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New Orleans: Live Music Capital of the World



The power of live music to make people happy is on full display at every single New Orleans night club. If listening to bands and vocalists show off their skills is how you like to spend an evening, you'll find that New Orleans does things right. Multiple options let you tap into the classic venues like Preservation Hall, or you can get a taste of the city's offerings by visiting places like One Eyed Jacks, which is known for its eclectic music offerings. While many venues on the local music scene are clustered in the French Quarter area,  terrific places to hear live music can be found throughout New Orleans neighborhoods. Frenchmen Street in the Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans is a must see to catch street music and a diverse line up of clubs. On any night of the week, within a two-block stretch, you can second line down the street with a brass band, catch a reggae groove at Cafe Negril and swing dance at the Spotted Cat. Just across the street, get down with rootsy rock and brass (Anders Osborne, Treme Brass Band) at d.b.a. and at the corner, grunge out at Check Point Charlie's, a serious rock and roll dive where - BONUS you can also do your laundry.


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Banks Street Bar & Grill


Rub elbows with the natives at this diminuitive joint, where funk, blues and rock bands showcase regional talent every night. For a real good deal, come on Monday for free red beans and rice or hit the complimentary oyster bar at 10pm on Thursdays. Every Sunday is spaghetti Western night, with complimentary Italian eats, classic Italian westerns on the tube and live music by the likes of Ron Hotstream & The F-Holes - don't let the name fool you, these guys are pure country. There's no better way to dig into the local scene and you won't ever have to pay a cover.

Recommended for Live Music because: Bank Street is a great neighborhood spot in Mid-City with free live music seven nights a week.

Beth's expert tip: There's a pizza pop-up next door for late night eats in case you get the munchies.

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Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro


You have two options at Snug Harbor, the jazz institution on Frenchmen Street in the Marigny. Sit at the bar and eat - the steaks and burgers are excellent -and watch and list to whoever is performing upstairs on live TV. Or pay the cover charge (it's always worth it) and head upstairs to the intimate little club called the "classiest jazz club in New Orleans" by The New York Times. Snug, which was frequently mentioned in reverential terms on the HBO series Treme, attracts a crowd of avid listeners, so if you ignore the band and chatter, expect to get shushed.

Recommended for Live Music because: Snug is an institution, a place to hear the city's first families of jazz, from the Nevilles to the Marsalis clan.

Beth's expert tip: Most Fridays at Snug Harbor you can catch patriarch Ellis Marsalis and his band in an incredibly intimate setting.

Read more about Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro →


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Riverbend
Rock 'N' Bowl


Live music and bowling? The combination works perfectly for New Orleans' Mid-City Lanes Rock'n'Bowl, the hippest, most happening bowling alley you'll ever see. Music in the styles of zydeco, R&B, swing, jazz and blues rises over the clamor of rolling balls and falling pins. Be sure to check out the city mural by local artist Tony Green, and don't miss Zydeco night every Thursday. An institution since 1993, Rock'n'Bowl changed locations in 2005, taking over a former A&P across from Ye Olde College Inn. Locals still miss the original, but the spirit of Rock'n'Bowl remains the same. Great food and beer on tap.

Recommended for Live Music because: Rock'n'Bowl is how New Orleanians roll, the only live music and bowling spot in town.

Beth's expert tip: Have dinner first at Ye Olde College Inn, the excellent farm-to-table seafood-centric eatery also owned by the Blancher family, just across the parking lot from Rock'n'Bowl.

Read more about Rock 'N' Bowl →


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French Quarter
Preservation Hall


Located in the heart of the French Quarter, Preservation Hall has been providing some of the best traditional New Orleans jazz since 1961. The smoke-free "Hall" is actually a tiny space with simple bench and floor seating, so if you want to get in and have a place to sit, get there early. This is one of the few venues in town that is open to all ages, a plus for families traveling with kids. Operating as a music venue, a touring band, and a non-profit organization, Preservation Hall presents intimate, acoustic New Orleans Jazz concerts some 350 nights a year featuring ensembles drawing from more than 100 local master practitioners. There is no food or drink allowed in the hall and crowds are usually standing room only. Set times are 35 minutes with 10 minute breaks in between.

Recommended for Live Music because: An institution since 1961, The Hall draws an international audience of all ages for an authentic New Orleans jazz experience.

Beth's expert tip: Line up early and be patient with the wait. Enjoy a drink or two in line (fetched from any of the nearby bars) and get ready for something special.

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Joy Theater
Photo courtesy of Maxwell Rasche/This is NOLA.


The Joy is an intimate jewel box venue with great views of the stage anywhere in the house. The restored theater hosts national acts like The Meter Men - featuring George Porter, Jr., with Page McConnell of Phis, comedy, film - an eclectic array of entertainment. Look for This is Nola to kick off again in May. Designed to showcase rising local art and music talent, the free party incorporates food, drink, film, dance, visual art and music. Bands like Hurray for the Riff Raff and Tank and the Bangas keep company with local films, art installations, craft cocktails by various bartenders and for eats, local chefs park food trucks along Canal Street.

