NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA–“When people come here, they have to walk around the entire space to get in. That is the first step in removing them from expectations. We really want people to have their own experience,” says Jay Pennington, the cofounder of The Music Box Village.
The Music Box Village is a very unique music venue and event space at the edge of both the Bywater and 9th Ward communities in New Orleans. It rests by the river, beside train tracks, with wild flowers growing all around.
Jay Pennington is a talented drummer that has played in numerous bands. He is a lover of all types of music and likewise, The Music Box Village hosts many different artists. However all of the artists, just like the audience is in for quite a unique baptism into a different type of improvisation and Pennington says, “for most of the artists, you are hoping that they’ll be adventurous and see this as an opportunity to play an unfamiliar instrument. It’s a little bit frightening to be that vulnerable in front of an audience. They don’t always understand that our audience is completely ready for that.”
The atmosphere is hard to describe. At times, it seems to have the charm of a 1940’s blues juke joint, like the one Harpo owned in The Color Purple. Other times, it is futuristic and it has Mad Max vibes. Either way, like the rest of New Orleans, it is a space that seems to exist completely out of time. Many of metal and wooden structures adorn the middle and our more than what they seem. They are actually very unique music instruments out of the mind of Technical Director and cofounder, Taylor Lee Shepherd.
“Each of these little houses has a musical instrument built into the architecture and into the concept of the house,” says Shepherd.
At Music Box Village, the rules and form of music are erased and challenged. At night, concerts become a village of active participants that think outside the box. The entire experience pays homage to the improvised spirit of New Orleans.
“We live in a town where there is music everywhere, from kids walking from school playing instruments, to cars driving and blasting music, to nights filled with block parties and second lines,” says Shepherd.
“I moved here because of the music in the streets. It just seems that if you are going to make something that honors the architecture of New Orleans, you have to include music. If we are lucky, we’ve shown people a functional use for conceptual art,” says Pennington.