outcome of what was once considered a square elderly pastime. It's a scene quite unlike anything else in town.

The first thing that'll strike you when you see Bingo! at their usual haunt in the back bar of Fiorella's on Decatur Street is how perfect they are for the setting. Seeing the band cramped into the back of the room past the bar with the musicians, pump organ, drumkit and bass fighting for space with stacks of beer and soda, everyone haloed in cheap colored lights, is to see a band in its natural habitat. Bingo! has taken its act to other locales - including a six week run in New York and local gigs at the Circle Bar and the Howlin Wolf -“ but when they hold court at Fiorella's they are truly in their element. With their seamless mix of game-play, film vignettes, passionate songs and performance troupe mayhem, the Bingo! experience can not be completely contained in a photo or CD, but must be experienced in person. And in the funky, quintessentially New Orleans setting of Fiorella's back bar it really is all of a piece?.

Bingo! is the brainchild/lovechild of singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Clint Maedgen, who first came to attention on the local scene with the category-defying rock band Liquidrone. In the horn heavy roar of Liquidrone, Clint integrated some theatrical moves from his big influence Tom Waits into a high energy rock context, and he was as prone to produce sounds with percussive metal or noise-making toys as he was to honk on this alto sax a-la James Chance in the late '70s no-wave outfit the Contortions. With Liquidrone still extant, Maedgen started Bingo! as a forum for the more intimate and emotional songs he was writing, songs that he felt were ideally suited to a group with a more acoustic, cabaret-type feel as opposed to the amped-up power of Liquidrone.

Maedgen found the right musicians and the right setting for this new band, but just as importantly, he found the right characters and sidekicks to enhance the show's theatrical qualities and make Bingo! take off as a moving, organic, three dimensional, surreal circus act. Ronnie Numbers, face-painted and clad in an outsize tuxedo and tails, prowls the room and cavorts with the crowd like a gleefully deranged harlequin. Dancers Ann Finney and Kerrie Harris, all vavoom in their vintage dresses , bring an effortless enthusiasm to the proceedings, swaying and waltzing to Maedgen's heartbreaking tunes, then fawning over him like Dean Martin's Golddiggers. The vibe is contagious and the audience (which often reaches the room's full capacity) gets swept up into the nocturnal alternate universe of the show, vying to win the bingo rounds with an intensity to rival those aforementioned silver-haired Catholic ladies.

Maedgen in a charismatic frontman, with a kinetic stage energy, natural flair for theatrics and wailing high pitched show-singing out of the R&B tradition (his vocal moves are more Prince and Isley Brothers than Tom Waits). He's also a skilled musician - one of those guys who can pick up virtually any instrument and instantly play something listenable on it, then be writing tunes on it later that day.


Then band's musicianship is solid and they bring passion and life to the songs. Maedgen marinates a wide palette of influences to cook up these tunes, which lends them the flavor of familiarity even if you're hearing them for the first time. One hears echoes of Hank Williams, Kurt Weill, pirate sea-shanties, James Brown, steamboat calliopes and carnival romps in the broken merry go round of Bingo!'s music.

Seeing them rock capacity crowds, one gets the feeling that Bingo! could get whisked away to seductive stardom if the right filmmaker saw them and needed a house band for a Fellini-Jarmusch-Lynch homage, so go catch these Fiorella's gigs while you still can. You might just come away a winner. - Where Y'at New Orleans


By Keith O'Brien

Staff writer/The Times-Picayune

It ends like this: On the floor of a French Quarter bar. In front of 100 people in the dark. Two women kneel down, lock hands, and prepare to arm wrestle for the right to be a Bingo champion as a teeming crowd of hipsters screams into the night and a short man in a white-tailed tuxedo hops about the room and another man sits, silent but smiling, at a pump organ in the shadows of the carnival he created.

It is a carnival, after all. A weekly, only-in-New Orleans nightclub act filled with dancing girls and wailing sirens, numbered balls plucked from a hopper and songs played for the crowd.

Clint Maedgen, the front man for Bingo! -- the band, not the game -- wrote the songs that he sings every Thursday night in the back room at Fiorella's on Decatur Street. The songs came first, soulful numbers that fall in a category somewhere between folk and a raging calliope. The songs are why Bingo! exists, why Maedgen sits at the pump organ with the band.

