When a now-familiar deluge of images hit the news after Hurricane Katrina slammed New Orleans, the city’s surrealism was redefined, particularly in the Ninth Ward. Long before the storm started pushing toward the Gulf Coast, though, Mr. Quintron and Miss Pussycat had carved out their own divot of hyper-reality in that New Orleans neighborhood. Like folk artists burrowing into a piece of driftwood, Quintron and Pussycat had constructed the Spellcaster Lodge, a place that still seems patched from frames of old film sets, shot through with Technicolor adornments like sky-blue benches equipped with their own speakers. Style for miles, you know. The storm destroyed the Lodge and much of the pair’s belongings, but a year after the disaster, they returned with a “resurrection party.”
How they survived without it is the tough question. Quintron and Miss Pussycat exemplify the idea that a self-made world is the only place to live: He’s the Mad Max of one-man bands, usually dressed in a thin sharkskin suit with an organ that’s outfitted with a muscle car grill, colored lights pulsing like fireworks around him. He occasionally turns to his homemade secret weapon, the Drum Buddy, a wood-encased oscillating drum machine based on the principles of a Theremin. Laurie Anderson and Nels Cline have purchased updated copies of the instrument. The bright-eyed Miss Pussycat dresses in hand-stitched outfits that are part Kitty Wells, part pop art. She reigns over a puppet kingdom that rivals Sid and Marty Krofft’s rainbow imaginations.
The pair’s unflagging spirit wants to have fun, to party, to do what they do best in New Orleans, especially at funerals: to celebrate. For Quintron, that means dirty, bump ‘n’ grinders like “Swamp Buggy Badass” or the funky, somewhat foretelling song he wrote before Katrina, “Ninth Ward Breakdown.” It’s what makes Mardi Gras more than some rich people tossing junk into crowds, and what makes New Orleans just as weird and wonderful as ever before, tragedy or no.
Quintron and Miss Pussycat open for the Black Lips (who have their own song “Katrina”) at Local 506, Sunday, March 16. Locals The Gondoliers start at 9:30 p.m., and cover is $10. For more on Spellcaster Lodge, visit www.quintronandmisspussycat.com.