Mr. Quintron and Miss Pussycat at the Bowery Ballroom
I know I’m getting older when I’m happy to leave a show early because the band I’m there to see is not the headliner. In this case, Mr. Quintron and Miss Pussycat, who’ve been a prominent part of the New Orleans music scene since 1994, were playing second fiddle to a pack of wily boys from Atlanta called the Black Lips. This crowd was young—probably just old enough to legally buy the plastic cups of beer they were holding—with a preference for tights pants.
After the opener, a Brooklyn-based band called Golden Triangle, Mr. Quintron set up his gear: a custom-made Hammond organ/Fender Rhodes combination that had been souped up using the front end of a car, complete with headlights and a license plate that read “QUINTRON,” as well as his invention, the Drum Buddy, an electronic instrument that reacts to changes in light and creates his unique scratchy, throbbing sound. Miss Pussycat, a puppeteer, pulled her puppet platform, which served as the backdrop for her dance moves, to center stage. (She would perform her puppetry after the set.)
Clearly the crowd didn’t know what they were in for; they had come for the rehashed garage rock that was to follow, as evidenced by the holes left in the floor space up front. This created a perfect opportunity for Mr. Quintron, a giant on caliber with Thurston Moore, sweating blobs through his purple shirt (Miss Pussycat was also sporting a purple flight-attendant-from-Nashville dress), to insert himself into the crowd and insist on having a dance party while the Drum Buddy kept the beat. The song he chose was calculated: “Swamp Buggy Badass,” from their 2005 album Swamp Tech, in which Quintron and Miss Pussycat repetitively talk-sang about who is a badass (“I am a badass / He is a badass / She is a badass”), while Mr. Quintron pointed to individuals in the crowd. The results were a clearly planned riot of drinks being thrown and someone excitedly jumping onto Quintron’s back.
But the fun didn’t end there. There was coordinated dancing with maracas when Miss Pussycat invited a friend who knew all the moves up on stage. She also dipped into the crowd herself, whilst singing “Fly Like a Rat,” also from Swamp Tech. At one point all I could see were legs in the air, as well as a flash of her panties, which didn’t seem to concern her as she continued to sing. When she was ready to climb back onto the stage she whapped down her mic and pulled herself up as if exiting a swimming pool.
The genius of Quintron is his adeptness at conducting his one-man band. Throughout the show his hands were constantly moving, his left foot keeping the beat on a hi-hat while his right foot was used at one point to turn off the Drum Buddy. Even his mouth had a small microphone shoved into it for added sound distortion.
Miss Pussycat is an essential part of the band, providing vocals, percussion, and cheerleading, but where she really shines is through her puppetry. The stories she presents poke fun at the art scene and rely on the supernatural—talking trees or, in this performance, The Legend of the Haunted Art Gallery, featuring Santa Claus as deus ex machina, appearing with an AK-47 to kill an antagonist puppet.
Quintron and Miss Pussycat are the Bonnie and Clyde of the multimedia art world (both dapper, her a blonde), except instead of being on the lam they go on tour. Their New Orleans home and venue, the Spellcaster Lodge, was flooded during Hurricane Katrina, and, in addition to having been temporarily homeless, Miss Pussycat lost a lot of artwork during the storm. But they are intent on putting the tragedy behind them. In a recent interview, Quintron said, “I honestly cannot wait until the day I don’t hear or utter the word ‘Katrina.’” He preferred talking about the New Orleans music scene, which is alive and kicking, and listed a few acts for me to check out, among them Sess 4-5, DJ EF Cuttin, and the Nuthin’ but Fire label.
The sold-out crowd had clearly come for the young renegades that took the stage next, also wearing very tight pants. And the band hadn’t checked their attitude at the door; clearly young and emboldened, they thought they were the first to present a banged-up sixties sound on the stage, complete with a few outlandish antics. I only lasted a few songs, but clearly I was in the minority. The crowd was hungry for their love. I guess only I would have preferred another puppet show before bedtime.