Q&Art with Russell Pirkle

This week: Russell Moore, talking about Ruston’s First Rock & Roll Spectacular at the Dixie Theatre this Thursday and Friday. You can check out the Rock & Roll spectacular on facebook or call 318-255-1450 for tickets or information. You can learn more about Russell Moore’s barbershop and hair salon, Rumo’s at http://rumosbarbershop.com/

This interview has been edited for length.

 Tell me about the Rock & Roll Spectacular that’s happening at the Dixie Theatre.

 Well, to tell you about the show is to tell you about a year ago, Lynn Nemey and her Daughter Ashley Nemey James asked me if I wanted to be on the board at of directors for the Dixie Theatre. The Dixie Theatre at this point is overwhelmingly senior citizen, and has a lot of shows that typically cater to that crowd. And basically to make a long story short, they asked me to be on the board to be a part of the new generation. It’s trying to pass the torch from one generation to the next, so that the Dixie Theatre can stick around and stay current. And so when they asked me to be on board, I set back and observed a little bit. And then I went to a show at the Dixie. It was a piano player and a guitar player. A descendent of Chet Atkins, and some other person. Anyway, whenever they did their thing, the room was awesome. The crowd was very warm. It was like I went in the room and realized this gem is sitting right here in the middle of Ruston, that people my age and probably ten years older than me just haven’t even gone in the door. And it’s this amazing space. It’s this beautiful building that is just by and large, unused. So when I saw that, I thought what can I give, what can I offer. Well, I’ll play music. I’ve played rock & roll forever. I asked a couple people, how would you feel if I did a rock & roll show, with local musicians? And immediately it was just like a total positive response. And so I started putting it together and here we are. I ripped off the name from an old Beastie Boys, Run DMC concert poster I have in my barbershop. It was called Philadelphia’s First All Rap Spectacular. And I thought, ‘Hey that’s a good name.’ So we’re calling it Ruston’s First All Rock & Roll Spectacular.

 Real quick, give me the dates and times for the show.

 Dates and times. September 8th and 9th. Seven o’clock both nights. This show will have the exact same songlist both nights. The first night, if you’re a season ticket holder, your ticket will get you in that night. If you’re not a season ticket holder, you can buy that night, but everyone who’s not a season ticket holder is more or less being funneled to the Friday night show. And the Friday night show will have a pre-party with hors deurves at 5:30 and an open bar provided by Portico. And then the show will be at 7:00.

 And who else will be in the show besides yourself?

 I’ll be leading from the drums, if you will. Not necessarily singing. A musician named Bryan Batey, he plays the bass. He went to Tech but he lives in West Monroe now. I got Tim Cripps playing the guitar. Jeff Walpole, who’s a Ruston local, is playing rhythm guitar. Todd Whitlock is a Ruston native, he’s playing piano. Estevan Garcia is going to do the bulk of the lead vocals. He’s a Ruston person. My brother Ross is going to play percussion. And my wife Morgan is going to be doing some singing, and she’s from Bastrop and went to Tech. And we have Jake Kite, who was a Ruston High School student and is going to be doing some backup. So everybody is either from or lives in Ruston. Way back when I first started on the Dixie board, I asked what was the vibe, what was the whole culture of the Dixie. What was its mission statement. And their mission statement as they told me was to be a local theatre made up of local performers for local audiences. And I thought, you know, maybe we’ve strayed a little bit from that. We’ve got a lot of touring acts who’ve come through. And I thought I want to keep it local, and everybody, other than the one person who lives in West Monroe, is literally a Ruston resident and native. It is on mission statement of what the Dixie wanted to be, local talent and local crowds.

 It seems as if the show is somehow associated with an organization named Troupe Dixie. Could you tell me about that.

 Yeah. The Troupe Dixie is kind of the brain child of Ashley James, who is a Ruston native. She moved off several years back to Little Rock, and was a part of a local group up there. It was a similar idea. There was an older group of people in the town who were predominant in this one theatre. And it was a younger group to try to pull the younger crowd in to try to cross over generationally. And she came back. her husband and she moved back for jobs. And she came in and said, ‘hey, let’s get a group together for the younger set.’ And we took a vote, came up with names. And the first thing we did, last year in May, was we had the Second City Comedy Troupe come in. And our first event was called the Brew-Haha, because they had an open bar before, and they were a comedy troupe. And they said that they needed a name for that group of people who would be putting on a certain amount of events per year. So we voted, and the name came up Troupe Dixie. The Troupe Dixie’s basically just the embodiment of everything we’re talking about, passing the Dixie on to the next generation.

