Hip-hop and progressive rock collide at Tha Neighbors’ Block Party
Bad Reason via Youtube

With a music menu to please music lovers of all types, the last weekend in July brought an eclectic group of performers to The Prytania Bar’s stage in New Orleans. Called Tha Neighbors’ Block Party, the free July 26 event featured ambient rock, hip-hop/funk fusion and Southern-style rock overlaid with smooth rhymes.

Kicking off the night were MadFro, a dynamite band that’s poised to do great things in the city of New Orleans. A refreshing, eclectic mash-up of rock and hip-hop, MadFro’s music is heavy on the funk, with Bad Religion-style backing harmonies and a lead singer whose mad skills and intelligent lyrics put him on par with Gift of Gab.

Calling himself Slangston Hughes, Renard Bridgewater works hard to pump up the crowd, organizing lyrical back-and-forths. “When I say I’m tired, you say ‘go to sleep, ho,’” he declared near the end of the set, and the audience happily obliged, many times over.

MadFro opened with “My Glow,” a rousing tune that’s also the first track on the group’s EP, I.F.W.I., and a song that allows every piece of the band to shine. The quartet doesn’t stick to originals, though. Their inspired cover of “Foxy Lady” keeps the essence of the rock classic, complete with badass guitar from Orlando Da Silva, who also sings the song’s hooks. Bassist Eric West and drummer Kyle Bourque kept the rhythm steady during the Hendrix tune, but it was when Hughes came in, busting rhymes over the melody, that the audience was able to see MadFro for what they are: legends in the making.

Tha Neighbors are young and perhaps need a bit more cohesion and polishing before they’re ready to play with the big dogs of New Orleans’ unparalleled music scene, but the five-piece band isn't lacking in potential. Although it was their party, Tha Neighbors were No. 2 on the evening’s bill, and they’re another band that can’t be pigeonholed with genre labels.

Some of Tha Neighbors' songs are kind of spoken word played over rock music while others could be best described as Southern-style. Vocal duties are spread around amongst band members, with Nathaniel Kostar, known by the alias Etan Starko, taking charge on most tunes.

Saturday night’s headliners left the hip-hop behind when they took the stage just after midnight. Following in the footsteps of NOLA’s most famous jam band, Galactic, the four-piece group known as The Plum Magnetic are turning heads.

Comprised of vocalist Trent Ciolino, who also rocks the six-string electric banjo, guitarist Andrew McLean, bassist Jonathan Solomon and Oliver Burke on drum detail, the quartet released their debut album Terra Animata in 2013. Four of the album’s tracks surpass the nine-minute mark, and The Plum Magnetic bring all that endurance to their live shows.

With a sound that’s sort of surreal, ambient rock, their set opened with a long instrumental number. And in true jam band fashion, it was difficult to discern where one song ended and another began, which is a reflection of their cohesion as a group: The Plum Magnetic's sound is natural, seamless. As it should be.