More Than Just Jazz
Music is the heartbeat of New Orleans and the number one driver of visitors to the Crescent City. Although known primarily as the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans draws musicians of all genres and skill levels, making for a much richer gumbo of musical offerings. Nowhere is this more evident than on the outskirts of the French Quarter on Frenchmen Street, located in the 7th Ward of New Orleans in its historic Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. Here live-music clubs stand side by side.
Watch revelers and music lovers dance in and out of their doors, taking in all the sounds the city has to offer.
Brass bands are an integral part of New Orleans culture and dominate several clubs in the city. On Frenchmen Street there are several venues to hear and see live brass bands. Down at the corner where Frenchmen Street meets Decatur and Esplanade avenues, are two high profile venues frequented by brass bands and their loyal fans. The Dragon’s Den straddles both Frenchmen Street and Esplanade Avenue and draws a diverse crowd eager for live music and other entertaining shows. With three different rooms, the club hosts brass bands, jazz trios, burlesque dancers and DJs. This combination of musical genres makes the venue a favorite among locals.
At that same Faubourg Marigny junction you will find another club that hosts several brass and funk bands, making this corner a not-to-miss spot. Vaso New Orleans may list itself as a jazz club, but it offers a wide range of music, plus DJs. Though there’s plenty of seating and food available, more people spend time on their feet dancing at this club.
Across the street at the corner of Decatur and Esplanade is the Balcony Music Club (BMC), hosting jazz and blues, salsa and rock bands every night of the week. Beyond the mashup of music, BMC is continually praised for its laid-back attitude and excellent staff. With a balcony and a patio, this club is great for those who want to step outside to people-watch.
New Orleans draws musicians of all genres and skill levels
Balconies make any club extra special. The Blue Nile, further up Frenchmen Street, has a spacious balcony perfect for watching live music, street performances and people. It was the first club on the block to offer live music and hosts brass bands, funk bands and major headliners such as Kermit Ruffins, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and the Soul Rebels Brass Band. Housed in a historic building from the 1830s, this two-story fun house has an eclectic mix of local and international bands playing both upstairs and down.
Also attracting major headliners and major crowds is The Maison, another great Frenchmen Street club. With ample room to sit and dine and watch a show or hit the dance floor, The Maison is a popular destination for locals and visitors who want quality music, food and atmosphere. Jazz, funk and brass bands take turns on the stage at this venue. Reservations aren’t necessary here, but recommended for those who want a prime table by the stage.
On the same side of the street, music lovers can catch soul, R&B, funk and more brass band music at d.b.a. With an expansive beer and cocktail list, connoisseurs of fine adult beverages flock to this venue for its alcoholic offerings and stay for the excellent music. With a warm, woodsy interior, the room is a favorite among many musicians and it’s seen its share of top names hit the stage including Gatemouth Brown and Stevie Wonder.
Though it sticks to mostly jazz ensembles, Snug Harbor has long been the anchor of Frenchmen Street and hosts some of the very top players in the country including many of the world renowned Marsalis family. No trip to Frenchmen should be complete without a stop at Snug Harbor.
Across the street at the Apple Barrel folks will find an intimate setting whose vibe belongs to some of the area’s most talented musicians. Singer-songwriters, country, folk, rock and everything in between fill the cozy room throughout the week. For musician Vic Shepherd, the Apple Barrel is ideal for playing music that allows him to connect with audiences who want something a little different.
“It’s one of my favorite rooms to play in,” says Shepherd.
The mix of styles and rhythms is unique to this city
Shepherd plays with musicians who cross all genres and ages and can often be found playing in several clubs on Frenchmen Street. It’s the camaraderie and comfort in so many styles that allows musicians to play together in such a wide variety of bands and styles. It’s also what makes the music scene in New Orleans so rich and interesting, a mix of styles and rhythms unique to this city.