Everyone’s heard of Bourbon Street. The beads, the balconies, the booze, the boobs — the street is a world all its own. So of course that was the first place Reuben and I headed after settling into our room at a nearby bed-and-breakfast. We hit the street at 10:30pm, and it was pretty tame. By 2am, I could barely absorb all the craziness I’d seen, heard, and smelled that night. It was an experience worthy of a post all its own.
But not this one. This post is about a lesser-known street, but one that is much more our style–Frenchman Street–and the fabulous time we spent there at a club called “Maison.”
Now, for someone who knows me well, it would come as no surprise that I would be drawn to a venue with a French name and located literally on French(man) street, but it was actually Reuben who was first compelled to explore the place. He’d heard it has more live jazz and blues than the dance-party infused Bourbon Street, and that it’s the place where the locals go for music. He heard right.
Frenchman Street was also not far from where we were staying, so we walked there on our second night in New Orleans. We passed by a club or two requiring a cover charge, which we were perplexed by since we’d already learned enough about the city to know that there is abundant and incredible music for free all around. So it wasn’t long before we entered the cover-free Maison.
That first night at the club, we discovered the Young Fellaz Brass Band. Their name is a pretty good description — they’re a group of young guys who (with the exception of the drummer) skip the vocals and focus entirely on their brass. Calling them talented wouldn’t do them justice — they are explosive! I wondered how their lungs could produce such a booming sound without bursting. And in the case of the trumpeter in the photo up top, I wondered the same about his cheeks.
But while it was a near-deafening sound, it was also a harmonious and rhythmic one. The kind of sound that makes it impossible to remain in your seat, and once you stand you can’t help but clap and wave your arms and dance.
We stayed there for hours and the musicians never seemed to tire. Neither did we tire of hearing their tunes.
We returned to the Maison once more during our trip, this time happening upon open mic night. Now, I’ve been to open mic nights where we live, and it’s nice to hear some live music from various artists. But you can’t even compare it to what we found in New Orleans. It should really be called open mics, plural, because instead of taking turns the musicians simply joined whoever was already onstage, flowing seamlessly into their songs and styles.
It was one of the best bands I’d ever heard–that open mic night–and the emcee told us these guys didn’t even know each other and had never played together before. I was astounded that strangers could make such mesmerizing sounds together.
Here’s a preview: Part 3 of this series will tell the tale of “Mr. New Orleans,” who briefly kidnapped the stage at open mic night. But, for now, here’s my double vision experience #2.
On Tuesday I had an afternoon to myself and took a stroll around the French Quarter. I was drawn to the beat of energetic music I could hear nearby in front of the cathedral. As I approached I found the cheeks that still hadn’t burst, and the tuba that proved the invigorating band from Maison was giving me a street performance. I sat longer than any of the other tourists on the steps in front of the church, listening to the Young Fellaz blast their songs in the open air. I ate some pralines and drank some sweet iced tea, then I took a lot of pictures. It was a good day.