Intimate, public and in your face

“Are you witness? We are all witness!” I could easily be in a gospel church. The preacher has converted even the most sceptical among the congregation.  But this is the Blue Nile on Frenchman Street, my third venue of the evening – more of which later. 

The evening begins, though, in an altogether different setting. Whils most of New Orleans shouts about itself in the street, The Foundation Room whispers – at least on a Tuesday evening for the Songwriter Sessions. Three acoustic performers entertain a small crowd. It’s small because to get in here you have to be on the guest list, or dining  in the adjacent restaurant. As such, you get a personal service from the moment the concierge directs you to the golden lift and an intriguing corridor to the main room.

It’s a world away from the bawdy Bourbon Street and, as such, attracts an appreciative audience who are here just for the music.

The songs are as varied as the artists themselves – ranging from good old fashioned break up tunes (always a good start if you’re stuck for a lyric) to The Ballad of Sputnik Monroe – a white wrestler who made his name in the 1950s by mixing segregated audiences during his fights in Memphis.

There’s rather less intimacy in BMC – the Balcony Music Club near the French Market – but some great traditional jazz music from the Dapper Dandies.

BMC works to a passing crowd, many of whom are on their way to the much busier Frenchman Street. Here, bands typically play for a couple of hours before another takes over. The time honoured “No cover charge!” cry is made by the door staf, though you’re expected to pay via the tip bucket – which comes around with alarming regularity. My own tip, give a dollar here, a dollar there.  It soon adds up.

And  so to the Blue Nile, tonight transformed into a Church of Funk by Water Seed. This band is all about the show – dancers, gyrating brass players, a talented jazz flute player, and a singer with one of the highest musical registers I’ve heard. The show is memorable and the crowd can’t help but dance.

Ever a city of contrasts, night like these remind me why I can’t stay away from New Orleans.

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