I started Food Punk to create a space to celebrate food and music. Where else could I herald the magic of both Ramps and Pusha T? Cooking, like music, is an art. Both can be visceral, sensory experiences that transport, inspire and even define us. I’ve often found that those who play with knives are also into ‘deep cuts’ of another nature. It is in this spirit that I bring you this series: HEARD! highlighting the music enthusiasts behind the line, the bar, the pass and the pen.

Photo by Pableaux Johnson

Photo by Pableaux Johnson

John Currence AKA Big Bad Chef is chef/owner of the City Grocery Restaurant Group in Oxford, MS. He tells it like it is and his passion extends far beyond the plate, as you will see in his musings on music below.

What was the first live music performance you attended?

From a very technical standpoint, my mother likes to tell the story that it was the Beatles in 1964 at Tad Gormley stadium in City Park in New Orleans. She took a pile of her JR. high and high school students to the concert while she was about 9 months pregnant with me.

I had the opportunity to see loads of live music and I am not exactly sure of the chronology. In 1974-76 my family lived in Scotland, while I was there I had a number of musical surprises. Walking to catch the bus home from school, I stumbled into an impromptu performance by the Sex Pistols in Princess Street Gardens. They were playing the song Bodies. There were lots of cops.
I went to see Crosby Stills and Nash and also Elton John on different occasions with my mom and dad. All I really remember is getting in trouble with my brother at CSN for pretending like we were falling asleep. I remember EJ totally crushing versions of “Rocket Man” and “The Bitch Is Back.”

In New Orleans, we used to go to the Blue Room in the Roosevelt Hotel and see folks like Cab Calloway, Andrews Sisters, Four Freshmen and the Mills Brothers, but the first thing I bought a ticket ($12.50) to go see was the first “Day Of Rock N Roll” in the Superdome.
New Orleans was a big stop on the indie music circuit at that time and so in the year after that we saw the Police and U2 about two weeks apart on their first tours of the states and Elvis Costello was coming through regularly.

We used to sneak down to Bourbon Street to stand outside of the Famous Door and listen to whoever was playing Dixieland that night/afternoon and also to Preservation Hall to hear the PHJB play. New Orleans was a weird town to grow up in, from a musical standpoint. The scene was totally goofy, but the opportunities, in retrospect were cool.

What was the most recent?
Saw Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears a few nights before our baby was born. It was a moment of sanity in the midst of my bride’s hormone-driven insanity…

What album/artist changed or defined your life?

My hair was totally blown back the first time I listened to The Clash. The Clash were angry but eloquent. They were brutes with restraint. They had a message and it was clear. Having lived in the UK in the 1970’s, I was entirely familiar with their frustrations. I loved the almost-anarchic call to arms they broadcast, but loved that it stopped short of “kill the rich/lynch the Queen,” but was laced with “don’t fuck with us because we have an army and they are ready to burn this mother down.”

Joe Strummer was the voice of a generation and he was a poet. He distilled the feeling of that moment and put it to music. It made you aware that standing up and doing the right thing was an imperative, injustice would not be tolerated and one voice could make a difference.

Do you have a musical equivalent to a guilty pleasure?

I am not sure there is such a thing for me. I admit, freely to anything that I like. These days I get up in the morning and put on Baroque classical while I give our baby her first feeding of the day and start work from home, I work to Guns n Roses, Van Halen, Motley Crue, Minor Threat, Ministry, etc. I have moments when you will find me listening to the BeeGees, Fleetwood Mac, ELO or Elton John.

You will not find me listening EVER, to any bullshit jam band Grateful Widespread Phish Cheese non-music shit. It goes in the same category and contemporary “country” and whatever new pop fucking garbage is being produced these days. The Alabama Shakes can save the world. Unfortunately, I don’t think there are enough folks out there who care enough to make a difference and Strummer is dead…

What album is your go to for when you wanna smash stuff and life is sticking it to you?
Back In Black, Van Halen 1, Appetite For Destruction, Dr. Feelgood, Nevermind

What album is your go to for fist-pumping-this-is-the-best-ever-happiness times?

See above

What is on your turntable at home right now?

Right now, in my car is
1) Return Of The Grievous Angel maybe the greatest tribute album ever recorded. I understand Gram Parsons was a complete asshole, but goddamn he wrote some beautiful music.

2) A Solomon Burke collection…holy shit, what an arguably overlooked talent.

The man is unbelievable.

3)The Pixies Bossanova, what else is there to say about these guys?

4) The Hives Veni Vidi Vicious just because it helps distract me from the voices.

5) Miles Davis, Sketches Of Spain. I want my little girl to be a musical smarty pants and hopefully a dreadful snob.

6) Springsteen, Darkness On The Edge Of Town. “Racing In The Streets” I love on the way home from work over and over and over….

Music is a huge part of my life. I played in bands for most of my adolescence and young adulthood and unfortunately ruined myself on live music. We lived, for a decade, a six-seven night a week schedule in Richmond, Raleigh, DC, Chapel Hill, Charlotte, and Atlanta driving to and going out to see different bands.I have a tough time these days dragging myself out to see music.

I’m old and jaded these days and have a tough time talking to musicians who have never slept on an apartment floor or under a pool table on the road, who never had to figure out how to stretch $5 into food and cigarettes for an entire day or know the in’s and out’s of fixing their van when it breaks down in the pouring rain in the middle of the night in Alabama somewhere.

Lots of young acts lack a soul that that sort of struggle brings to the fret board. Grit is missing. Anger is missing. The anger these days is over hard drive crashes, overnight Amazon deliveries not making it and malfunctioning hair gel, not asshole, war-mongering presidents, societal issues or class upheaval.

I want to be moved again.

I want to see another time when music is a vehicle of expression for change and…shit, I just want it to express anything other than the anemic, bubblegum, snot-nosed, entitled, lazy, stupid, insipid, bullshit that seems to be the record company norm these days. If nothing else, at least ‘The Dead’ wanna-be’s seem to have been hunted down and killed by dogs in the forest of my bliss…


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