Rhythm and Rain Trio
article by VANELIS RIVERA / photography by KELLY MOORE CLARK
Known as the Rhythm & Rain Trio, their passionate acoustic performance has a coastal feel they’ve described as island-flavored rock with some Mississippi Delta heritage and a splash of comedy.
It was a sunny sixty-five degrees walking up the slope to Marina Cantina in Gulfport, Mississippi. I passed an abnormal amount of Corvettes on the way to the wood-plank walkway leading to the restaurant and waterfront patio. Strangely, it fit the scene—a line of docked bay boats, patrons in shorts and lightly colored, short-sleeve tops, and Bayou Bernard in the background. Clearly, it was a celebration of summer edging its delightfully sunny visage, made even more carefree by the sounds winding away from a small stage parallel to the boardwalk. Under the makeshift top-half of a sport fisherman yacht canopying the stage, three musicians wearing lime green, outdoor button-up shirts jammed some tasty, fun-loving covers. Known as the Rhythm & Rain Trio, their passionate acoustic performance has a coastal feel they’ve described as island-flavored rock with some Mississippi Delta heritage and a splash of comedy.
“I was at NLU [Northeast Louisiana University] 87 to 90 I believe,” said Rain Jaudon, vocalist and acoustic guitarist of the trio. Then, a marketing major and member of Kappa Alpha Order, he holds fond memories of the area, especially eating Johnny’s Pizza “every week,” going to the “cheap” movie theatre, and ending up at The Library Lounge drinking twenty-five cent draft beer and “singing along to the jukebox while sitting on those old picnic tables.” He remembers that he marched as a French horn player in the Sound of Today under then Director of Bands, Jack White. Exhausted by the rigorous practice schedule that marching and concert bands demanded, Jaudon had to come to terms with easing away from the horn. “Playing horn wasn’t going to be my future, but I was starting to get very interested in guitar.” At the time, he had been playing in a rock band from his hometown of Indianola, Mississippi. And, as the power ballads became popular on MTV, Jaudon became “the guy in the band with an acoustic guitar.” Surprisingly, the only guitar lessons he ever took were one semester’s worth of guitar theory at then NLU. “I taught from that textbook for several years after graduation,” he revealed. Jaudon would end up transferring to Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, though he still makes it a point to schedule a Johnny’s Pizza pit-stop when he travels through north Louisiana.
Jaudon moved to the Mississipi Gulf Coast around the mid-1990s. While still in his hometown, his connection with the music scene dwindled. “The gigs seemed to be the same songs, same venues, and same people; I decided it was time to find a new market to work in.” He was ready to prove to himself that it was the talent and experience that clients were hiring him for and not just because they knew his parents. The move was a total departure from his comfort zone. He looked for other artists on the coast playing like him and found about three solo artists performing to backing tracks. After an impromptu gig in which he ended up on stage with the house band, his introduction to the coastal music scene was underway. Eventually, he found himself solo once more, so a good friend suggested he give a local drummer a call. That led to the formation of Rhythm & Rain, which soon became a trio consisting of Dwight Breland from Belle Chasse, Louisiana on electric guitar and Rob Smith based in New Orleans on drums. “All of us had day jobs so gigging around the coast at bars, festivals, private events, and such was all in fun,” informed Jaudon.
Rhythm & Rain took home Best Local Musician/Band and Best Entertainment-Nightlife honors in the 2019 Sun Herald People’s Choice Awards in Biloxi, MS, after taking home third place in the Best Local Musician Band category in 2018. And, they are a three-time winner of Favorite Coast Style Band in the Coast Nightlife Observer. Additionally, they’ve shared the stage with artists such as the late Eddie Rabbitt, Dash Rip Rock, Edwin McCain, Todd Snider, Drivin’ & Cryin’, and Cowboy Mouth. “We are pretty simple musicians,” said Jaudon, adding, “We seem to draw a following of folks who like great music.” They choose covers with memories attached and stories involved. Taking lead vocals most of the time, he enjoys being the one to tell such stories and sharing that experience with an audience. He has been known to tell jokes, occasionally picking on the audience members and making them laugh: “Our tunes reflect that.” The trio has been known to do a James Taylor version of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” an “island version” of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” with an octave pedal on Jaudon’s voice making him sound like he is on helium, classic country song lyrics done to classic rock songs, metal song lyrics sung to Jimmy Buffet songs, and so forth. “We do a mash-up of classic old school rap and R&B songs that sometimes last twenty minutes and it’s all performed to the same four chords,” said Jaudon.
