April 6, 2018
Where to Hear Live Music in Louisiana
Posted by: Mae Mayeux
Louisiana is famous for many things: bayous, Mardi Gras, crawfish, jambalaya, French architecture, and its enchanting Creole culture, to name but a few. However, perhaps its most famous contribution to the world is its music. Louisiana boasts a rich and diverse musical history that has been shaped by a thriving mix of African, Spanish, French, English, and Native American influences. From swinging jazz in New Orleans to infectious Cajun beats in in the Southwest, a trip across this state promises to be a truly invigorating musical journey. Here are our tips on what live music to see in Louisiana and where to see it.
New Orleans is considered the birthplace of jazz. No trip to the city is complete without hearing some of its iconic music played live. Usually, it’s pretty easy. Just walk down any street in the French Quarter and you will likely hear it coming from a street corner or club. Its swinging, stomping sound will make even the most wary of listeners want to get up and dance. Frenchmen Street offers the most concentrated number of jazz clubs, but you can hear jazz being played in all corners of the city. Before you head to a club, try visiting the Jazz Museum to learn a bit of history.
- Fritzel’s European Jazz Club: This Bourbon Street institution has been showcasing authentic New Orleans Jazz since 1969. With its eccentric German-inspired decor and intimate setting, Fritzel’s is a pleasant oasis away from the craziness of Bourbon Street.
- The Spotted Cat: At the Spotted Cat, you’ll not only hear world-class jazz but all types of music: gypsy swing, blues, and Latin. This is one of New Orlean’s quintessential jazz clubs and it can get packed. Come early and be prepared to dance the night away.
- Blue Nile Music Club: This funky and intimate music venue hosts an eclectic range of local, national, and international acts every night of the week on its two stages, one upstairs and one facing the street. It is a great place to go if you’d rather hear blues, soul, brass, or funk, but many people go to hear their famous jazz musicians as well.
- Jazz Playhouse: The Jazz Playhouse proudly showcases some of the best local jazz talents, including The James River Movement, Michael Watson’s The Alchemy, Luther Kent, and Glen Davis Andrews. They host shows seven nights a week with no cover charge. With its swank, upscale setting, we recommend this venue if you want a more refined music experience with great food and cocktails.
- Maple Leaf Bar: Since 1974, the Maple Leaf has been one of the most beloved jazz institutions in the city. Many up-and-coming local musicians and bands have gotten their start at the Maple Leaf. It has also been immortalized by many successful New Orleans writers.
- Snug Harbor: Snug Harbor is the oldest Jazz Club on Frenchmen Street. It is regularly voted the best jazz club in the city, as much for the music it plays as the delicious Creole-inspired cuisine it serves in its dining room.
- Preservation Hall: Operating since 1961, Preservation is the cornerstone of the local jazz scene. 350 nights out of the year, you can hear traditional New Orleans jazz played by talented masters in an intimate, history-filled setting.
Cajun & Zydeco
If you come to Louisiana, don’t just limit yourself to the jazz scene. The state is home to many thriving musical cultures outside of New Orleans, especially Cajun and Zydeco. Cajun music features accordion and fiddle and is largely inspired by French-speaking ballads. Zydeco is similar to Cajun music but relies more heavily on blues, R&B, and indigenous Creole beats. To get a taste of these authentic Louisiana musical forms, try:
- Blue Moon Saloon: Located in Lafayette, the Blue Moon Saloon showcases Cajun & Zydeco performers as well as roots music, honky tonk, and renowned acts from all around the world.
- Randol’s: Also in Lafayette, Randol’s has been providing the good people of Lafayette with delicious food and foot-tapping tunes for over 35 years. Deeply rooted in Cajun culture and traditions, Randol’s believes that good food and good music are good for the soul.
- Miller’s Zydeco Hall of Fame: Many consider Miller’s the center of the Zydeco universe. A traditional dancehall with low-ceilings and a no-frills, anything-goes attitude, Miller’s is the place to go if you are looking for a good time.
- Buck and Johnny’s: Come to Buck and Johnny’s for the food. Stay for the live music. Located in Breaux Bridge, Buck and Johnny’s serves up delicious, locally sourced Italian dishes with a Cajun twist. They are also famous for the Zydeco breakfast, where you can enjoy classics like biscuits & gravy, beignets, “Cajun swamp rice,” and a variety of egg dishes. It might just be the best breakfast in Louisiana. They also host live music almost every night.
- Fred’s Lounge: Fred’s Lounge in Mamou is only open from 9am until 1pm on Saturdays. Despite the early wake-up call, it is always guaranteed to be a party. With its tasty Bloody Mary’s and stomping Cajun music, everyone at Fred’s gets up and dances no matter the hour. It is the type of authentic Louisiana joint you won’t find anywhere else.
In a state as music-obsessed as Louisiana, it only makes sense that it is home to many world-class music festivals. The most famous, of course, is the Jazz & Heritage Fest in New Orleans. People from all over the world travel to New Orleans to celebrate the historic art form in the city that invented it. This year’s festival lasts from April 27th until May 6th and is one of the most acclaimed jazz festivals in the nation. Jazz Fest certainly attracts some of the best jazz musicians around the world, but it is also about so much more than jazz. It features musicians like Aerosmith, Aretha Franklin, Sting, Jimmy Buffet, Beck, Jack White, David Byrne, Smokey Robinson, Sheryl Crow, and so many more. Check out the awesome line-up video for more info. There will also be tons of craft markets, food vendors, and cultural showcases, such as the Louisiana Folklife Village and the the Native American Village. With so much to hear and do in one week, it is no wonder that the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is considered one of the best festivals in the United States.
Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival is an offshoot of the Jazz & Heritage Festival that focuses exclusively on Cajun and Zydeco music. The festival happens slightly after the Jazz Festival, from June 23rd-24th, in Armstrong Park in downtown New Orleans. Admission is free. There will also be great seafood, a large craft market, many kid-friendly activities, and large fans to keep everyone cool in that intense summer heat.
Another big New Orleans festival is the Satchmo Summerfest, an entire festival dedicated to jazz legend Louis Armstrong. The festival started in 2001 as a one-time event to celebrate Armstrong’s 100th birthday but has since expanded into one of the most beloved festivals in the city. The festival features three days of outdoor performances, jazz history seminars and exhibits, parades, and of course, lots of authentic Cajun food and drinks. Keep a lookout for the upcoming dates of this year’s festival.
New Orleans hosts a lot of popular festivals but there are many other excellent festivals that happen year-round all across the state. The Festival International in Lafayette is the largest international music festival in the United States and the festival lives up to its reputation. It is nothing short of epic. This year’s festival happens April 25th-29th and will feature performances by artists from over 20 countries along with workshops, exhibits, theater, art installations, and more. Visit their website for a full schedule of events and to purchase tickets.
Planning a musical odyssey through Louisiana? Book a stay at one of the Louisiana Bed & Breakfast Association properties, located in all corners of this music-loving state.