Recommended for Live Music because: The Joy is one of a handful of beautifully restored old theaters that hosts national and local music acts.

Beth's expert tip: This Is Nola is a free monthly art/music party that kicks off again in May at the Joy.

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Tipitina's


A hotbed of New Orleans' live music, the original "Tip's" is Uptown, rocking out bebeneath oak trees along the Mississippi River. Tip's helped launch the careers of such artists as the Neville Brothers, Harry Connick Jr., Dr. John and the subdudes. Filling out the performance schedule are major rock 'n' roll acts, emerging local groups of all genres and regional Cajun, zydeco, blues and R&B performers. Clubs come and they go, but there's no place like the original Tip's. Most Sundays you'll find a Cajun jam onstage. Get a shirt, the banana logo will be the envy of all your friends.

Recommended for Live Music because: Tips is a New Orleans classic that should be at the top of every music lovers' list.

Beth's expert tip: Follow Tipitina's on Facebook to get in on the free ticket giveaways they use to promote the club.

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The Spotted Cat
Photo courtesy of New Orleans CVB


While local musicians entertain, patrons chill on comfy couches and sip cocktails at this popular Marigny lounge. The relaxed setting appeals to a mature clientele, and music ranges from New Orleans jazz to swing to klezmer and blues. Early shows appeal to an older crowd, and there's usually no cover, just a one-drink minimum. Although food isn't served there are plenty of places on Frenchmen to nibble if you feel the need. The club recently expanded, offering more elbow room, although finding a seat is still tricky. Spotted Cat was featured frequently on the HBO show Treme, and you might hear The Davis Rogan Band perform - Rogan is the real-life person that the DJ character of Davis was based.

Recommended for Live Music because: This hoppin' spot on Frenchmen Street attracts an eclectic crowd with acoustic gypsy swing jazz music.

Beth's expert tip: There's a terrific night art market just next door, open Wed.-Sun from 7 pm, definitely a must-shop.

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Marigny
d.b.a.


High ceilings, rich brown paneling, and a long, sleek bar adorn this attractive space, housed in an old Marigny building. The bar menu is extensive and the assortment of single malt whiskey will delight even the most discriminating connoisseur. A TV, pool table and pinball machine keep everyone entertained, and a hot lineup of live blues and jazz bands performs nightly. With a massive rotating selection of draft beers on tap and plenty more in the bottles, this Faugbourg Marigny club is a popular haunt with beer drinkers. Cover charges are kept to a minimum for later shows, making this a great place to duck in for a good time.

Recommended for Live Music because: The bar offers live music in an authentic New Orleans setting.

Beth's expert tip: There's rarely a cover if you catch an early show at this Frenchmen Street venue - an early adopter of smoke free entertainment.

Read more about d.b.a. →


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Riverbend
Maple Leaf
Photo courtesy of Maple Leaf


Pressed tin walls and a narrow dance floor are part of the charm of the Maple Leaf. Live bands play genres like straight ahead jazz, Zydeco, rock, blues and funk showcasing the city's best talent. Unannounced sit-ins are not uncommon; Bruce Springsteen once dropped in to jam with The Iguanas and Jon Cleary's band was once joined by his frequent employer, Bonnie Raitt. Because the club is close to both Loyola and Tulane Universities, the Maple Leaf attracts a diverse crowd that includes college students, professors, tourists and hard-core music aficionados. The venue is also one of New Orleans' premier Spoken Word locations. The club has been hosting a Sunday afternoon poetry series for two decades and poets take the mike at 3pm. Call ahead for listings and cover charges.

Recommended for Live Music because: This uptown venue is a classic, one of the best reasons to jump in a cab to hear music.

Beth's expert tip: Tuesdays are legendary at this uptown hot spot, thanks to Rebirth almost always in the house.

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French Quarter
One Eyed Jacks


It's hard to beat the artsy vibe at this indie club. The music offerings are eclectic indeed, with a given week seeing the likes of a glamrock 80s hair band, a nationally touring singer songwriter, burlesque performance art and a film festival. Atmospheric red velvet curtains, gold accents and glitzy chandeliers adorn the interior - think haunted 1920s movie theater and you're getting the drift. The always-crowded front bar leads to the theater-style club in the back where the action takes place. One Eyed Jacks holds up to 400 guests, which makes it one of the most intimate places to catch a national act like The White Stripes.

Recommended for Live Music because: One of the best mid-size venue in town, One Eyed Jacks hosts touring acts, local talent and performance artists including burlesque and body painting shows.

Beth's expert tip: Every Thursday One Eyed Jacks spins an awesome 80s dance party complete with gogo dancers and just $5 to get in.

Read more about One Eyed Jacks →


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Meet Beth D'Addono

Beth D'Addono is a food and travel writer obsessed with flavor, exploring cultures, street music and the city of New Orleans.

Beth writes about New Orleans and other destinations for outlets...  More About Beth

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