I wanted to go to New Orleans for many years. It wasn’t to get drunk on Bourbon Street or to collect Mardi Gras beads. I wanted to go to New Orleans to hear the music.
In 2012 I went to New Orleans twice, but it was on my first visit where I listened to the music of New Orleans. The music was on street corners. In bars. As I walked beside the river, I heard the music. It wasn’t just jazz or any particular music I was looking to hear. Soon everything began to sound like music. The people as they laughed and talked on sidewalks and in cafes. The rain as it came down and drenched the pavement. The crickets were chirping as I walked under streetlights in the evening. The washers as they spun clothes in laundromats. There was music everywhere.
Sometimes there are moments, rare moments that are perfection. One of those moments for me was in New Orleans. I was standing in The French Quarter with a gelato in hand. The afternoon sun was setting. The humidity was rising, giving the atmosphere weight. The sounds of a guitar and violin were floating across the breeze. Then I saw bubbles rising in the sky. It felt like something you would see in the movie, but I wasn’t on set. This was real, and at that moment I knew I was where I needed to be.
I grew up playing the piano, singing, and music used to be an active part of my life each day. Now music isn’t as prominent in my life as it was before. I listen to music, but I’m not practicing the piano for hours every day. I’m not memorizing harmonies to sing in a choir. Hearing music all over in New Orleans made me realize how much I missed music. Visiting New Orleans made me see I had lost the connection I once had to music. New Orleans made me miss myself.
I loved New Orleans, but I can’t give you recommendations for where to hear good music. I wasn’t a good writer on that trip. I didn’t mark down any clubs, or bars, or particular streets where I heard good music. I just followed my ear when I noticed a melody floating in the air. My feet got sore wandering everywhere, trying to find the music I heard. Sometimes I would end up in a bar or a club. Often I’d be listening to someone play on a street corner, or in a park, or in a square. No matter what the music was always great.
I can write more about the music of New Orleans, but the only way you’ll know what it’s like is if you go there yourself. If you love music (among many other things) a visit to New Orleans is well worth it. If you can’t go to New Orleans, you can listen to the great local music of New Orleans on WWOZ 90.7. The station has a calendar of music events that occur throughout the city. Plus their broadcast is available online. A year and a half after my trip to New Orleans I still listen to this radio station. I also found this 15-minute documentary called Street Saints from Tavner Murphy. It’s all about the unique music of New Orleans.
Watching the documentary above makes me miss New Orleans. I’m not a travel expert, and even with my history, I’m not a music expert. All I know is that the music of New Orleans was good for my soul. I can’t wait to go back to New Orleans one day and hear the music again.
Things You Should Know
If you want to hear live music in New Orleans, there are lots of great venues to choose from. The Spotted Cat, d.b.a, and Maple Leaf Bar are a few that come recommended. You’ll find music buskers performing outside, especially around popular areas like Canal Street, Jackson Square, and by Cafe Du Monde on Decatur Street.
On my first trip to New Orleans, I did Couchsurfing. The second time my friend and I stayed at the lovely Blake Hotel in the Central Business District. This stay was free as I had won a trip to New Orleans, but I would recommend this hotel if you’re looking for a place to stay in New Orleans. There are a variety of hotels in New Orleans you can book here.
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Have you heard the music of New Orleans?