But it's the show that he loves, being in it, being up there in front of the crowd, watching it end with two women arm-wrestling on the floor over your grandmother's game, once played in suburban cafeterias and now played in the Quarter this, and every, Thursday night.

For Maedgen, on this particular Thursday, it began seven hours earlier on a modified school bus dubbed the Bingo! Express with 800 fliers, 50 foam earplugs and one can of silly string.

Maedgen cackled as he settled in behind a drum set in the back of the bus along with Andy Harris, another drummer hired for the day. Victor Moran, the owner of Fiorella's and the band's manager, took the wheel. Ronnie Numbers, a man who can only be described as the band's face-painted sidekick, stationed himself in the aisle in his white-tailed tuxedo as four young women, including one dressed as a cowgirl, took seats around him.

"Everyone plugged in?" Maedgen asked.

The crew inserted earplugs. Moran nodded in the rearview mirror to Maedgen. Maedgen nodded back. Moran started the engine and Maedgen began drumming as the Bingo! Express rambled up and down the streets of the Quarter, through the Marigny, back across the city, then all the way uptown to Louisiana Avenue.

They passed strip clubs and Catholic churches, hot-dog stands and oyster bars, sex shops and art galleries, vacant, crumbling buildings falling into the street, gleaming white homes rising among the oaks, and people -- lots of people, everywhere.

Tourists stared. Locals waved. Some lunged to catch the fliers that the Bingo! women were flinging through the open windows of the bus. Others, hearing only the drums and seeing only the shadows of unknown flying projectiles, ducked and dodged, then laughed it off as they peeled the fliers off the pavement and watched the bus disappear around the corner.

"Bingo! Bingo! Bingo!" the cowgirl yelled.

"On and on and on," answered another woman on the Bingo! Express.

Then, just outside the offices of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on Rampart Street, Moran stopped the bus, idled the engine and nodded in the mirror once again to Maedgen, who, while still drumming, nodded to Numbers. Maedgen smiled. Numbers smiled back. He knew what he had to do, and he hopped from the bus like a nymph in white tails with a hand-cranked siren on his hip as the women waited and the drumming continued and the bus shook with sound.

"I've got a plan," Maedgen had said before the bus left Fiorella's.

"What's his plan?" one of the women had replied.

He didn't tell them, but they were about to find out.

. . . . . . .

It begins like this: Maedgen is on his bicycle. He is wearing bug-eyed goggles and delivering fried chicken and shrimp po boys and banana pudding to people in the Quarter. As he goes, he is writing songs in his head.

Maedgen, a 33-year-old 9th Ward resident, estimates he has written more than 300 songs in his life and more than 30 last year alone. In the beginning, anyway, he sang many of these songs with Liquidrone, a theatrical rock 'n' roll band that Maedgen also fronts.

"Liquidrone is very electric. It's more groin-oriented, certainly more male," explained Maedgen, and it gave him little outlet for the heartbreaking numbers he was writing on his bicycle about strippers and lovers and Bourbon Street nights and then playing for himself at home on a pump organ.

Then one day, as the legend now goes, Maedgen was in an antique store and stumbled over 850 aging Bingo cards. He bought them all for $20, wallpapered his kitchen with hundreds of them and then dreamed up the idea for a new show.

"I always wanted to come up with something a little different," he said. "It's very hard to be just a rock band. I hate to do the same thing. You show up, you get loaded, do an hour and 10 minutes of music that's too loud to talk over. . . . I have another band that does that."

This new band, he thought, would be something else. They would be interactive, multi-media. They would show short movies during set breaks. They would also play Bingo -- the game -- on the cards Maedgen had bought and he could sit at the pump organ singing those soulful songs, "music written for and about women," he explained. It would be retro. People would love it. They would come.

At first, few did. A half-dozen people one Thursday night. A dozen the next. Victor Moran, the owner of Fiorella's, said he took a loss when Maedgen first struck up the carnival last summer with violinist Brynn Saväge, bassist Steve Calandra and drummer Ryan Farris. But Moran stuck it out on those hot summer nights when people didn't want to cram into the back room at Fiorella's or, more likely, didn't know why they would want to.

