Live Music in The Crescent City
Mardi Gras is just around the corner
This is the first in a series of articles I plan to write about New Orleans. By no means is this meant to be an exhaustive list or THE three best NOLA music venues. It is just one step down a long and entertaining path.
The Maple Leaf is low-slung dive bar located Uptown in the Carrollton neighborhood, situated next to Jaques-Imos Cafe, one of the more popular Creole restaurants in New Orleans. When Rebirth Brass Band, or one of the other excellent local acts is playing, this becomes one very crowded joint, and chances are good that you will be sweating through your clothes after dancing the night away here. And you really can dance the night away; it is entirely possible to walk out of here just as the sky is starting to brighten and normal folks are getting up to go to work. They normally have a regular schedule with the same bands playing weekly on weeknights and special offerings on the weekends. Despite the mash of partiers, you will find the friendly staff to be efficient at helping you rehydrate those precious fluids. The Maple Leaf achieved a fame of sorts by being the first club to host music after Hurricane Katrina devastated the town. This is one of THE classic New Orleans music clubs, and you will not go wrong any night you visit.
Tipitina's, or Tips as the locals sometimes call it, is one of the most popular music clubs in New Orleans. The building has former incarnations as a gambling house and brothel, and it still has whiffs of both emanating from the walls and floors that have no doubt seen it all. The name is derived from a Professor Longhair song, and the legendary piano man/singer played there regularly until his death in 1980. There is even a bust of 'Fess as you walk through the doors and into the barnlike structure.
This is a large room with a capacity of about 1,000, and sometimes they need every inch of it, especially during a Mardi Gras, New Year's, or Jazz Fest weekend when they may be hosting a major artist. The offerings here are diverse, from local New Orleans acts to touring road shows, and you can expect to see world-class Jazz, Rock, Funk, Zydeco or some lively combination that defies description. One of the longest running regular Cajun shows in existence happens every Sunday night when Bruce Daigrepont hosts his weekly Fais-Do-Do, and dancing is practically mandatory.
Rock 'n' Bowl
Have you ever wanted to hear some great music, chow down on a tasty po' boy, AND go bowling? If so, then you are in luck, because such a place does exist. The Rock 'n' Bowl is one of the most unique music venues in this or any other city, and it has something to offer most everyone. After reading the history of this institution, I was struck by one particular anecdote told by the owner, John Blancher, of the time six Buddhist monks came to bowl. Because they had never bowled and wanted the experience, they came in dressed in their saffron robes and played a few games. Your visit may not be as exotic as that, but you will be entertained and possibly enlightened by your own experience. Personally, I've had some of my most musically memorable nights in the Rock 'n' Bowl and can highly recommend it to anyone contemplating a night out in New Orleans. Lively, fun, offbeat and friendly; it embodies the very unique nature of its home city.
Offbeat magazine is an excellent resource for more information regarding the New Orleans music scene and has complete listings for venues, bands and schedules.