The Crescent City, The Big Easy, The City That Care Forgot, Nawlins and NOLA all nicknames for New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans is arguably the birthplace of Jazz. And if not the birthplace of Jazz itself, it’s definitely the birthplace of some of Jazz’s most recognizable names. Dr. John, Sidney Bechet, Louis Prima, Professor Longhair and Louis Armstrong all were born around NOLA. Until you visit The Big Easy, you can’t understand how music could be such a part of a community’s identity. New Orleans sweats music. Not just the Jazz, the Blues oozes as well. Consider Bourbon Street, I find this a “Been there, done that” experience. Over priced drinks and huge crowd’s line this street at all times throughout the year. Although, when you walk down Bourbon Street, you can hear the music pour out onto the street. Jazz, Blues, and Rock and Roll rub you all over.
The last Thursday evening this past September, if you had a chance to get away from the dirt and grime of Bourbon Street, and walk your way down the banks of the Mississippi, you would find Frenchman St. With bars like: DBA, Maison, The Spotted Cat, Three Muses all playing live New Orleans Jazz. One can spend an entire afternoon/evening sipping on their favorite drink of choice. All while listening to this amazing music. All that New Orleans Jazz music normally will be accompanied by the local Lindy Hop community. That particular Thursday evening in September, you’d also get to watch Lindy Hoppers from all over the world dance the evening away.
New Orleans has become host to a Lindy Hop dance festival known as ULHS or the Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown. ULHS ran from Thursday, September 27th, through Monday, October 1st with Tuesday, October 2nd being the famed baseball game between the “Dancers” and the “Musicians.” Dancers from as far away as Sweden & Korea fly to NOLA to attend this once a year event. The party started Thursday at 6pm withMiss Sophie Lee at the Spotted Cat, the place was packed. It felt like the Reservoir Lounge on a Saturday night. The Spotted Cat is just slightly bigger then the dance floor at the Rez. At 7:30 it was time to see Luke Winslow King at the Three Muses. I walked over, and realized that I wasn’t getting in. There was a line up outside. Off to DBA, this writer’s favorite bar on Frenchman St. I listened to some live music, drank a couple of beers and then it was time for dinner.
One thing you need to know about NOLA, is that with the good music, come’s good food. Coop’s Place on Decatur St, is a hole in the wall, but has some of the best Fried Chicken and Jambalaya Supreme you’ll ever eat. As the food in New Orleans can be just as good as the music, I’ll keep it short. Places to eat: Coop’s, Yo Mama’s & Felipe’s.
10pm marked my return to Frenchman St. This time I headed to a bar called Maison. Upstairs, I got treated to Shotgun Jazz band who has a lead singer with a voice that reminded me of Tegan from Tegan & Sara. Completely different styles, but I’m a sucker for a raspy sounding female singer. After the band finished their sets, a DJ took over and the party kept going all night. I got back to the hotel at 3am.
For me the rest of ULHS played out similarly to Thursday. ULHS has events and contests that you can watch through the day at various locations. The French Market was a sponsor. You could find the preliminary rounds of the contests there. I chose to walk around NOLA. In the French Quarter you can find some of the most interesting shops. My trip was spent walking around the quarter during the day and dancing at night. Friday night, I got to listen to Smoking Time Jazz Club at the Wax Museum and then Miss Sophie Lee & Marla Dixon at the Old US Mint. Saturday & Sunday went the same way; Tourist by day, Dancer by Night.
Saturday night err Sunday Morning, a Toronto dancer won a ULHS contest. At the Old US Mint during the first band break, there was an Endurance competition. Dance until you drop. Kevin Bacon (aka Phil Bourassa) didn’t drop, winning it with his partner from Montreal.
I could go on and on about the things that you can do in New Orleans, The experience’s I’ve had, but what’s the fun in that? You need to discover NOLA for yourself. So book a hotel and head to Bourbon Street, because once you get dirtied there, you’ll realize that might have been the cleanest you’re going to get.
Hotels: Stay in the French Quarter. If cost is a concern, try either on Canal or in the Warehouse District. I’ve heard that if you stay in the Warehouse District, you shouldn’t walk there at night alone. I’ve never had any problems, but to be safe budget for taxi’s if you’re traveling alone. Travel in groups should be fine. There are a few Hotels right across from the Casino in the Warehouse District, you can transit through the casino and exit at your hotel. Cost: $$$-$$$$
Food: Anything and Everything $$-$$$$
Travel: I’ll let you book your own flights, but a Taxi for 1-2 will Cost $42 from the Airport, 3+ is $14each, a shuttle is $20 and the local bus is $2 bucks just watch on Sunday’s when you have to connect.