Sep 21 2012

A Tour of "Treme"

By: Phil LaMancusa

The third season of HBO’s series "Treme," which premieres on Sunday, Sept. 23, is bringing viewers up to New Orleans 2007. David Simon, Eric Overmyer and their staff of writers and actors are once again showing the meat and bones of the Crescent City. They continue to reiterate that it’s not a documentary while we continue to respond, “yeah, right.”

To be frank, few people that haven’t been bitten by our culture bug really get "Treme:" the food; the music; our propensity for drinking in a variety of bars depending on the day. This city, our city, continues to rebuild; our stories continually need telling; no place better than in the music halls and barrooms of our neighborhoods. The first two seasons of "Treme" spotlighted those in abundance; so abundantly that now, "Treme" enthusiasts compare notes amongst themselves as to which places they can identify and have frequented along with comparisons of where the characters' stories were influenced.

We absorbed the first season where Chief Albert Lambreaux (Clark Peters) found shelter in the abandoned Poke’s Bar (Second and S. Liberty) and LaDonna Batiste-Williams (Khandi Alexander) kept Gigi’s lounge open (Bean Bros on Third and Danneel); we saw Chef Janette Desautel (Kim Dickens) gamely attempting some al fresco cooking at Bacchanal (600 Poland Ave.); and we watched Creighton Bernette (John Goodman) have his last meal at Liuzza’s By The Track (1518 N. Lopez St.).

We witnessed the deaths of Harley Watt (Steve Earle) and Danny Nelson (Deacon John Moore) on the television, as we mourn the real time deaths of Coco Robicheaux and Uncle Lionel Batiste; so it goes.

Wandering the French Quarter, the bars and music venues are often similar for the "Treme" folks; the exception being Preservation Hall (726 St. Peter St.), which opened in 1961 with a mission to preserve and honor New Orleans Jazz music, where you will find the basic root music of our city without frills or amenities. We note, however, that from Chickie Wah Wah (2828 Canal St.) to Vaughan’s (4229 Dauphine St.) to Tipitina’s (501 Napoleon Ave.) the denominators become strikingly common: hot music under warm lights, just enough room to dance and, of course, ice cold drinks. Local musicians reign, and everyone is strange but not a stranger.

In the Quarter, you can hasten to The House of Blues (225 Decatur St.) to catch the bigger acts; then spiral over to Pirates Alley Café where the crowd spills outward and back to Howlin’ Wolf at 907 S. Peters St. where the gang squeezes inward. All three venues play live music into the dead of night.

One Eyed Jacks (615 Toulouse St.) – where raucous and rowdy red velour meets Goth parlor bar – is in a space that at one time was one of the French Quarter’s movie theaters. It now plays host to touring rock acts, burlesque shows, lady arm-wrestling bouts and a Thursday Fast Times ‘80s night.

You’ll need your GPS to find Bullet’s Sports Bar at 2441 A. P. Tureaud Ave. in the Seventh Ward, but get there on Tuesday night; Kermit Ruffins is bound to be there and it’s “All Aboard!” Make sure that you carry the number for United Cab (522-9771) and avoid gypsy taxis that might not know exactly where you’re/they’re going as the meter ticks to their advantage.

For ease of “Treme” series venue hopping, you may find it more convenient to just get your butt down to Frenchmen Street to spend the evening. At Snug Harbor (626 Frenchmen St.), you can catch Ellis Marsalis on Fridays, Charmaine Neville on Mondays and other great local musicians every other night; they have an extensive dinner menu as well. Just across the street at Spotted Cat Music Club (623 Frenchmen St.), you can catch The Jazz Vipers, Meschiya Lake and her Little Big Horns, and perhaps the Pfister Sisters. A little further down on Frenchmen at d.b.a. (618 Frenchmen St.), you can enjoy music from the Treme Brass Band, Walter “Wolfman” Washington or other very local musicians. The Apple Barrel hosts local musicians as well, so stop in and drink a Sauza Reposado tequila shaken over ice in remembrance of Coco Robicheaux. There are other fine bars and restaurants with music along the Frenchmen street scene that will keep you busy into the night; and you’ll be glad that you made it. For instance you may catch Tom McDermott or the real Davis Rogan at the bar of the Three Muses (536 Frenchmen St.) where chef Daniel Esses delivers “foodgasms” while the mighty Glenn David Andrews dishes up his unique brand of “eargasms” on stage.

Le Bon Temps Roulé at 4801 Magazine St. is a local watering hole by day and a world famous music club by night with a variety of genres. Pool tables and a limited bar food menu will keep you occupied until the music starts around 10 p.m.; definitely a testimony to late night revelers, no matter the time of year.

Or, if you’re like me, just jet up to the Columns Hotel, book yourself a room and spend the evening drinking, dancing and grooving to live music. Breakfast, Sunday brunch, lunch and dinner are served, and they’re known for their full bar and friendly servers.

Now, what you’re asking is: what does “Treme” have in store for the third season? Well, I’m asking that same question. I hear the The Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone figures big as well, as others real and imagined. One thing for sure, you can bet that I’ll be glued to my neighbor’s couch on Sunday nights to peep out which places will be on my “must go to” list to check out. I hope to see Ms. Mae’s, Hank’s, Teddy’s Hole in the Wall or even Dorothy’s lounge. Maybe little People’s Place or Mother-in-law lounge; whatever, I’m ready to take my turkey and trot; how about y’all?

If you didn't catch it, the September issue of Where Y'at Magazine featured Wendell Pierce from "Treme," and he shared a few teasers about Season 3. Find it online at WhereYat.com

Crescent City Culture