The Music of New Orleans

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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 hear the music.

I went to New Orleans twice in 2012, but it was on my first visit where I listened to the music of New Orleans. 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.

Looking to Stay in New Orleans? Book Your Stay Here.

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.

Frenchman Street in New Orleans.

Frenchman Street in New Orleans.

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. For anyone who loves 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 through 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.
My first trip to New Orleans I did Couchsurfing. The second time my friend and I stayed at the lovely Blake Hotel New Orleans in the CBD. 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 that you can book here.

Have you heard the music of New Orleans?

16 comments on “The Music of New Orleans

  1. Street performance is one thing I think you really just need to wander around and find for yourself. it won’t be the same everytime! We saw solos, pairs, groups, an amazing acapella group… New Orleans was definitely my favourite place for street music.

  2. “Do ya know what it means… to miss New Orleans?”

    You already mentioned it, but Frenchmen is where friends from New Orleans have taken me for reliably good music. Howlin’ Wolf is also I think somewhat popular for live jazz in their little backroom.

    Glad you liked Louisiana!

  3. Laissez la bon ton rouler! I hope you get to visit NOLA for the Jazz Fest – it’s such a great time, all types of music. It is held the last weekend of April and first weekend of May each year.

    Tipitina’s is a must visit club in New Orleans – dedicated to Professor Longhair.
    The Maple Leaf is another decent club.
    Haven’t been to New Orleans in years – must get back again soon!

    • Going for Jazz Fest is definitely on my New Orleans wish list. Actually I probably need to just go to New Orleans a few weeks before Mardi Gras and stay for several months, but then I might not want to leave.

    • It sounds funny, but I can totally see how that’s possible. On my second trip to New Orleans I actually didn’t go to any music clubs. I think it all depends where you’re staying, and what areas of the city you’re visiting.

  4. Love the new blog, Alouise! Congrats! As a Louisiana native- I must say that you should aim for French Quarter Festival in April if you want to hear authentic, indigenous Louisiana music of all varieties. It’s free, outdoors, and it’s our (locals) favorite…. beating out Jazz Fest (but Jazz Fest is pretty epic, too…) I’ve written about it here-
    http://thetraveluster.com/2013/04/french-quarter-festival-in-new-orleans-the-cats-out-of-the-bag/
    Festival International de Louisiane in nearby Lafayette is also pretty amazing (and free): http://thetraveluster.com/2013/04/festival-international-de-louisiane-fall-in-love-with-the-world/
    Yes, Frenchman Street is where it’s AT! Next time you get to NOLA, just hang out there. It’s our favorite for music bar-hopping!
    Let me know the next time you’re heading to NOLA, and I can plan a trip down to meet up with you! I go all the time, since it’s home 🙂

    • Thanks for the info about The French Quarter Festival and the Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette. There are so many things I want to do in New Orleans and Louisiana. Next time I’m there I’ll definitely let you know.

  5. I saw Lagniappe Brass Band on Frenchman Street. I am heading back to NOLA in March (first stop of an 18 month career break!) and can’t wait for Craig to hear the magic. I would love to see a Second Line parade at a wedding.

    • You should check WWOZ’s website. They’re a local radio station and they usually have a list of upcoming events and Second Lines. Enjoy New Orleans. It’s a great city.

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