Entertainment & Nightlife

Walking the French Quarter

Bourbon Street at Night
Bourbon Street is not for the squeamish, nor is it for those who either carry their moral outrage or their hearts on their sleeves. It is the very definition of garish and gaudy - and good, clean fun. If you know going in that this street is a tourist trap of the highest order, you won't be as liable to succumb to outrage. Drinks are outrageously expensive and good humor abounds. Where else could you find a selection of tittie caps, penis ties, and voodoo charms in any one of a number of specialty boutiques - and all in a host of zany colors.

There is an array of buskers, hucksters, and petty criminals who make there living on Bourbon Street, and they can be fun to watch at work. And educational! For example, we didn't know that Tuesday Night is Family Night at Big Daddy's Topless/Bottomless Nite Club where we were told "inside are twelve beautiful giols and one ugly one - all nekkid as the day they was born." Just being on the street at night with all the neon, music, and noise is a hoot. What appears to be risqué with strip clubs featuring several genders, traditional nudie/exotic dancer bars (check out the Shim Sham Club 615 TOULOUSE STREET  (504) 299-0666), and other flashy sin is actually quite controlled. There is a lot of music on Bourbon Street, most of it available from the street or near it. Street musicians are all over the place, so keep a handful of change and small bills for tipping (the etiquette is if you stop and listen to a street musician for a whole tune, you ought to tip a buck or two).

Up Bourbon aways is the Krazy Korner Bar renown more for hawking the entertainment than the actual quality of it. The bands that play here were all showbiz and tend more toward audience participation than the real deal. At least once a set, the singer (usually a very outgoing female of generous proportions will survey the audience with "Where y'all from?" Somebody wearing am "I sucked a crawfish and it sucked me back!" t-shirt will say "We're from Afghanistan - just here for the necrophila convention." So - if you do stop in, be sure to have your geo-occupational story straight.

Check out The Famous Door for the Dixieland variety of music. You'll know it because the door is always open and the band has a banjo player. Listen from the street before you enter.

On St. Peter Street, look for two landmarks for entertainment. A must for all lovers of true New Orleans Jazz is Preservation Hall (726 St. Peter). Shows start at 8:00 pm and run about every 30 minutes ($5), and you'll probably have to stand in line for your turn in. It'll be crowded and hot in there, but you really don't want to miss this. The musicians are, for the most part, way past their 70s and all have been playing traditional jazz since Teddy Roosevelt was had rickets. They'll be sitting, looking very worn out until they hit it - and then you'll understand. Make no mistake, this music is to Dixieland Jazz what Pat Boone is to Little Richard - this is the REAL DEAL. Look for a little sign somewhere in the room that says, "Requests $2.00, Saints $5.00" - in other words, don't request "Saints".

You'll also want to take in a Hurricane at Pat O'Brien's where you can sit in the courtyard and watch the fountain spurt water and fire, or you can catch one of the bands. Just everybody brings back a Hurricane Glass from this place.

Decatur Street holds a some major attractions. On the Canal Street end there's the House of Blues which isn't always bluesy or very New Orleanian. The main room is intimate (cramped if you are over 30) and books national acts. Similarly, the Howl a the Moon offers dueling rock and roll piano nitely.  Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville at 1 French Market Place near this end of Decatur offers food and drinks to mostly local musicians from 5:30 til late every night - snazzy t-shirts and merchandise at the outlet around the corner. 

Outside the Quarter
You'll need transportation up and back so secure it before heading out.
The Original Tipitina's (This website is very over produced - javawise) 501 Napoleon Avenue is world famous by now and shouldn't be missed - and you can eat there if you want (opens at 5:00 p.m.) and the music'll usually start about 9:30 p.m. The cover charge varies depending on who's playing, but Tip's has a long-standing (since 1977) record of booking honest music and hard working musicians like the Neville Brothers.  Tips now has a venue on North Peters a couple of block off Canal.

If you are interested in a good time coupled with a little dance instruction, Michaul's on St. Charles (pronounced "mee-shawls" at 840 St. Charles 555-5517), formerly known as Michaul's Live Cajun Music Restaurant, is the place for you. These folks are on a quest to teach every living soul on the planet how to dance to Cajun music. Food's not bad, a little pricey for us, but the fun part made up for it. Dance Lessons with your meal or drinks at 6:30 pm Monday through Saturday.

The Carrollton area is way uptown, past Audubon Park and the Zoo. Take the St. Charles Ave. Streetcar nearly to the end of the line (Watch and listen for Oak Street). You'll ride past the Garden District neighborhoods, Tulane and Loyola. There are some good bar bands playing in this part of town, with sort of a college ghetto atmosphere. For example, the Maple Leaf at 8316 Oak Street and Muddy Water's nearby are possibilities, as is Cooter Brown's Tavern and Oyster Bar.
Look for "Carrollton Area" in the listings.

The Warehouse District is almost unknown to us, but the advertisements list Howlin' Wolf's (no relation), a Mulate's, and many other music venues - plus the casino action. A bit more commercialized than we go for (this from people who find Bourbon Street interesting??).  Even slackers can be traditionalists in their own way - so Go if you want to go. We can't stop you!

New Orleans Music Venues and Listings on the Web

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