One thing that New Orleans is famous for is the variety and quality of music that originates there. Granted, the French Quarter is still under assault by the dance clubs that just seem to want to play Lady Gaga noise or bad cover bands trying to re-do Skynard's Sweet Home Alabama, but there's still a ton of great Jazz, Blues and some Zydeco music to be enjoyed. Some of it comes from strictly amateur but still great sidewalk musicians like these guys who play on the corner of Bourbon Street and Canal most nights.They may look like a bunch of kids, but they play fantastic jazz, and they do it while fending off drunks and hustlers and trying to keep the traffic on the street flowing. (If the traffic gets obstructed--even by the audience--the police shut them down.) Their horn section in particular packs a punch.
Then there's the band that gathers in Jackson Square in the daytime. It may range from half a dozen members to twenty or more, and I've even seen a piano on wheels brought in to accompany the horns and drums. Like the kids above, they play for tips, and seem to do pretty well because they're good.
And then there's even groups like these guys we saw on Royal Street, who are clearly getting into the Halloween spirit.
But the music's inside, too. And it's everywhere. Most places on or near Bourbon Street have some sort of sound coming out of it.
A welcome surprise was the piano player at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop.
Normally I go by this bar to show people who have never seen it because of it's history. Built in 1772--when America was still a collection of thirteen British colonies and Louisiana was a French possession--it was reputed to have been the front for pirate Jean Lafitte and his smuggling and slave-trading enterprises. Today, it's a bar (one of the oldest in North America) and it's lit solely by candles inside, in keeping with it's history. Over the years, I've dropped in frequently simply because the darkened interior allows one to sneak in and make use of the bathrooms without the formality of actually being a customer.
They've always had a piano player, but in my opinion they've never had a good one until now.
A dynamite singer and piano player named Mike Hood plays in there now a few nights a week, and he's got a way of taking a song and making it his own with a style that's kind of a combination of Dr. John, Professor Longhair, and the Rolling Stones. He sure knows how to rock that piano, and he's worth seeing if you're down there. My only complaint: He wouldn't do "Free Bird" no matter how many times I yelled it out.
Oh, and Mike...Just a suggestion: Think about losing the Myspace page and getting a real website. It'll be worth it, believe me.
And after a few (or more) Vodka drinks, Nicki was definitely making friends with random strangers and having a good time.