Music lovers of the world take note: If you have never been to New Orleans for a visit, you would be doing yourself a great service by putting a visit to this great music town on your priority list of things to do in your lifetime. I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed. You might even find that you like it so much that you end up moving here like I did with my guitar player. As a matter of fact, I simply cannot think of a place that exists anywhere within the lower continental 48 states of the U.S. that comes anywhere as close to being as cool as what I’ve experienced here.
There is something to satisfy every musical taste bud: blues, jazz, acid jazz, trip hop, rock, alternative, punk, Goth, Cajun, old New Orleans R&B, metal, trance and dub step, bluegrass, an even Celtic music on occasion. Did I mention that on any night of the week, one can sample all or most of these varying flavors that New Orleans musicians have to offer, all while not breaking your bank account? There are many places that do not charge a cover, so if you’re on a budget, this is the place to be; just be sure to tip the musicians…and your bartender. Another advantage is that all or most of the venues are either within walking distance or a cheap cab fare away.
There are so many music venues here per capita here that I have not yet had the chance to patronize them all , but here are a few of my favorites thus far:
Café Negril: Located on the famous Frenchmen St in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, on any given night you can catch some of the finest talent around kicking out the jams with roots, reggae, jazz, blues, and celtic music. This is a popular place with locals and tourists alike.
The Apple Barrel: A local haunt once frequented by the late locally and internationally renowned bluesman Coco Robicheaux. The Apple Barrel is conveniently located on Frenchmen St, directly across the street from Café Negril. This is a very cozy and down to earth venue where you can catch some of the best local musicians playing roots, blues and country blues, Cajun, jazz, and old New Orleans R&B.
The Dragon’s Den: Just around the corner from Frenchmen St on Esplanade, it is also within a short and convenient walk from the clubs on Frenchmen. The crowd here tends to be local and hip. On any night of the week you may catch an act playing rock, alternative, metal, jazz, trance, Goth, or dub step.
Checkpoint Charlie’s: Also located kitty corner from Frenchmen on the corner of Decatur and Esplanade, you can find a blend of locals and tourists hanging out, either to do laundry in the back or to check out local and touring acts who play some fierce rock-n-roll, punk, and delta blues.
One Eyed Jack’s: Located in the French Quarter on Toulouse St, this club has the class of an old Vaudeville haunt that simultaneously caters to 21st century hipsters and the ghosts of the past, all whilst managing to maintain an aura that is refreshingly unpretentious. You can catch many touring and local acts here that will quench the desires of many a musical palate, with the sounds of funk, rock, alternative, metal, gothic, punk, burlesque, 1920s bebop and everything in-between.
Hi-Ho Lounge: Located in the St. Claude neighborhood, the Hi-Ho Lounge is a short cab fare away from both Frenchmen and the French Quarter. Nestled on the up and coming St. Claude St., this club showcases some of the best local and touring acts that play rock, jazz, bluegrass, alternative/indie, and old New Orleans R&B. If you want to see where many of the locals go, then make it a point to put this club on your list of places to visit. An added bonus of visiting this club is that should you get hungry, there is a separate kitchen in the back offering up tasty Vietnamese food for a fair price.
Siberia: Located a few doors down from the Hi-Ho Lounge, this is the place that caters to your rebel within. On any and most nights, you can check out local and touring punk, metal, Goth, and rock acts that will not disappoint. There is also a kitchen in the back serving up tasty sandwiches, should you happen to get the munchies.
Always Lounge: Located directly across the street from Siberia and the Hi-Ho is yet another local favorite nighttime haunt with a very cool New Orleans vibe. The crowd here tends to be eclectic, encompassing tastes that span the range of the musical spectrum of rock, Cajun, blues, Old New Orleans R&B, jazz, alt/indie, and 20s vaudeville.
Bj’s Lounge: Located in the Upper 9th Ward/Bywater neighborhood, this is a place with a true, local feel. Stop by on a Monday night, ring the doorbell, and check out King James and the Special Men masterfully play some of the best New Orleans soul that you’ll ever hear.
A walk down the very charming Royal St. in the French Quarter on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon always brings with it pleasant surprises as one is often treated to a myriad of talented street performers who set up and play right on the street for tips. It won’t take long for you to come to the realization that every neighborhood in NOLA has its own charm and plenty of music venues. As a relative newcomer to the scene here, I have yet to experience many of the clubs that pump out music nightly in Uptown and Mid City, but I plan to soon.
The annual Jazz Fest is also an occasion that’s not to be missed. It is a two week extravaganza that features some of the best performers in the world from every conceivable genre: jazz, blues, gospel, electric blues, country blues, rock/alternative/indie, Cajun, zydeco, and everything in-between.
Music is literally everywhere here; it is so entrenched in the culture here that I have become convinced that there must be something in the water that makes it so. If you’re a music lover and you decide to visit New Orleans, you won’t be disappointed; you might even decide to move here.