Dig Baton Rouge

Loudon Wainwright III Electrifies

By Hannah Womack

Colorful string lights line the top of the small, low-ceiling room with various posters and bumper stickers. One laminated white poster had nothing but black letters, “The finest little concert hall in the South!!” printed on it. Everyone sits down comfortably. The front of the room, near the stage, is full of couches. And the back is completed with high bar stools and old church pews mounted on an elevated surface to make for homemade stadium seating. There is plenty of space to move around the room however you please and maneuver to your assigned spot, which conveniently has your name on it.

Loudon Wainwright, III, a Grammy-Award winning American songwriter, folk singer, comedian, and actor, performed in this very intimate setting of the Red Dragon Listening Room this past Saturday. The venue is BYOB and bring your own cup; many people were drinking out of Tervis Tumblers or mason jars that evening. People brought their own beer, wine, or even scotch.

“[Wainwright is] one of the biggest bookings we have ever had, along with Joan Baez, Rodney Crowell, Rosanne Cash, and Jerry Jeff Walker,” said Chris Maxwell, who owns the Red Dragon Listening Room with his wife.

Wainwright’s acting career is perhaps best known for his role of Captain Calvin Spalding, the surgeon who loved to sing on the television show, M*A*S*H. He has been featured in recent television shows, like Parks and Recreation. He has also had small appearances on The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up.

With his entertaining, self-mocking style of music, Wainwright has recorded over twenty albums on eleven different labels. Three of his albums were nominated for Grammy awards: I’m Alright from 1985 and More Love Songs from 1986. In January of 2010, Wainwright won the Grammy for Best Tradition Folk Album with his High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project album.

Wainwright started off the night with the song “Five Years Old,” and he made sure the crowd knew when to sing along with him. The story behind the song is about Wainwright’s daughter, Martha, when she was five years old. The significance of this song today is that his grandson, Martha’s child, is five years old.

Listening to Wainwright’s lyrics, you can tell he is a comical and personable man. All of his songs are about something that has happened in his life, and his life is an amusing story. Wainwright begins all of his songs with an abrupt introduction, and he suddenly, without any sort of transition, will start singing about what he was just describing. We all know the weather has been horrific the last couple of days. Wainwright made a comment about how he traveled from Texas to Baton Rouge on Saturday, “That rain…never mind…it was wild.” Then he proceeded to sing and played a song about bad weather, called “Natural Disaster.”

Toward the middle of the performance, Wainwright mentioned his father, Loudon Wainwright, Jr., who was a writer for Life Magazine. Wainwright said he sometimes includes his father’s writing into his own lyrics. His father died when Wainwright was 17 years old.

“I never got to say f*ck you, Dad,” Wainwright said as the whole crowd laughed. He then got more personal with the crowd; he sat down and talked about his old dog that had passed. Living in New York City, he sang a humorous song about what it was like being in a city while walking a dog.

Before Wainwright even came on, Maxwell said they have not booked an artist to come on the same day as an LSU football game day in 10 years. Maxwell also told the crowd to silence their cell phones saying, “We call it the listening room for a reason.”

The name of the venue, Red Dragon, was brought from Maxwell and his wife’s old tattoo parlour, which was also called the Red Dragon. The listening room has been providing Baton Rouge with excellent music for 13 years and has been at its Florida Boulevard location for eight years.

“We stuck with the name ever since,” Maxwell said.

After about an hour and a half of performing, Wainwright thanked everyone for coming and came back onstage after an immense amount of applauding and screaming. It was obvious that everyone was pleased with the “singing surgeon’s” performance.

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