Down New Orleans Way: Part III

Down New Orleans Way: Part III
July 13, 2009
By Destah Owens
Urban Thought Collective

Finally, the final chapter of my first post-Katrina trip to New Orleans! Catch up on the story here.

I could talk about food in this city for months and it pains me to have to short change must sees like Mulate’s, Cafe Du Monde, or Pat O’Brien’s, but I’d be remiss not to give at least a cursory mention to the rich music scene in this legendary town. Know this about Bourbon Street. It is livelier on Monday night or any other night than most places are on Friday or Saturday night and one big reason is the music. Oh sure, you can get a hurricane to knock you on your tail (Pat O’s perhaps) but you’ll hear so much good music from so many different bands that you’ve never heard of, from so many different musical genres that you’ll wonder why you ever pay to see any of the big names when they come to your town.

For the last 10 years, the Big Easy has had the obligatory House of Blues that most every major metropolis has now. In addition, old standbys like Tipitina’s are a great place to catch a regular performance by the Neville Brothers. The great thing about Bourbon Street and The French Quarter in general is that you need not be very formal about anything. You can literally pop in and out of just about any open bar from which you hear live music being played and dance or just listen free of cover charge. And there are many to choose from, most being literally next door to one another. I dipped into Maison Bourbon, recognizing it from an old postcard that I had with Louis Armstrong parading in front of it and was put at ease by the smooth sounds of the Jamil Sharif Quintet as well as the painted sign on the wall that read simply: Dedicated to the Preservation of Jazz.

I said I didn’t want to spend too much time talking about Bourbon Street so I’ll quickly change to one of my favorite “must-see” spots over in the Uptown district. The Maple Leaf is one of those places that you’d probably speed right past if you didn’t know any better. It doesn’t look like much (on the inside or outside) other than an old, beat down bar (its like that abandoned house where Brad Pitt and Edward Norton lived in Fight Club)on a street that seems to always be under some major renovation. But believe me when I tell you that the pot-hole ridden Oak Street POPS! It might seem ironic that THIS place has a small cover charge ($5-$10) but you won’t be disappointed. A very funky group called Groovesect was holding court on this visit, as people of varying ages and nationalities danced to the syncopated funky rhythms and blues emanating from the saxophone and guitar, bass, and congas based rhythm section being anchored by a hammond b-3 organ. These guys were great, but if you can arrange your trip to be in town at “the Leaf”on a Tuesday, you’ve got to check out the Rebirth Brass Band. I remember my first Rebirth show in this intimate setting the way that I remember the first time I got a late night call from my boys to hurry down and see this new group called the Roots. They are THAT good. Between sets, step outside to enjoy some “real nawlin’s food” at Jacque-imo’s (who was barbecueing in the street this time and was serving up boiled crawfish on the sidewalk last time I was down on Oak Street) or into the studio/gallery across the street featuring the very colorful and musically inspired works of artist Frenchy.

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