New Orleans groove, excellent cause
“I’m just another New Orleans musician, that’s all I am,” said Charmaine Neville, who will be returning to Springfield to perform with her band at Erin’s Pavilion on Friday, May 11. The singer and bandleader is being modest. A member of one of the most influential and longstanding families in American music, Neville has relatives in legendary New Orleans bands such as the Dixie Cups (“Iko-Iko”), The Meters (“Cissy Strut”) and of course the Neville Brothers, whose founding member Charles “Charlie the Horn Man” Neville was her father. Charles had originally been slated to perform with his daughter this Friday, but passed away late last month at age 79.
A week before her Springfield appearance, she had performed multiple times at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, including sets with her own band as well as appearances with several family members’ combos, including her cousin Ivan’s well-named group, Dumpstaphunk. “The festival was kind of Neville Nation,” she admitted with a chuckle.
The concert in Springfield this Friday is part of “Mardi Gras in May,” a benefit for the Illinois Coalition against Domestic Violence, a cause important and personal to Neville, who has done benefits for ICADV in the past, including an appearance here in town last year. “I am a survivor of domestic violence,” she said.
“Unfortunately so many women don’t survive. This is a wonderful thing they’re doing. It’s saving lives – and saving women from going to prison. I don’t know how many women have ended up in prison because they just couldn’t take it anymore. I’m proud to be associated with this.”
Neville says she is glad to see recent changes taking place, such as the #metoo movement, which make women’s voices more likely to be heeded. “I was talking to someone just yesterday about being female musicians and how nobody listens. She said to me, ‘But you’re so powerful on stage.’ I told her when I first started, nobody took me seriously, even though I could do just what the men were doing. All my life, I’ve been playing in bands where I was the only female and it was kinda rough.”
No longer having to fight for the spotlight, Neville is now renowned as one of the most popular and versatile bandleaders on the New Orleans scene, known for her spontaneity, energy and her command of multiple moods and styles. The one thing her music is not is predictable. “The worst thing that people can ask me is what to expect at a concert,” she said when asked for a preview of Friday’s show. “Just expect to have a good time! I can’t tell you what I’m going to sing until I get onstage and then it hits me. If I ever give my band a set list, they’ll spontaneously combust – I get my energy from the audience,” she said with an infectious laugh. “I always tell people when I get onstage, if you have a request, please feel free to come up on the stage…and keep it to yourself!”
“I can’t wait to play in Springfield again,” Neville said. “Last year it was fabulous, we had such a great time. The only thing I’m gonna be sad about is that my dad’s not gonna be there. But he’s still with me,” she said. “The only thing I want people to know about this show is that I am happy that I’m going to be there and that I want them to have fun – it’s going to be about celebration. We’re gonna have a good time.”
“Mardi Gras in May” takes place from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. on Friday, May 11 at Erin’s Pavilion, 4965 S. Second St. in Springfield. Tickets are $50 in advance or $60 at the door and can be purchased by calling 789-2830 or by visiting www.icaldv.org .
Scott Faingold can be reached at email@example.com