NEW YORK — "Rain seems to follow us wherever we go," World Leader Pretend's Matt Martin joked with the drizzle-soaked crowd at Rockefeller Center on Thursday.
The guitarist had good reason to joke. Humor — and music — may be about all the New Orleans band has left.
The quintet was celebrating its first day off in over a year of touring behind its album Punches when Hurricane Katrina devastated its hometown.
"I woke up late the morning it hit," drummer Arthur Mintz said. "I had like 40 messages on my answering machine. People were like, 'Dude, just leave town right now. Don't bother boarding up; your house is not gonna be there when this is all over.' So we drove to Baton Rouge and stayed with my mom."
The resulting floods most likely swept away WLP's tour van and trailer and choked their rehearsal space with mold and mildew. Not that they know for sure — they haven't been able to go home.
"We tried to go back last week," Martin said. "But then Hurricane Rita came through."
The spotty damage assessments the band's received thus far have been from friends. For Mintz, who grew up in Slidell, Louisiana, the outlook isn't good.
"One buddy of mine went home in a boat. His bedroom — which is on the second story — was still underwater. Furniture was floating," he said. "It's been really emotional."
"Fortunately I don't think we lost much of anything other than musical equipment and some cars," singer/guitarist Keith Ferguson said. "But we'll see."
The band was in New York to contribute to the Make a Difference Today hurricane-relief initiative forged by NBC, Warner Music and Habitat for Humanity. In addition to Thursday's lunchtime performance, the band lent a hand with Habitat's homebuilding efforts, also at Rockefeller Plaza.
The coup de grâce of the band's visit, though, was the performance of its forthcoming single "Tit for Tat" on the "Today" show Friday morning (September 30). The rain had stopped, the sky had cleared. And just as Katie Couric and Matt Lauer signed off, they presented the band with new equipment, courtesy of Gibson.
"We never expected to be in this situation," Ferguson said. "It's the kind of thing you see on TV, but never expect to experience."
The band performs in St. Louis on Saturday before returning to New Orleans on Sunday.