Vaud and the Villains Bring Prohibition to the OughtsJanuary 29th, 2010 by Peter Kimmich
Sometime in the 1930s, a time warp snuck up on a wandering trove of gamblers, thieves and misfits, swiped them up off the streets of New Orleans and dropped them, with their whiskey flasks and stolen wardrobe, into 21st century Los Angeles. Being the charming, ornery folk they were, they found a stash of instruments, started a gigantic brass band, and now they menace the unwitting masses through the roughhewn outfit known as Vaud and the Villains. Hands on your valuables, ladies and gentlemen.
Lead by the exceptionally imposing Vaud, the Villains taunt and toy with their quarry by means of arse-grabbing jive rhythm, huge, soulful harmonies, and rapacious acts of suggestive female gyration. They pry open the floorboards to the timeless era of prohibition, scoop up handfuls of the most gleaming jewels old New Orleans has to offer, and spill them generously into the room for the pleasure of the crowd. You’ll never see them coming, but you’ll miss them once they leave.
Carrying the slogan “Every Saint Has a Past … Every Sinner Has a Future,” Vaud and the Villains makes a life for itself stalking the venues of Los Angeles. They’re especially partial to Fais Do-Do, a 1930s-style speakeasy where the Villains blend in so masterfully you’d think the place was built for them. The charismatic and towering Vaud steps in front of the band from time to time, recounting the deeds of his most notorious henchmen as they each take center spotlight throughout the night. Long-legged dancers tempt and tease the room while the swift-fingered horn players, guitarists and rhythm players whip up a storm of old New Orleans Dixie, soul, blues and gospel, keeping the crowd firmly on its toes. The lineup varies, but there are typically around 20 band members onstage, every soul exhibiting talent worth their own weight in gold fillings.
This slice of the old glory days can be caught certain Saturday nights at Fais Do-Do, from around 9:30 until the bars close. A calendar is available on the band’s Web site, and their Myspace page contains recordings of their performances – though no recording can stand up to the live presence of this inspired group. If you’ve got some vinegar in you, take it on yourself to meet Vaud and his gang. They’ll show you the ways of villainy.