Disclaimer: This first post in a series of posts on New Orleans will be full of clichés, generalizations and broad statements. When I travel I have what I call the 24 hours rule. This means that for 24 hours I get to do all the tacky, touristy stuff a first time visitor usually does. Once I get accommodated to my surroundings and talk to the locals, I search out the real, authentic feel of a city.
So here I am, in the Big Easy, the Crescent City, Nola, New Orleans or as the local call it, Nawlins! The birthplace of it all, jazz! This is it my friends! Without New Orleans there would be no Northern Soul, RnB, Ska or even Rock. So it’s only natural for a dedicated Mod to be attracted to this place. It’s a pilgrimage of some sort, a return to the roots. It’s a way to pay tribute to the originators of the music we all love and give homage to the city that saw it rise.
Although the brothels of Basin St. in the Storyville neighborhood, where the music originated, don’t exist anymore, the sound of jazz music permeates from every pore of the city. It’s a music lovers dream! You can hear jazz, blues, ragtime, swing, soul, from every street corner, bar, café, souvenir shop or laundromat in the French Quarter. It’s even hard to escape it! But this why I came. I wanted to immerse myself in the culture.
As a French Canadian, I feel right at home here. The obvious French footprint can be seen everywhere, in the street names, the food and most importantly, the attitude. It’s that laissez faire demeanor that makes this city unique. Well, any city that will let you drink beer in the streets at 4 o’clock in the morning is my kind of city!
So for my first night, I wanted to see if I could find a place that played live ‘60s soul. With so many venues that play live music in the city, the task was daunting. But the waiter at the Market Café came through for us. He suggested we check out the Blues Club on Bourbon Street. Yes, the legendary Bourbon Street in the historical French Quarter! Although the locals regard it as a big tourist trap, I thought I would tempt my chance.
It ended up being a real cool place. Once you navigated through the drunken college students, howling and stumbling in the street, a big blue neon sign pointed the way.
Inside the joint, everything you would expect, a smoke filled room full of ambiance. When we came in, Jimmy Hicks was finishing his set. He’s a 73 years old master of the blues. From the little I heard, I was convinced, right of the bat, to by a cd from him. He was nice enough to autograph it for me.
A half a dozen acts followed him. We heard a great selection of the classics such as: Sam & Dave, Al Green, Wilson Picket and Aretha. We even got to see Troy Turner play, the nephew of Ike and Tina. He certainly has some of that Turner magic in his blood.
Another musician worth mentioning was the former guitarist from Gladys Knight and The Pips. Although he was very talented, let me be skeptical about him having played with The Pips. He seemed awfully young to have played with the legendary band.
Aside from the self proclaimed “soul man of New Orleans” who kept asking us to say Hey! every 30 seconds, I enjoyed every second. This a great start to a week here. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.