This year, Café Nola’s New Year’s Eve lineup includes acts from near and far. But all of the night’s featured musicians have managed to find a home at Frederick’s most eclectic music venue.
“We just combined a bunch of artists we thought would be fun together,” says Chris Morris, a general manager at Café Nola and responsible for booking the annual New Year’s Eve Bash. “Loves It! is a band that [frequents] this place and they happen to be in the area.”
Loves It!, composed of Austin, Texas, duo Jenny Parrott and Vaughn Walters, and often accompanied by other guest musicians, boasts a funky blend of several different genres, including everything from country to indie to pop and swing. The band’s last appearance at Café Nola was in September.
Frederick native and hip-hop artist Retro/Ricole Barnes also is a repeat performer at Café Nola.
“I found my place at Café Nola years ago when I started hanging out there,” says Barnes, 29. “The place is high on creativity ... you can definitely be who you are at Café Nola.”
Raised in Frederick, Barnes credits his love of music with two things: growing up an only child, and his grandfather.
“My grandfather was the foundation for my love of music,” Barnes says. “[He] was a drummer for a rhythm-and-blues band and had the chance to play with James Brown, but his mother wouldn’t let him sign a contract.”
While Barnes says his grandfather certainly fueled his passion for music, it’s another, perhaps more surprising, source that taught him the more technical side of the art.
“Being an only child, I watched a lot of TV,” Barnes says. “‘The Muppets’ ... that’s kind of where I learned song structure.”
In fact, Barnes says it is music from his childhood that still influences his own songs and even his stage name, Retro/Ricole.
“I like to play off childhood music,” Barnes says. “I really play off my past experiences.”
Other than his grandfather and The Muppets, Barnes cites Stevie Wonder, The Beatles and rap group Wu-Tang Clan as major influences.
As far as his own sound goes, Barnes says it can best be described as “the Beastie Boys meets Lil’ Wayne.”
“I definitely take a different approach than most hip-hop artists,” Barnes says.
Part of that “different approach” includes a backup band, something rare for hip-hop artists.
“Ricole is a local hip-hop artist doing a new thing,” Morris says. “We like to keep it really eclectic here.”
Barnes and Loves It! will be followed by DJ Synapsis, who will play dance music well into the night and early the next morning, turning Café Nola into a massive dance party.
“We’re big on dancing here,” says general manager Matt Triche.
In November, Barnes put out a mix tape, “Guilty’s a Pleasure,” and his first album, “Gamma Ray,” drops New Year’s Eve. He’s performed up and down the East Coast, from New York to North Carolina, but hopes to expand and eventually head out on a worldwide tour.
“To be an independent artist traveling the world would be my goal in the next five years,” Barnes says.
But for now, the singer says he’s just happy to have a place like Café Nola to help him gain exposure.
“I guess I can say I should be thankful,” Barnes says. “Thankful to have a place like that. Being a hip-hop artist in Frederick ... people in other places might not get [me].”