Local sounds, Local Performers

00:00 October 24, 2011
By: Emily Hingle
[Where Y'At Staff/Provided Photo]

or a band traveling here from across the globe. Many bands play weekly gigs that attract a loyal local following and appeal to tourists wanting to hear real New Orleans music. Music that doesn't fit in the traditional category, like jazz and brass, don't seem to take many of the regular gig spots. The tourist industry may dictate what kinds of music play more.

Numerous live music clubs fill their nights with bands and musicians that play every week; with the exception of some special events. We even have the longest-playing musician. Lionel Ferbos recently celebrated his 100th birthday and still blows his trumpet with skill weekly at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe. People love to see their favorite gigs like the Soul Rebels Brass Band at Le Bon Temps Roule or Kermit Ruffins at Vaughn's on Thursdays or The Joe Krown Trio on Sundays at Maple Leaf.

Award-winning musician Irvin Mayfield opened the Jazz Playhouse in the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street in 2009 and schedules a regular gig every night of the week. His brand new club in the JW Marriot, IClub, follows the same pattern; lots of jazz, and a little bit of everything else New Orleans. Brandt Vicknair, director of programming for the clubs, states, "Some of the most culturally significant musical artists are right here in our city and we choose to make a sustained investment in those artists' lives." Brandt is proud to serve tourists and showcase our traditional music to them. "We certainly have our regulars, but every week visitors come in from all over the world wanting to experience authentic New Orleans music. It's usually the majority of our audience. As we continue to grow, we're finding more and more locals becoming familiar with our clubs."

Frenchmen Street in the Faubourg Marigny is a thriving corridor of live music that appeals as much to locals as it does to tourists. There are many bars with weekly gigs, but with the addition of a double-layer of shows; regulars will play during the early evening and another weekly band or not regular band plays during the late evening. Many of these clubs also have multiple rooms so bands can play simultaneously. The few blocks offer many choices to the growing crowds that travel the unique strip. High-energy trumpeter Glen David Andrews performs with his band on Mondays at d.b.a. and you can catch the Penthouse Sessions at The Maison featuring the Mario Abney Quartet Wednesdays. The Blue Nile Nightclub, Snug Harbor, and more house great, mostly traditional, music.

Venues that focus on touring bands or local, non-regular gigs cater to genres on that aren't as traditional to the city. The music performed in venues like Siberia, One Eyed Jacks, and House of Blues can range wildly from hip-hop to metal to folk. Some bands that play these clubs, like metal band Goatwhore and surf-punk band The Unnaturals, can perform often and have a sizeable crowd of locals and out-of-town travelers in the city for the night, but still don't have a weekly gig. Several have had the opportunity like the increasingly popular MyNameIsJohnMichael. The namesake of the band claims, "I have been offered weekly gigs and haven't done one solely because we are constantly on the road developing other markets. A weekly [gig] wouldn't suit our touring schedule. When I'm home, I'll often go see Rebirth Brass Band at the Maple Leaf or Hot 8 Brass Band on Sundays. I like being an audience member when it comes to residencies. I'm not sure that I would like the performer side of it."

Bands that have not been offered regular gigs aren't sure if they would say yes either. The Russian-inspired Debauche usually plays to a full room of fans who dance madly as they sing along with the Russian and Eastern European folk music. Founder Yegor Romantsov says, "We try to do a monthly show at Hi Ho Lounge, you know, do Russian parties where we make borsht and honey pepper vodka, but it's more like a local thing. If I do weekly shows at d.b.a. where you have tourists all the time, fucking hell, I'd be making money." Yegor hints that having a weekly gig may be too structured to be pleasurable. "I don't want to be that type of band. It's always about having fun. I'm having fun doing it, people are having fun listening to it."

Jazz, brass, and other traditional New Orleans music have more regular gigs. Even though rock, rap, and every other genre have their adamant followers, weekly slots don't seem to be happening. It may be the nature of the genre that doesn't allow it to have a regular show. Genres may be enjoyed in a certain way historically. Young people looking to break away from jazz piled into the rock 'n roll Mecca, The Warehouse. The huge venue brought now legendary rock bands to New Orleans; Black Sabbath, The Allman Brothers, and The Doors, who played their final show there, to name just a few. The audience would simply watch the band intently, waving arm, swaying, and nodding to the beat. Rock and other music performances are still enjoyed in this way. Yet, it's customary to dance with a partner or in a group for jazz, brass, and more traditional music. Regardless, whatever kind you crave, and however you enjoy it, music is meant to be experienced live.

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