Celebrate a Decade of the HooDoo Loungers at Bay Street Theater

Marvin Joshua and Dawnette Darden of the HooDoo Loungers, Photo: © Historic Music
Marvin Joshua and Dawnette Darden of the HooDoo Loungers, Photo: © Historic Music

The HooDoo Loungers, the East End’s very own New Orleans party band, are throwing a party to celebrate their 10th anniversary, and we’re all invited! The festivities will take place at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor on Saturday, February 2. It’s going to be a blast—the show will feature the nine-piece HooDoo Loungers, joined by some very special guests.

Ten years is an eternity in rock and roll. “It’s just pretty remarkable that a nine-piece band playing around Long Island stays together for 10 years,” says HooDoo keyboardist David Deitch, explaining why it makes sense to throw this party now. Deitch, the band’s musical director and founding keyboard player, mentions the financial and organizational difficulties of keeping such a big band—three horns, two lead vocalists, pianist, guitarist, bassist and drummer—happening for 10 years. The HooDoos have persevered against the odds, he says, because “we get along with each other pretty well. And Joe just keeps moving forward.”

That last point is critical. Deitch is referring to Joe Lauro, the indefatigable leader of the HooDoo Loungers and the band’s bass player. For 10 years, Lauro has taken care of landing the gigs to keep the HooDoos working—a logistical nightmare that requires a great deal of tenacity and patience. The reward for Lauro is that the HooDoos have given him the opportunity to showcase the classic New Orleans music he loves. “I started the band with Deitch to play mainly traditional New Orleans jazz,” says Lauro. Ten years later, the band still focuses on New Orleans music, but changes have certainly taken place. “Over the years it has evolved to include more soul music and originals,” says Lauro. “We have three talented songwriters in the band.”

HooDoo Loungers album "Head & Heart & Hips"
HooDoo Loungers album “Head & Heart & Hips”

One of those songwriters is HooDoo lead singer Dawnette Darden, a founding member, whose song “Take It Along the Way” is the funkiest number on the HooDoos’ latest CD Head & Heart & Hips. “I’m looking for the big time in some way, shape or form,” says Darden, and for 10 years she has brought that star energy to the band. Darden is an electrifying performer with a powerful voice—she belongs on a big stage. And after 10 years, the big time is beckoning: “Take It Along the Way” has helped propel Head & Heart & Hips on Spotify and other streaming services, and the CD was a semi-finalist in The Blues Foundation’s 2019 International Blues Challenge. It’s hard-earned success. “Very few bands last this long,” says Darden.

Ten years in, the HooDoos have a very polished act. “It’s like a variety show,” says Lauro. “Dawnette has that classic gospel sound, while Marvin [Joshua, the other lead singer] is this big, handsome guy with a beautiful Southern soul voice. Then there’s Michael [Schiano, guitarist and singer], who has a great rockabilly sound to his voice. It makes it an exciting show.” For their 10th anniversary, the HooDoos are planning even more excitement: Morris Goldberg, who played the pennywhistle on Paul Simon’s classic Graceland album, will be on hand to play pennywhistle on “The Silliest Man,” a song David Deitch wrote for Head & Heart & Hips. Frequent HooDoo guest Dan Koontz will be in the house to add his Hammond organ to the mix. And there might be some surprises.

A few things can be counted upon, however. HooDoo drummer Dave Giacone will keep the rhythm section locked in tight. Over the course of the night, Dawnette Darden will hold some note longer than you thought humanly possible, and at some point the HooDoo Horns will lead a second line march around the dance floor. You should join in. It’s a party 10 years in the making.

Tickets to the February 2 Hoodoo Loungers anniversary concert are $30, and available at baystreet.org. The show begins at 8 p.m., Mardi Gras dress is encouraged.

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