He had hired Maedgen to be a delivery man, but Moran knew he had talent greater than that. And time proved him right.

In the months ahead, the crowds grew. The show found its groove. The band discovered ways to play songs with toy armbands, plastic drills and walkie talkies, in addition to their instruments, and week after week Maedgen called out, in his best imitation of a great carnival man, "Does anybody want to be a winnah?"

They did. They wanted to win a Bingo game, wanted to earn a dance with the girls and go home with one of the dime-store prizes that came with victory: Indian headdresses or plastic laser guns that, for the moment anyway, they would cherish.

Then the Bingo! Express began assaulting the city every Thursday afternoon, extending the show in Maedgen's own mind. He called it "Guerrilla Bingo!"

"I love the reaction we get on the street," he said. "Positive or negative, I love it. It's the same thing with my music. I like it when you love it. I like it when you hate it. I just don't like it if you ignore it."

Which is what brought them all to the doorstep of the Jazzfest offices on Rampart Street on that Thursday afternoon. It's why Maedgen nodded at Numbers and Numbers hopped from the bus. It's why he cranked his hand-held siren on the sidewalk and shouted nonsense through the door and scampered back to the idling bus as Moran hit the gas and three befuddled office workers walked outside and stared at the scene on the street.

They were just in time to see the bus driving off, disappearing into traffic.

. . . . . . .

Later that night, a crowd filled the back room at Fiorella's. Twenty-five people became 50, 50 became more than 100. Maedgen sat at the pump organ and played along with Saväge, Calandra and Farris in quiet harmony.

Then Maedgen was shouting "Does anybody want to be a winnah?" into a megaphone and Numbers was plucking balls from the hopper and two young women were shouting "Bingo!" on the same number and getting down on the floor to arm wrestle for the right to be champion in the first game of the night.

The winner would get a plastic sword that glowed in the dark. It would be cherished, then forgotten. But for the moment, it didn't matter.

Heather Hurston, a University of New Orleans student, locked hands with Erin Dempsey, a Loyola University student. The crowd hooted and hollered and swallowed up the two women on the floor. Hurston started to take Dempsey down. But Dempsey came back. The room shook, Hurston's arm gave out, and as the dancing girls whisked Dempsey off for a celebration dance, Maedgen sat there smiling.

He has big plans for the band. He talks about taking it to New York City, maybe putting on the show off-Broadway. He talks about the band's current album and its follow-up scheduled to come out this spring. He calls it "the album we want to show the world." He thinks about record deals and playing Jazzfest.

That's why he had the Bingo! Express stop by their offices that Thursday afternoon, he explained. It wasn't to protest anything, but to celebrate something: a sound, a city, a love he has for both. He wanted to let the Jazzfest people in on his little secret, give them a show.

He's not sure if they got it. At the time, he had foam earplugs in his ears. The women around him were shouting and waving. Numbers was hopping here and there in white tails and Maedgen was beating on drums until the bus echoed like a tornado trapped in a steel pipe. There was no way to hear what they might have said to each other, if anything.

But as the bus pulled away and rumbled down Rampart, the people who came to the door were still standing there on the sidewalk, eyeing the bus in the thin January sunlight. And for a moment, anyway, Maedgen knew he had their attention.

They paused. One of them waved. They couldn't stop themselves from smiling. - Times-Picayune - Keith O'Brien


In a field in Manchester, Tenn., at one o'clock on a Saturday morning, there is a man who's just been rudely jerked out of slumber by a ragtag gang of red, black and white-clad circus freaks. Banging on garbage cans, setting off sirens and playing instruments nobody's ever seen before, they've surrounded the hapless sleeper, shone flashlights at him, and muttered at him unintelligibly through bullhorns; a virtual storm of noise, light and strange costumes that emerged from a previously peaceful darkness into which he probably hopes they'll soon recede. But they show no signs of doing that. As he struggles to get up and unzip himself from his sleeping bag, the look on his face is so hapless and frightened that one of the group -- in eye-patch and fez -- silences his horn and envelops the sleeper in a full-body hug. The look of relief that washes over the sleeper's face is total. The aliens have not finally come to take him away. It's just the Bingo! Show, straight from New Orleans, spilling over at the Bonnaroo Festival.

