One Eyed Jacks, located in the French Quarter just a couple of streets outside of Bourbon Street, has a small bar with a few intimate booths and a décor you would expect in New Orleans: dark, gothic and plush, with rich colors and haunting portraits on the walls. Just a few stairs lead you to the entrance of its live music space, cool with dark ceilings.
Benjamin Booker walked onto stage and immediately began to play “Always Waiting” from his recent self-titled record, which took off immediately upon release. He played with a look that suggested he was only partially present, while another part of him was on a separate journey with the music. The enthusiastic crowd knew all the words to most of his songs.
Booker possesses a musical quality and engagement comparable to Jimi Hendrix combined with The Black Keys (if you can imagine that), but has his own voice, style and sound. His lyrics seem far wiser than someone of his age might write, and he delivered them in a raspy scream that sounds like he’s purging his entire soul right before your eyes. He played mostly with his head down, tucked into his guitar as he twirled on stage and roughly but melodically pulled at the strings of his electric guitar.
When I first heard his record I was instantly in love, and Booker played almost every song off of his album, save for a few covers. It wasn’t until later that I was to learn that he was just a 23-year-old barista from New Orleans before the record was released. It is surprising yet refreshing to hear such music coming from a young soul. It will be exciting to see what he does next.
— Alicia Gallagher