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Seated, But Not Sitting Out: The subdudes go low key and lowercase 

The subdudes dress for the occasion.According to the subdudes guitarist and lead vocalist Tommy Malone, the band has decided to take a seat for a while. And he means that literally. Just like their intentional lower-casing of their band's name, the five-piece roots rock band with plenty of soul is stepping back from their electric instruments to sit down in a quieter, softer stage approach.

"We're liking this configuration so much that we're thinking of making it a permanent thing," Malone says of the band's seated and acoustic take on their current tour, which can be seen on its new concert DVD to be released just three days after the subdudes' Sunday night appearance at the Riverhouse Convention Center as part of local radio personality Elise Michael's birthday party.


The band hasn't always been seated. Before the subdudes took a six-year break beginning in 1996 and after they reformed with some new personnel in 2002, the subdudes were not afraid to play loud and certainly not shy about getting a crowd moving with their quintessentially New Orleans flavored R&B-scented rock. In their mid-1990s heyday, the 'dudes attracted mainstream attention, even making the late-night talk show circuit. And when they returned, they picked up where they left off and carry with them none of the "reunited band" stigma - hell, their 2007 record Street Symphony was supremely well received and included the surprise radio hit "Poor Man's Paradise." So, some might wonder why a band would change up its approach amidst stable success

"Let's be truthful, we're not 20 year olds. I used to listen to loud music when I was 20, 30, and even 40. But you know, I'd rather hear something at a reasonable volume where I can enjoy it," Malone says, letting out a string of jovial Southern laughter as he seems to realize that what he's just said sounds like it's plucked from the angry father character in a '60s black-and-white sitcom.

The current tour features the band seated in a horseshoe playing exclusively acoustic. There are no keyboards, just an accordion, and Steve Amedee, who took up percussion duties in the electrified subdudes, has only a tambourine - but he's a guy who can do a hell of a lot (arguably more than any other musician) with just a tambourine.

Aside from a reputation for having an expert tambourine player, the subdudes also get some talk as being one of a handful of bands that choose not to capitalize its own name.

"I suppose we were just trying to be clever, but it seemed to fit with the name," Malone says of the non-capitalization. "But you know, I've always wondered if that bothered people."

Well, we can tell you who it might bother: our copy editors. Those people don't enjoy intentional grammatical mistakes.

The band was once based in New Orleans, a city where Malone says taking in live music is as important as eating or breathing, but after Hurricane Katrina, Malone decided to move his family to Nashville, another bastion of live music. Malone and company, however, didn't cast the city aside, and actually made it the crux of Street Symphony, an album that addresses many of the problems precipitated by Katrina and the disastrous relief and recovery process that followed. While much talk of Katrina has subsided, the subdudes still have something to say about the current political and social environment.

"We're at a time when things need to be said. We're at a turning point and somebody needs to say something about it. We've never spoken this freely about it but it seems like this needs to be said," Malone says, but adds that the band only casually references politics from the stage, getting a jab in whenever a jab seems fit.

So, even while they may be a more subdued subdudes (you knew that line was coming - some puns are unavoidable) Malone and the guys aren't totally shutting up - just quieting down so you can hear them a little more clearly.

 

The subdudes, The String Rats
7pm Sunday, October 12. Riverhouse Convention Center. 3075 N Highway 97, 389-3111. $35/GA, $50/reserved. Tickets at Ranch Records or www.elisemichaelsbirthdaybash.com. A benefit for Healthy Beginnings.

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