Bonnaroo, which is a rock festival like Katrina was a little spring shower, actually has its provenance in New Orleans. The locally formed promoters, Superfly Productions, who made their bones here in the late '90s booking hippie-friendly funk and jam acts, teamed up with Tennessee-based company AC Entertainment in 2002 to throw the first Bonnaroo, which, with no advertising at all, sold 70,000 tickets. Two years later, Rolling Stone included it on a list of the fifty biggest events in rock 'n' roll history. It was an act of marketing genius from the start -- by booking jam band acts, who tour relentlessly and tote along die-hard hippie audiences who will, á la touring Deadheads, faithfully attend every show on a tour, attendance was a lock.

The festival site itself is a mind-warpingly complex temporary city. Viewed from the top of the festival's Ferris wheel, tents stretch past the horizon to comprise a shantytown of fans larger than some towns in the otherwise sleepy central Tennessee area. There are five main stages, several smaller lounges, a twenty-four-hour air-conditioned movie tent, art installations (including touch-and-sound-sensitive light-up statues appealing to ... enhanced fans), batting cages, stand-up comedy, a video arcade, a solar-powered stage, belly dancers, performance artists and buskers ... and the list goes on. Contraflow-like traffic plans are set up to accommodate incoming and outgoing caravans of fans. Coffee County residents can invest in the festival's economic impact by purchasing Bonnaroo bonds. Lacking the reanimated corpse of Jerry Garcia, this is hippie heaven.

And it's growing and changing. 2006 saw the festival completely sell out more than 80,000 tickets -- potentially due to a divergence from their traditional booking practices. Woodstock-generation (and second-generation) favorites were still represented, with marathon late-night sets from acts like Phil Lesh, but the roster this year showed more than a token presence from the harder side of rock. Sonic Youth, Elvis Costello, Cat Power and Radiohead all represented, and all drew their own crowd, making the ratio of hippie to hipster nearly one-to-one; I spotted a guy in a Joy Division T-shirt in line behind a young lady with dreadlocks the circumference of my wrist in the artist catering area.

New Orleans was present in full force. The Bingo! Show, a project of Liquidrone's Clint Maedgen, held down the Preservation Hall Tent's inaugural year at the fest with nightly shows, the act's first shows outside of New Orleans. The tent itself was a nexus for New Orleans energy that slowly won over the Bonnaroovians with two shows a day from a loosened-up, funked-up Preservation Hall Jazz Band, two from the obnoxious but intriguing band Bones (like mid-period Tom Waits with a dirtier mouth) and a closer from Bingo! -- which, if it can be described at all, seems like a Brechtian cabaret via Twin Peaks funneled through the Ninth Ward. In costume, with movies and loud noises and, of course, bingo games. By their third night's show, the tent was standing-room-only as the saronged and dreadlocked lined up to be leered at by Bingo's cast of characters.

Beyond the embassy of downtown New Orleans weirdness that was the Preservation Hall Tent, the city's presence was felt across the Bonnaroo grounds. Dr. John resurrected his Night Tripper persona for a 10 o'clock set, doing classics like "Right Place Wrong Time" with two full-sized Mardi Gras floats parked outside the tent. He was followed by Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk, with a half-hour set in-between from the Rebirth Brass Band mounted atop one of the floats.

As per usual, when New Orleans culture ventures outside the city limits, it draws a two-fold reaction: a slight problem in translation followed by an utter embrace, a big "yeah-you-right" hollered by whoever our host is in whatever their language is. The glow-stick carriers who gathered around Rebirth's float didn't necessarily understand how to second-line, at first, and the newly minted Bingo! fans probably didn't know what to make of the call-and-response of Ninth Ward vernacular. But by the end of the weekend, the crowd was sold, heart and soul, to New Orleans. After the storm, Allen Toussaint remarked that Katrina was "a wonderful, if accidental booking agent" -- at Bonnaroo he was proved right. - By Alison Fensterstock, Gamit Weekly June 27 2006


Discography

The New Orleans Bingo! Show Volume 1: Soft Emergencies (2005)
The New Orleans Bingo! Show Volume 2: For A Life Ever Bright