“We are HACKS,” Jaudon laughed, admitting that they seldom hold any rehearsals. Most of the tunes they currently play started out as a dare or a request from an audience member. The moment the band receives a request, or what they like to think of as a challenge, Jaudon finds a verse or chorus, picks a key, and goes for the kill. “Sometimes it crashes, but most times it is magic.”
As a band, they’ve perfected the art of being a sideman. They take cues from each other’s body language regarding where a song is going. “We don’t hog the spotlight. Everyone sings. Everyone harmonizes. Everyone plays multiple instruments. We have learned how to become the ultimate ‘fake book’ type of player.” Improvisation is key to their performance whether it is musically or their banter: “We are definitely a dysfunctional family of brothers! We prop each other up and, like brothers, we knock each other down… usually pointing and laughing the entire time. It’s Smothers Brothers meets The Three Stooges with the abilities of Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, and Bad Company.”
With that said, it was a blow when the pandemic hit, as they went an entire year away from what they love to do. “We’d do it for free if it meant we’d be allowed to do it,” laughed Jaudon, adding, “till the bills came due.” On a more serious note, he admitted that not playing gigs had been tough emotionally, mentally, and financially for all three of them. But, normalcy has begun to trickle in. I met the band on a Sunday; it was their second performance that weekend. Their loud shirts commanded the audience’s attention, along with an Americana cover of Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” But, perhaps more interesting than the cargo short clad, sandal-wearing, ponytail styling Jaudon is the other monkeys on stage.
“It all started with former drummer, Erick Porche.” He was turning forty, so on the way to the gig, Jaudon stopped at the dollar store to get him a birthday card and thought it would be “a hoot” to give him a stuffed monkey. They hung it on his mic stand that night, and the following week Jaudon bought two more so all the band members could have one. One time, a fan offered them twenty dollars for one of the monkeys, so they took that money and bought a few more. “They just kept multiplying,” he said. Fans would bring them more, friends would drop them off, and before they knew it they had their very own stage menagerie of a dozen or more furry, stuffed primates of every shape and size, hailing from places like New Orleans, Hattiesburg, Texas, Miami, and even Chicago. “Then monkeys with city names on their shirts started showing up.” Noting that many of these monkeys were not always dressed, a dear friend of Jaudon’s from San Antonio had custom tropical shirts ordered for all the bare-skinned monkeys. Some of these furry friends have been given names, and at this point, each of them has a particular place where they get hung or placed on the stage. “We don’t do any songs about monkeys and only a few by the band The Monkees. So it’s odd that they have become such a part of our stage look,” said Jaudon. Regardless of what the monkeys represent at this point, they have become a fan favorite. A few months ago, when they outgrew the duffle bag and suitcase that transported the monkeys, a fan-made them a “barrel of monkeys bag.”
Jaudon jokes that they have “another two good years,” and while an adage warns that “time flies when you’re having fun,” the trio’s calm and breezy approach to their music may just be the thing that keeps them jamming for longer than they expect. “We don’t try to sound just like the record,” said Jaudon. “We may not be polished and perfected, but those bands aren’t really that much fun to watch each week. We keep it fresh not only for the staff or the audience but also for us.” Clearly, Rhythm & Rain Trio is all about having fun. Think Bourbon Street fun meets the beach. In fact, their mantra is “And we drink!”
Follow Rhythm & Rain Trio on Facebook and learn more about their music on their website https://rhythmandrain.com.