While the setting may be an art gallery rather than the big top, a circus-like atmosphere will prevail at the Baton Rouge Gallery Jan. 26 as the New Orleans Bingo! Show brings its musical mayhem to the fifth annual Surreal Salon Soiree.
For Jason Andreasen, executive director of the Baton Rouge Gallery, this over-the-top band has been on his wish list of musical acts for a while. The group’s gonzo cabaret style helped give rise to the event.
“Actually, the New Orleans Bingo! Show was something of an inspiration to this art show from the very beginning. We’ve been hoping they could play at the gallery since before the very first Surreal Salon,” Andreasen said.
The chance to perform at this annual arts event will let Ron Rona bring his crazed bingo character, “Ronnie Numbers,” and the rest of the New Orleans Bingo! Show ensemble to the Surreal Salon Soiree.
“I’ve heard about it for years, and I’ve known Jason over at the gallery for many years now. I’m really looking forward to it, knowing that there are people there that enjoy something off the beaten path,” Rona said.
For Rona, the pathway to the New Orleans Bingo! Show was a strange detour from his old food service gig. He was a waiter at Fiorella’s Cafe in the French Quarter where musician Clint Maedgen (formerly of Liquidrone) delivered orders by bicycle.
While making a delivery, Maedgen saw a box of vintage bingo cards in an antique shop and bought them. That unusual investment in old-fashioned bingo paraphernalia paired well with songs Maedgen was creating.
“Between those songs he was writing and these bingo cards he came up with this idea for doing a weekly show in back of the restaurant, and the management of the restaurant was crazy enough to sign up for it, and Bingo! was born,” Rona said.
For over two years, Maedgen performed Thursday night at Fiorella’s. He then invited Rona to join in the music and skits, and run a bingo game with bizarre prizes between songs.
Over time, they become a regional favorite at various NOLA venues. The current lineup of the New Orleans Bingo! Show is Michael Miller (bass), Keith Hajjar (percussion), Trixie Minx (dancer), Ron Rona (a.k.a. Ronnie Numbers, bingo barker) and Clint Maedgen (lead vocals, guitar, sax, keyboards and flute).
This motley group of wild characters in strange hats, wigs and face paint who play music and run a bingo game is unlike anything else you are likely to ever see, as Rona explains their one-of-a-kind appeal.
“We’re a New Orleans game-show cabaret,” he said. “We haven’t played Baton Rouge in quite a while, so we’re ready to see all our fans and keep it as surreal as possible.”
Since the Surreal Salon encourages attendees to dress with maximum creativity, the audience’s fashion extremes should extend the magic of the band’s eye-catching wardrobe and stage show.
The band’s theatrical presence is what Baton Rouge Gallery’s Andreasen is anxious to experience as he considers the group’s visuals intermingling with the art event’s mosaic.
“Their penchant for costumes and spectacle fits so seamlessly with what the Surreal Salon Soiree is all about,” Andreasen said.
The fifth annual Surreal Salon Soiree will be Saturday, Jan. 26 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Baton Rouge Gallery at 1515 Dalrymple Drive in City Park. The evening includes works by 43 artists, an art installation by The Elevator Projects, dance by “Of Moving Colors” and the New Orleans Bingo! Show. Tickets are available on line at BatonRougeGallery.org/surreal-salon or at the door.