Photos

Bio

INTRODUCING… THE NEW ORLEANS BINGO! SHOW
Somewhere in the French Quarter, in the darkened back room of a family-style café, a drum roll is sounding. Through air made thick with the competing aromas of fried chicken and cigarettes, a standing room only crowd of costumed regulars and disheveled miscreants is fumbling for their cards. A foul-mouthed clown in a ruffled tuxedo jacket is waving an air raid siren while a one-eyed drum major with a dead raven perched perilously at the peak of his chin-strapped hat is handing you what you hope is the luckiest board in the room. And seated at the pump organ, Clint Maedgen, the spiky-haired troubadour of Lower Decatur Street, has a question for the room:

“DOES ANYBODY WANNA BE… A WINNAH?”

Since 2002, The Bingo! Show has been gleefully entertaining audiences with its own unique brand of Mardi Gras-styled carnival revelry. Deftly juxtaposing the fiasco-based atmosphere of a geriatric board game gone horribly wrong, multi-media vaudvillean antics, and some of the most touching songs ever written about life in this anachronistic American city, this one of a kind musical experience may be the closest the world will ever come to truly knowing what it means to be from New Orleans.

LONG VERSION:
A (not so) BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BINGO! SHOW

It was sometime in the summer of 2001, while poking
around the scattered recesses of a local antique/junk
shop, that Clint Maedgen stumbled across a stack of
500 weathered bingo cards. A young veteran of the New
Orleans music scene via his megaphone driven art-house
rock band Liquidrone, Maedgen talked the proprietor of
the shop into parting with all 500 cards for 25
dollars. It was from these humble beginnings that a
quiet musical revolution would begin

At the time of the purchase, Maedgen had been looking
for a new musical challenge. His group Liquidrone had
garnered a substantial local following and favorable
reviews, but he had recently come into possession of a
pump organ and was searching for a quieter venue
through which he could showcase his remarkable vocal
talents and his love for the oddball troubadour.
Being that a great deal of the new songs he had
written stemmed directly from his experiences
delivering fried chicken to strippers on a bicycle, it
seemed only natural that his place of employ,
Fiorella's Cafe on Lower Decatur Street, should serve
as said venue.

And so, every Thursday night for the next two years,
the tables on the French Market side of Fiorella's
Caffe were stacked and stashed to make room for the
ongoing evolutions of a performance-art fiasco in the
making. In its earliest incarnations, the show's
primary spotlight was cast on the acoustic
arrangements of Maedgen's lovingly crafted musical
gems. Scattered throughout the musical presentation,
guest callers drew bingo numbers and distributed
prizes to winners while the band readied itself for
the next set. Thanks in part to Maedgen's ties to the
junkyard circus of the ninth ward's burgeoning art and
music scene, it wasn't long before the audience itself
began to help drive forward the mutation of the show.
Patrons would show up weekly in elaborate costumes
constructed from cast-off materials*. What began with
a hint of the absurd would slowly take on a trace of
the sublime.

Week by week and month by month, small touches and
flourishes were added to the show as a format slowly
emerged. The Bingo! Show became more of a collective
than a band as non-musical participants lent their
skills to the mix. It was around this time that
Fiorella's manager Ronald Rona began screening short
videos made specifically for the show. The early
films were primarily goofy in nature, featuring
everything from a scripted bout of Rock'em Sock'em
Robots to a true-to-script remake of the first fifteen
minutes of The Empire Strikes Back, turned entirely on
its ear. Meanwhile, light-up circus toys and
walky-talky megaphones were making their way into the
performance aspect of the show's musical segments, and
the group came into possession of a decommissioned
school bus.

It was this bus that would carry the collective to
Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood for a six week
engagement at the Combustive Arts Venue in October of
2002. Thanks in part to Combustive Motor Corporation
member Stephen Soltis, who had recently relocated from
Bushwick to an apartment on Lower Decatur Street
directly across from Fiorella's Caffe, the group had
been booked for two weeks at the Corporation's New
York venue. Determined to garner a decent crowd for
an unheard of out-of-state show, the
ever-entrepreneurial group developed a grass roots
following by offering free tastes of the nightly show
to unsuspecting bystanders during the day. Never
afraid of a spectacle, the collective took to parking
the Bingo! bus outside busy subway stops. As it
turned out, the roof of the vehicle made for an
excelle