New Orleans, LA: Punkjazz from a young old soul
Contrary to what it sounds like, Meschiya Lake isn't a place—though inasmuch as music can embody a place, it is: If Janis Joplin sounds like Woodstock, or Bon Jovi invokes '80s Jersey Shore, Meschiya Lake is New Orleans. Not the city's Hurricanes-and-beads theme park side, but the side locals tend to crow about, rich with musical history and hardscrabble spirit.
Lake is barely 30, but sings with a weariness twice her age and a voice that needs no microphone. She stands, feet apart and hands on hips, and belts with the kind of power that was Bessie Smith's or Sophie Tucker's meal ticket (literally: they pre-dated microphones, when you needed to be heard to a dance hall's back row).
Her style's been called punkjazz, probably as much for its defiantly acoustic and raw qualities as for the amount of ink on her tiny frame. Fronting her band The Little Big Horns, Lake revives long-lost songs about gin and loose women who steal her man, and sings like she'd cut you if you went near either.
Tonight, for Mardi Gras, catch her at the Spotted Cat in the Faubourg Marigny (623 Frenchmen Street, 504-943-3887). Other nights, seek her out at haunts like Mimi's in the Marigny or Donna's Brass Band Headquarters.