Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Michael Juan Nunez and the American Electric Text and photos by Patty McGehee

One of my favorite bands to see is spearheaded by Michael Juan Nunez. He has Dudley Fruge on drums, and Chad Willis on Bass. Juan hails out of Erath, Louisiana. He is a devoted family man, but don't let that fact make you think he can't ROCK it hard as nails.

Juan plays a mean slide guitar and writes wonderful songs. He has payed his dues touring with Zachary Richard and others. The first time I can remember seeing him he was sitting in with Roddie Romero and the Hub City Allstars, a band that I follow around a lot. Juan caught my attention big time that day. I kept trying to remember where/when I had seen him play before but I could not put a finger on a specific place. After meeting Juan in person, (See previous blogs where I explain that ) Dan and I spent all last year and the first few months of 2011 following MJN everywhere: Biloxi, Hattiesberg, Gulfport, and Ocean Springs Miss., Abbeyville, Baton Rouge, Scott, and Lafayette, La.

View of the Sales Barn Interior: Note the cattle arena is under the stage .

My favorite show of the bunch was the Christmas show at The Richard Sales Barn, Abbeyville, La. also known as Bayou Legendaire. The Sale Barn is a converted cattle sale barn which has a amphitheater  like setting of wooden seats in the half round which creates a cozy intimate setting. It is very hard for me to describe this place. It is a "must go to see in person" venue. It is run by a non profit organization determined to maintain the music of Louisiana and the Sale Barn as  an historic building preserving the history of cattle as intertwined in Cajun culture.

At the Christmas show, Juan surprised us all by introducing a song to us about "this guy that really had a reason to have the Blues....." Then the band launched into one of the most hard core blues riffs  I have ever heard live...but...but....wait... SURPRISE! It was "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer!" The song kicked off right at the moment Juan's wife, mother, and two daughters were walking in the place and the look on their faces was priceless.

He had kept that song secret from them as a surprise. It was fun to be a witness of his family's reaction to that moment.The feeling that I remember feeling the most is that at that point I felt like I was in the very best place I could ever be in that moment of time. Dan and I were cozy and relaxed, the show was great.

There were many memorable moments during our forays into the night to catch Juan. One of my overall favorite nights was a heavy Blues set performed inside at The Shed in Ocean Springs. Normally, the music there is performed outside, but the weather was cold so they set up inside.
Juan let a child play with the guitar at the end of the show, helping him get the feel of the slide. 

Dudley Fruge is a treasure. His style of drumming is all about the "details," the nuances that he eeks out of the kit. A ping here, a tap there, brushwork..... a backbeat when needed...

Voice of The Wetlands "Guitar Fight" with Josh Garrett

Voice of The Wetlands, Houma, La.

Gulfport with Drew Landry

Excellent Bassist - Chad Willis at Antlers. Lafayette, La.

MJN at Antlers Lafayette, La.

On the "Mainline"  during "Pocket Full of Jesus" - Michael Juan Nunez

Michael Juan Nunez

Chad Willis plays his heart out 

NJN at The Blue Moon Saloon, Lafayette, La. 
Another was the night we saw Juan at Somewhere's Else Lounge. No one was there that night except the staff, three other people, and us, but Juan, Chad, and Dudley played it as if they were in front of an arena. That show was extremely powerful and two of Juan's songs from that night stand out in my memory: "Rusted Blade" and "Pocket Full of Jesus."

Michael Juan Nunez and The American Electric was a major act during Festival International 2011. I was not there, however.  Plans changed at the last minute and we went elsewhere. After all, Lafayette is 90 minutes away and there were so many choices to make during festival season. I felt like a traitor....

I do believe it is a toss up for me to decide which of his songs I like the best, "Pocket Full of Jesus," "Rusted Blade," "Punks like You," or "Don't mind Gettin." I LOVE them all...There link to their  website so you may be able to catch one of their shows. http://www.michaeljuannunez.com

Patty McGehee

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