Having just come back from by sixth New Orleans Jazz Fest, I have a few suggestions for good places to hear good music in NOLA:
Your friend is right, the best concentration of "real", non-touristy music is on Frenchmen Street. 2-3 blocks of small clubs (as well as street musicians) in the Marigny just outside the lower French Quarter. Basically walk all the way up Decatur (away from the Louisiana Music Factory, which is an amazingly good store and definitely a must visit) and after you cross over Esplanade and pass Checkpoint Charlies (which might be blaring punk or blues, who knows), you'll be at the beginning of Frenchmen Street.
Lots of good clubs there, many of which can just be popped in and out of (The Blue Nile, The Spotted Cat, The Apple Barrel, dba, etc. etc) with relatively small covers. A lot of them have already made an appearance on Treme. The only one that's likely to be hard to get into is The Snug Harbor which often has people like Ellis Marsalis and is small enough that it can sell out, so advance tix may be needed.
There's rumors that there is some good music on Bourbon Street, but I've never experienced it--Bourbon Street mostly feels like one giant frat party for tourists and most of the music is about what one would expect to hear at a giant frat party. There are a couple of clubs that claim to be jazz oriented, but I've found the whole street such a turnoff (except for sociological observation) that I've never investigated those places. One such club has a big sign about how it is "Dedicated to the Preservation of Jazz"--don't be deceived (as is obviously the intent) that this is Preservation Hall--Preservation Hall is about a block off Bourbon on St. Peters and *very* different from what's going on on Bourbon Street.
There are other good places for music in the French Quarter, the Palm Court Jazz Cafe, Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse (at the Royal Sonesta) etc, but they're not those rowdy college places on Bourbon.
Other good places for music that aren't in the Quarter aren't necessarily in walking distance of the Quarter, unlike Frenchmen Street. For example The Maple Leaf in Uptown not far from Tulane is a terrific smallish, sweaty club with a great vibe--more than one live album's been recorded there. http://mapleleafbar.com/
The Rock'n'Bowl is a bigger place in the same general area of New Orleans (though not really walking distance from the Maple Leaf). Last year it moved from its original 1941 bowling alley, but they still have bowling and it's still a great place to see all sorts of Louisiana music, Zydeco night on Thursday Night can be especially fun, but much of the music is excellent: http://www.rockandbowl.com/
Tipitana's Uptown was originally put together as a place for Professor Longhair to play (hence the name) and they tend to have a variety of New Orleans funk etc, though there's many nights there's no music there now: http://www.tipitinas.com/
There's a lot of other clubs scattered around the city, that can have great music (Vaughn's where Kermit Ruffins plays Thursday nights, Chickie Wah Wah, Donna's, etc) though they can be remote and/or not necessarily in the safest neighborhoods. A good source for info on NOLA music and club listings is the quite good Offbeat Magazine: http://www.offbeat.com/ which you can pick up on paper once you're in the city (at the Louisiana Music Factory, if you can't find it elsewhere).
Another good source of what's going on in New Orleans music as well as a great place to hear New Orleans music, sometimes pretty obscure, of many genres, old and new, is WWOZ, a terrific, idiosyncratic community radio station significantly funded by New Orleans Jazz Fest, http://www.wwoz.org/ If you want to listen to it on the Internet (and I'd recommend it) I've noticed that the 128K feed that comes through iTunes sounds better than the other feeds I've tried--it's under Radio->Jazz on iTunes.
If you have a chance to check out some of the modern funky brass bands, such as Rebirth, I'd highly recommend it. Not much like it outside of New Orleans (except those imitating the New Orleans form). And the Treme series is truly excellent as both film/television and music: many great local musicians playing live for the filming, as well as a terrific soundtrack that can be found listed each week on the HBO Treme web site.
Hope this is helpful,
[log in to unmask]
On May 8, 2010, at 2:45 PM, Cary Ginell wrote:
> I know someone who lives in New Orleans and she says that the best music for us non-touristos can be found on Frenchmen Street, on the northern border of the FQ. I'll see if I can get some more detailed information from her. I thought you weren't going to make it to ARSC, Sam.
> Cary Ginell
>> Date: Sat, 8 May 2010 13:51:30 -0400
>> From: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Suggestions for NOLA
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Thanks for sharing this, Steve.
>> Anyone who is watching the tremendous Treme series on HBO has noted
>> the mild disdain the musicians in the series have for Bourbon Street
>> venues and “playing for tourists.” I’m sure that there’s plenty of
>> good music to be heard on the street. You've sent some here. I’d
>> appreciate, too, some more tips on non-French Quarter, or other off
>> the beaten track, bars or clubs to hear blues, R ‘n’ B, or jazz.
> The New Busy think 9 to 5 is a cute idea. Combine multiple calendars with Hotmail.