Picking a great live music venue in New Orleans is like shooting fish in a barrel. Frenchmen Street is the prime example of this notion, due to the sheer number of excellent venues in proximity to one another. However, there’s outstanding clubs all over the city frequented by different types of audiences: neighbors, others who come in specifically to hear a musician or those that go out of their way to check out the venue. Here are some to check out during a visit to New Orleans, hosting stellar local and touring musicians any given night of the week.
1. Allways Lounge – Something’s always going on at the Allways Lounge and Theatre. Allways hosts musicians and theatrical performances (and happenings that undulate between the two). On the small stage, lounge acts range from road-worn, alt-country groups to freshly formed rock bands. The performances staged at the black box theater in the back of the bar are irreverent and over-the-top, especially when it comes to modern takes on classics.
2. BMC – Including BMC (Balcony Music Club) to this list of non-Frenchmen Street venues is suspect because BMC lines the edge of the French Quarter, steps away from Frenchmen Street. I found BMC one afternoon by following the sounds of a brass band through the club’s doors, and was hooked by the energy of the music and vibrancy of a venue that seemed like a non-descript dive bar. BMC comes alive with a strong selection of local acts each month, each set on getting the crowd to dance.
3. Chickie Wah Wah – Chickie Wah Wah’s colorful signage stands out amongst a no-frills section of Canal Street. The music there is carefully curated, so any time you step through the doors you’re sure to hear some of New Orleans’ top talents, such as Meschiya Lake and Paul Sanchez. Although it’s been open for less than a decade, this non-smoking venue feels lived in, warm and inviting.
4. Dos Jefes – Dos Jefes Uptown Cigar Bar is tucked in an unassuming house on Tchoupitoulas street. Like Chickie Wah Wah, Dos Jefes isn’t situated near any other music venues, but you can certainly make a night of going there. The venue specializes in jazz and blues, and the intimate stage surrounded by small tables gives you a chance to see artists at work.
5. Circle Bar – The Circle Bar is situated inside an old mansion that lines Lee Circle. It doesn’t matter that the space makes the layout kind of a squeeze, because you would get to know your neighbor anyway while dancing to the many rock and punk outfits that frequent the venue. Circle Bar often books up-and-coming touring bands that are able to draw at larger venues upon their return to the city. If you recognize someone listed to play there, be sure to check them out before they outgrow this intimate space.