Chicago's The Claudettes Perform Free Show Tonight at The McKittrick Hotel
Performing as The Claudettes, the Chicago-based piano-drums duo of Johnny Iguana and Michael Caskey have created their own fanatical fusion of blues and soul-jazz - like Ray Charles on a punk kick. Imagine an amped-up piano hybrid of Charles and Mose Allison, joined by a jolly madman drummer and conducted in gonzo fashion by Raymond Scott.
They also have a crazy backstory - respected, hard-working, world-traveling musicians who end up being enslaved by a ruthless bar owner who humiliates and degrades them at every turn, forcing them to wear scrolling drink specials on their bodies as they play, and to advertise beer brands on their stage, and to stop playing whenever she gets a phone call during their set (business first).
After making their rousing NYC live debut in October, The Claudettes return to the area for another special free show tonight (11PM show) at The Manderley Bar at The McKittrick Hotel (530 West 27th St) at the conclusion of each night's performance of the acclaimed "Sleep No More". This time the duo will be joined by new band member, the bewitching Nigerian-American dancer/singer Yana Atim, who sings in French.
The duo released their debut record, "Infernal Piano Plot...HATCHED!" on Yellow Dog Records last October and from blues radio shows (their track "Tide Pool" was selected as "Blues Breaker" on "Elwood's BluesMobile" - Dan Aykroyd's Blues Radio show, earlier this year) to eclectic programs, the duo's off-kilter mix of blues, soul, jazz, rockabilly space-echo and punk energy has been received as a breath of fresh air by disc jockeys and music journalists. They were enthusiastically lauded recently on the radio show "Sound Opinions": http://www.soundopinions.org/show/450/.
The Claudettes have taken their show from Chicago to upper Michigan to Canada (they recently made a splash at the Ottawa Blues Fest and the Mont-Tremblant International Blues Fest) to NYC and back, winning over astonished locals with frenzied joy and infectious energy. This fall they're performing at the Aulnay All-Blues Festival outside of Paris, where they're presenting a unique fusion of concert and theatrical piece inspired by their story and their history of playing dive bars.
Johnny Iguana and Michael Caskey are both internationally respected musicians. Johnny was in the Junior Wells band for years, toured with Otis Rush, and recorded with Carey Bell and Lil' Ed. He's currently the piano player in the Grammy-nominated "Chicago Blues: A Living History", featuring Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, Lurrie Bell, Billy Branch and Carlos Johnson. He also co-founded the prog-pop band oh my god, whose organ-bass-drums madness was profiled on MTV and featured at SXSW, CMJ and festivals and clubs all around the U.S. and the UK throughout the 2000s.
Michael, a "Downbeat" magazine award winner and five-time Detroit Music Awards recipient, has played with everyone from Koko Taylor to Chuck Mangione to Marvin Hamlisch to John Sinclair and is a member of Balkan fusion group Eastern Blok. He recently toured Europe with Grammy nominees the Heritage Blues Orchestra.
As previously mentioned, the story about how the duo came to be is strange but true - starting with Claudette herself, an unhinged bar owner who hired the duo as her "house band" but works out deals to showcase them at other venues: traditional nightspots as well as unconventional locations including Blockbuster Video and Staples Center (literally; the center of a local Staples office store).
For more about The Claudettes:
Photo Credit: Eric Krause