Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011
Bas Clas is headed back to Lafayette for a pair of gigs and its first ‘real’ recording session in more than two decades. By Walter Pierce
If you’re from South Louisiana and are of a certain age — say, 40 to 60 — and if you care not for the Top 40 Pablum that has long oozed from the radio like bland porridge, you probably remember Bas Clas. At Grant Street and the old Jefferson Street Café in Lafayette. At Mother’s Mantle in Baton Rouge. The Maple Leaf in New Orleans.
Bas Clas bolted Lafayette in the early ’80s as the promise of major label success — and the Oil Bust — spun its compass northeast to Atlanta.
Formed in 1976 and officially disbanding 15 years later, Bas Clas members have remained friends and, from time to time, band mates. For two days this month, they’ll rekindle the flame that once burned like a cattle iron with a pair of shows in Lafayette.
“I’m proud to note that many bands got their first real stage experience opening for us, including a 14-year-old CC Adcock, the Blue Runners, a whole bunch of bands whose names I barely remember and every band Bill Davis of Dash Rip Rock ever played in,” recalls band member Steve Picou. “We like to think we were pioneers delivering songs and energy that radio was lacking at the time, and that we were generous to other musicians struggling like us to make a go of it.”
The band came painfully close to breaking through to the other side in a pre-digital, pre-Internet age when vinyl records, radio play and touring were virtually the only means of cultivating a following. Legendary producer John Hammond took it under his wing for a time, shopped it around, put a spit-shine on it. That major-label contract never got inked, but even as Bas Clas enjoyed a level of success few in rock achieve, the band remained humble, hopeful and, most important, friends.
Taking its name from a Cajun term for “low class,” Bas Clas began as a gaggle of hard-partying pals scattered around South Louisiana that coalesced into a clever, sharp-edged alternative rock band — before the term “alternative rock” existed — headquartered in a ramshackle house off a gravel road near Judice. Original members and brothers Donnie (rhythm guitar, vocals) and Steve Picou (lead guitar, vocals) of Eunice were joined by Baton Rougers Pat Gremillion (guitar, vocals) and Buddy Bowers (drums, vocals). Originally, Bas Clas was a rock band without a bass player. Within a couple of years Geoff Thistlethwaite (bass) and Ted Cobena (drums) rolled into the lineup as Gremillion and Bowers rolled out, with a few additions and subtractions along the way.
Like many bands built on an armature of friendship, rock-and-roll and beer, Bas Clas had its own quirky customs, including annual parties tied to the anniversaries of the break-in at the Watergate Hotel and Richard’s Nixon’s resignation. We don’t understand this, but we’re sure it made sense at the time.
The current roster — the Picou brothers, Thistlethwaite and Cobena — played their last gig at the 1991 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival before scattering to day jobs, odds-and-ends in the music biz and, now, the occasional reunion gig.
Donnie Picou remains in Atlanta, working in the telecommunications industry. Steve is a sustainable housing agent for the LSU AgCenter in New Orleans. Thistlethwaite lives in Opelousas and works for Mello Joy Coffee and as a freelance sound engineer, frequently manning the board at Blue Moon Saloon. Cobena has a recording studio and works as a sought-after drummer in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. But the quartet has Lafayette in its GPS at this moment.
“We’d like to think it’s a newsworthy item for our dwindling fan base, some of whom might not want to admit to what they did at Bas Clas parties so long ago,” Steve jokes about the pair of shows Bas Clas will play on Aug. 6 and 13 at The Wild Salmon in Lafayette. The shows will bookend a week of recording — their first serious recording session in more than 20 years — at legendary Dockside Studio in Maurice.
“We’re doing the first [gig] to get our juices flowing for the studio and the last one to celebrate the conclusion of the session,” Steve adds. “Of course both gigs will help us raise funds to help us turn these efforts into a product for release in the — we hope — very near future.”
BAS CLAS —
Aug. 6 & 13
The Wild Salmon
813 Foreman Drive
New menu items ready for the Lenten season
The Cane Fire Film Series screens “MaidenTrip” on Monday, March 10, at the AcA.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The vibe of the tribe done modern
The Louisiana Workforce Commission said Friday that initial claims rose to 2,125 from the previous week's total of 1,964. There were 2,887 initial claims during the comparable week in 2013.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
She’s the daughter of the legendary Johnny Cash, but she’s been a gifted artist in her own right for three decades, and she’s coming to Lafayette.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Prepare yourselves for sun
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
Due to the chaos of Mardi Gras and the weather, the entry deadline for this year's INDesign Awards has been extended by one week.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
Queen Evangline and King Gabriel ruled Tuesday night
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
IND Style does Gabriel
Newsy bits for the fam
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.