Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes: Funking Beyond the Call of Duty
Celebrating their 13th anniversary as a band has been far from unlucky for Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes. Among the group’s many recent plaudits is a rave from music reviewer Adam Pitluk of the widely circulated American Airlines magazine: “The best live show I’ve seen in New Orleans in 15 years.”
Considering that NOLA is famous for its quality, quantity, and variety of music, such a superlative is sufficiently electrical to fire up every light on a pinball machine at once–which, some other critics would contend, is as good a metaphor as any for their stagecraft and musical style.
And Pitluk is far from alone in his appraisal. Rolling Stone editor David Fricke describes the Notes as “jam-band bonhomie and Louisiana stroll spiced with Klezmer-style violin and funeral-parade horns…what you get if Phish had been born at Tipitina’s and studied under George Clinton and Frank Zappa late every night on the levee.”
All that, and the group is still so modest that they perform under pen-names…er, string names? And there are three Johnnies, yet. The titular Johnny Sketch is Marc Paradis, Johnny Come Lately is Brad Walker. Not to be confused with Dirty Johnny–Andre Bohren, coincidentally son of guitarist Spencer Bohren and nephew of bassist Dale Bohren (The Tremors), both of whom will also be performing at the 20th anniversary of the Beartrap Summer Festival on August 2 and 3.
All clear now? The other two Notes are Omar Ramirez appearing as Johnny Rico, and Dave Pomerleau as the memorably named Busta Gnutt.
“Our sound is very eclectic,” Sketch told CN8 TV’s Backstage. “We grew up in New Orleans and have lived there a long time, so it’s definitely got that New Orleans funkiness, but we also put a lot more rock and a little more volume into it than a lot of the New Orleans bands.”
A testament to that characterization is the band’s free download song “We Are the Saints,” a tribute to NOLA’s football team. It sounds like the ultimate college marching band backing up a Southern rapper, with a touch of bullfight trumpet fanfare thrown in as seasoning.
A brief sampling of other critical raves gives a hint of what the Beartrap audience can expect from the Dirty Notes…
JamBase observes: “Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes has been known to boldly impress their audiences with more than music, which sometimes involves the removal of clothes, bizarre costumes and the coercion of certain audience members to partake in odd antics.”
To which The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival adds, “This classically trained New Orleans-based band delivers a smorgasbord of musical genres every time they hit the stage. JSDN defy easy categorization, their irreverent funk is cut with rock riffs, a Gypsy/Klezmer flare, a Latin tinge courtesy of a hard hitting horn section, and a sense of humor…They are collectively ready to funk beyond the call of duty.”