 Could you give me an idea of what the song list will look like for the show?

 Yeah, I could tell you every song, but I’m not going to. Haha. ‘Cause I want to temp you a little bit. The songs will be from Doobie Brothers. Taking it to the Streets. Layla from Eric Clapton, the original long format Layla with the piano. Some Fleetwood Mac. Some Stevie Wonder. Black Crows. Led Zeppelin. Queen. Several Paul McCartney songs. We have two sets. The first set is kind of a little older feel. And then the second set starts off with this eighties kind of feel. With some Simple Minds. With some Don’t You Forget about Me. And Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love. And some Police. Some Pat Benatar. Cyndi Lauper. And then we do a little Lenny Kravitz. And we finish out with some Journey, a little AC-DC, and some Led Zeppelin. So we’ll do Rock & Roll by Led Zeppelin will be our big ending song.

 Let me think of how to phrase this. Really, it’s in the title, it’s the first rock & roll spectacular.

 But not first annual, so as not to jynx ourselves!

 Right. And that’s what I’m curious about because, you know, it’s really trying to start in this new direction that’s so much in line with the Dixie’s mission statement, and bringing in parts of the youth and Ruston culture that have maybe been left out of the Dixie before. And using local talent. Do you see this in any way as opening the door to future things at the Dixie that haven’t been there before? Is this in some ways like an experiment?

 I feel like it is. Of course, my name’s on the poster so I feel like it’s a lot of things, but the truth is I hope it opens the door. I hope that the Dixie becomes a very common name. I hope that local bands, or even touring bands, I want it to be the place that’s got that magic. You hear about different periods. You hear about Seattle, the different bars during the grunge period. And you hear about the different places like the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport way back in the Elvis and the Johnny Cash days. Those places and those moments in time were magical. Not that I think that we’re there yet, but it would be really cool to have this creative moment where we could create something. And typically when you try to create it, it fails. So to be quite honest with you, all I want to do is to sound good and to have a really fun night. That’s kind of my singular focus at this point. I don’t want to be a rockstar. I don’t want to get best show of the year. I just want when everybody leaves to say, ‘ I had a really fun time.’ That was kind of the point of the whole deal, to play good music we all know, that we maybe forgot we knew, and just leave at the end of the night and say ‘I had a great time.’ If that opens the door to future things, that’d be the biggest compliment you could ask.

 While I have you here, let’s talk briefly about yourself and Rumo’s. Can you tell me why you started this barbershop, and the process of creating the business?

 If I count correctly, twelve years ago, I was a kid and had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. I was not the college type. Turns out, I might be a little too hyper for that. Just wild energy, tons of energy. Couldn’t sit still in a classroom. I finished high school and went to Tech for a little while, and that didn’t work out so well. So I played music, and in my head the only thing I was ever going to be good at was music. But you realize really fast you got to pay the bills. By kind of a strike of luck, I walked into a local hair salon in Ruston looking for a job for a few weeks, and the lady hired me on the spot, told me she’d teach me how to cut hair. And that was it. I started doing hair. It’s been now twelve years. For the first year or two, I’ll be honest, I absolutely hated it and thought it was just the thing I could make a few bucks at while I played my music. But then something clicked and I started doing hair a little better and learning a few things. About that time, a band called me and asked me to come join them on the road and be based out of Alabama. So I moved and did that, and stayed over there for six years. And travelled all over the place and did records. And the whole time, I kept my hair going, I did some hair while I was doing that. And once the band stuff ended, I opened a business in Alabama and learned it was just right up my alley. I don’t know how, but I just loved it. And I don’t know how it succeeded, but it did. And so we came back, me and my wife. We had a baby and came back, and tried to find a niche market that didn’t really exist in Ruston. And the hybrid salon/barbershop thing, I felt was pretty cool. We researched it and saw that all over, especially the West Coast and Northwest, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, they were doing these throwback barbershops, but it wasn’t limited to just men. So we gave it a shot and said we’re just going to do it. I had a lot of naysayers. Haha. They said it would never work. Women will never go to a place called a barbershop. Nobody’s going to get it. Nobody’s going to understand. Your music’s too loud. Any number of negative comments. So we just did it anyway. And it’s been great. It’s been over two years now. We have just as many women as we do men. Didn’t seem to bother anybody. I feel like we’ll be here for a while.

 Tell me about your experience of trying to be successful, and also innovative, and just trying to achieve your dreams in a small town like Ruston, with the sort of environment that Ruston has.

