The Leprechaun’s Ball: It’s Magically Funk-a-licious; an Interview with Bobby Paltauf

by Chadbyrne R. Dickens

They got your St. Patrick’s Day fun for you proper on the Saturday night before the much celebrated holiday!  Get your freak on and act like a carefree leprechaun for a day while indulging in some varied and exceptional music.  The team that brought festival goers the immensely successful Equifunk (the all-inclusive festival now in its sixth year) unveils the Second Annual Leprechaun’s Ball to take place at the intimate Le Poisson Rouge in downtown New York City on Saturday, March 15th starting at 1 pm.

The line-up is stocked again with professional musicians adept at bringing layered musical musings guaranteed to start a multi-hour dancethon.  The all-day extravaganza is buoyed by a stellar 2013 inaugural effort and this year proves an even more impressive array of musicians all amassed under one roof.  The Bobby Paltauf Band and Dorsia are poised to start the day in an incendiary manner before the all-star band, Eddie Roberts and the Funky Charms, are set to tear the roof off the joint.  With veterans Eddie Roberts (guitar/New Mastersounds), Nigel Hall (keys/Nigel Hall Band), Jennifer Hartswick (trumpet/Trey Anastasio Band), Natalie “Chainsaw” Cressman (trombone/Trey Anastasio Band), James Casey (saxophone/Lettuce), Ron Johnson (bass/Warren Haynes Band) and John Staten (drums/Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe), it is likely to get very hot inside the comfortable confines of one of the city’s most lively and respected venues. Tickets are only $25 and can be purchased here

Photo by Mike Thut

In a festival preview and exclusive, we sat down with one of the day’s artists for a little Q&A to wet our appetite in anticipation of the event.

Bobby Paltauf is a quickly-ascending artist who has played with some of the genre’s finest including Dumpstaphunk, Twiddle, Stanton Moore and Buddy Guy.  Paltauf’s surprise sit-in last September at Catskill Chill with The Meter Men was considered by most to be the highlight of the amazing festival weekend.  Paltauf is set to drop his first album in mid-March.  With so much immediate success and so much talent oozing from his pores, it’s a challenge to remember that he is only 14 years old.  Like many who saw Derek Trucks when he was wowing audiences as a teenager, we again have a 14-year-old guitar phenom in our midst.

Much like other teen musicians, the McLovins, Paltauf’s reputation is built on talent and not as a novelty teenage act.  The guitar prodigy’s impeccable timing, rhythm and uncanny ability to innately exude cool confidence under pressure is already becoming a known trademark.  A quick-study, jam band aficionado Paltauf is adept at various styles while making an indelible mark with an approach all his own.  Although a diamond in the rough, Paltauf is a rare gem that will not be left uncovered for long and Leprechaun Ball is an ideal opportunity to watch him shine!

Chadbyrne Dickens:  When did you play with Buddy Guy!?
Bobby Paltauf: I played with Buddy Guy on November 11th of 2010 at the Ridgefield (Connecticut) Playhouse on “Strange Brew” and “Voodoo Child.” I went backstage to meet him and he saw the Buddy Guy guitar strap (I had bought earlier just that day) and invited me to play with him. It was unreal.

CD: What music do you like to listen to?
BP: Bluegrass, jazz, funk, blues and bands like Phish, Soulive, Lettuce and The Grateful Dead.

CD: What is your favorite moment in your career?
BP: Playing with The Meters for sure. I’d been listening to “Cissy Strut’ and all that stuff so just to play with them and Page McConnell from Phish….It was crazy. It was awesome!

CD: Who is your idol?
BP: I listen to a ton of Eric Krazno with Lettuce and Soulive and Trey Anastasio of Phish. I love how each song in each setlist is always different from all other versions. I can learn a lot from the tone they have.

CD: What rules does a great guitarist have to live by?
BP: Sitting in with an artist… you have to be ready. You have to be careful…when I was playing with the Meters, I didn’t really know the songs at all. George Porter explained some right beforehand and I was kinda nervous, but you have to learn to relax and feel your way into it at the right time.

CD: Who inspires you to do better?
BP: Hmm. Probably hearing all these new artists come out and going to new shows and learning new things makes me want to play and practice.

CD: Do you plan to go to college? Are academics important to you?
BP: Yes! Obviously, I would much rather be playing, but academics is very important as you want to be smart. I want to go to a music school to learn more jazz theory and other stuff.

CD: How was your band chosen?
BP: We were playing with a few different local musicians we met at jams, but the most recent line-up we’ve been going with since September is Gene Leone Jr. (keys), Miles Livolsi (bass), Caitlin Kalafus (drums). We met them through Josh Kroop (Kung Fu’s manager) who was like, “you must play with Myles and Caitlin”, so we set up a little jam session as a trio and it was just magic right there when we started jamming. Gene is a good friend, we’ve been playing together for three years now and we put him on keys. It’s just a great line-up.

CD: What is the greatest challenge being so young in the music scene?
BP: I don’t know. Well, my dad always says that it’s hard to get people who follow bands to come out to see me as they are mostly in their 20’s and don’t know my music yet.

CD: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
BP: I’d like to see myself playing festivals and venues around the country with a good band while having fun. I have to focus on the guitar and learning new stuff all the time but also improving vocals and getting the band to learn new songs. I don’t think my voice has even changed yet.

CD: Tell us about your upcoming album? Where recorded/who plays on it/wrote it etc?
BP: Our new album is titled, “Lost and Found” and was recorded at The Barn at Maple Hill Farm. My dad produced it. Corin Nelson engineered and recorded all the tracks on it and it sounds great. It features John Kooya on Rhodes and clavinet and Bob Nunno who I met at a school we played at, he was actually the music teacher there, and he just killed it on saxophone so we included him on some of the originals. The only covers on it are John Scofield’s “Ideofunk” and the Soulive inspired version of the Beatles “Eleanor Rigby” but most songs are originals that we have been playing since about May of last year. I write. We have a couple instrumental jazz/funk tunes that I wrote and one of the songs, “Atmosphere” that was written in Caitlin’s basement the first time we played.

To warm up for the Leprechaun’s Ball, the Bobby Paltauf Band will be playing with John Popper at B.R.Y.A.C. in Bridgeport, CT on March 9th which is the official CD release party. Paltauf has also been tapped to be the artist-at-large at Rock n Roll Resort in Kerhonkson, NY on April 4th. Everyone wants to be able to say they saw Derek Trucks when he was 14 and now we all have the opportunity to watch the next great guitar prodigy unfold in front of our very eyes. One should cherish this rare opportunity to witness it firsthand.