 I think what you’re saying without saying it is, ‘How do you inspire a place that at times can not be so inspiring?’ You don’t have to say that, but that’s how I took the question. Haha. I’ll be really honest with you. I’ve had this thought for a long time; I’ve always felt like a left shoe in a right shoe town. Like a person who didn’t fit. And yet I grew up here, and I love this town. I have nothing against it. I’ve always just felt a little funny here. And so in my head I’ve always just thought if you want to be creative, teach people how to be creative. If you want to innovate, teach your market. Kind of like the big sushi boom in Ruston over the past few years. I heard for years sushi will never work in Ruston. Well you can find sushi on every corner now, because somebody said ‘we’re just going to do it. We’re just going to teach you that you like sushi.’ And so they just did it. They put their money where their mouth was. There’s so many creative people in this town. There’s so many innovators. So many people that just have some wild thoughts, that can be afraid for some reason about this market. And maybe they have some proof that tells them to be afraid, but I haven’t seen any of that proof yet. We have an extremely smart, very creative town, that people will respond to a good idea. And that’s my philosophy. If a town doesn’t get you, teach them. Teach them what a hip, cool place is. When I was in high school, you wouldn’t come to Ruston to see a movie because there was no movie theater. We built one and all of a sudden, we watch movies in Ruston. It’s a town full of smart people who enjoy the finer things in life. They enjoy arts. They enjoy good shopping. Good dining. Good business. And a lot of times, they’ll pay for it in other places. And so there’s this big mentality of ‘they’ll never support it here.’ And that’s as silly as you can be, if you ask my opinion. It’s like ‘if you build it they will come.’ I’m just naïve enough to think that.

 Do you think it’s fair to say there’s a sort of cultural renaissance happening in Ruston right now? Just sitting here talking to you, I’m thinking about all the businesses that have either recently opened or are about to open, such as 102 Bistro, the Black Box. It seems as if the number of art shows has been increasing over the past few years. Even this Rock & Roll Spectacular could be seen as a part of that, the youthful awakening in Ruston. I’m not really sure if there’s a question in there; would you just like to speak to that?

 Yeah, for sure. Whenever I came back to Ruston, which has been three years. Being from here, going away to a place I really loved in Alabama, but whenever we came back, it was like a breath of fresh air to come back. I don’t know if this is any symbol to whatever, but I saw that there were three, and maybe even more, successful marketing and graphic design businesses. Not just in somebody’s house, but had a design firm. I mean, my gosh I never heard of a design firm in Ruston. So just that in itself told me, if you can employ and keep busy three different design and marketing companies in Ruston, what that’s saying to me is that there’s this increased standard, that if you do business, you must do it well. You must have a great logo. You must have a great marketing plan. You must have a great plan of action. And what you’re saying about the whole renaissance is, I don’t know if it’s happening everywhere, but it feels like it’s happening in Ruston, is there’s kind of this rebuke of the mass media. Things are going local. You have the farmer’s market which is a great example of that. The farmer’s market didn’t exist. It was barely breathing there for a long time, but now that thing thrives and a lot of people really support it. Because it’s local, and just the idea that I can buy from you locally better than from a person who sells a tomato in South Florida or where ever. But this whole idea that we can do it. We can do it locally, and we can do it just as good as anybody else. We don’t have to outsource. We can stay local. And I’m not trying to stand on a soapbox or anything like that for local whatever, but it just really seems that there’s this group of people. And I know what you’re talking about, like the bike shop. They’ve really helped cycling culture in Ruston. And like the Black Box, they’re going to really promote local theatre, and local art, and regional film and stuff like that, that really just didn’t exist before. It’s like okay, we’ve seen what Hollywood can give us. We’ve seen what New York can give us. We’ve seen what Paris and London can give us. But what do we have here? We have a lot of really good stuff here. Why don’t we just enjoy our own? And I think that’s fantastic. And with that, again, it’s kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy in that if we are creative, we will grow creativity. If we are business-minded, we will grow creative business. If we expect fantastic marketing to compete in the business world, we will birth creative marketing. Every new business will say the number one marketing money I can spend is my logo. It’s in its imphancy, but it’s fantastic. If you look at any new businesses in town, the marketing and the design and the packaging, nine times out of ten it’s really good. And that’s a great thing. That’s something I think we can say for our city that very few other cities can say. I’m sold. I feel like I’m a lifer at this point with this town.

 I think that’s all the questions that I have. Thanks so much for speaking with me.

 Yeah, you bet.

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