Stayin’ Cool At Jazz Fest – insider tips on clean restrooms, a/c and shade

At the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival music and food are the tops, wonderful, the best. Usually Louisiana weather the last weekend of April through the first weekend of May is quite pleasant though some years it’s very, very wet and for others its been nothing but scorching bright sun in cloudless skies and dry as a dusty bone.  Shade and clean restrooms, especially clean restrooms with short lines, are very hard to find. You’re Porta Potty land.

That said here are my top two personal goto spots for shade, clean restrooms and air conditioning.  Enjoy.

Jazz Fest 2016 map with Grandstand & Oak Tree for cool rest spots

My Two Cool Rest Areas at Jazz Fest 2016

1 – The Live Oak – There is a wonderful old oak tree on the path between the GENTILLY STAGE and the LOUISIANA FOLK LIFE VILLAGE. You’ll have a view of the lagoon and interesting crafts and refreshments nearby and a steady stream of people watching traffic. The action at the Gentilly Stage is close enough to hear. With a herb tea, Mango Freeze or cold beer in hand it’s a great place to rest and recharge while reviewing your map and schedule to lay out your plan for the next few hours of fun.

2 – The Allison Miner Stage requires more effort to get to but the reward is worth the trip. It often goes unnoticed the jazz fest is laid out within a course race track and where there’s a race track there are grandstands. The Fairgrounds has both an outdoor section and rising above it is an enclosed level that is a little-known oasis of air-conditioning, clean restrooms and padded seats.

From the grandstands you can see the long lines in front of the Port ‘o Potty’s. Enjoy the spacious restrooms with urinals that a man can stand and truly relax at. And ladies you don’t have to lift the seat or squat and aim. It’s a lady’s room with plenty of proper stalls and clean floors to rest your backpack or purse.

Not too many years ago there was a Gentleman’s restroom attendant offering dabbles of cologne, mouthwashes, mints and counter around the sink was spotless. Well worth a buck tip. It’s doubtful that he was a sanctioned jazz fest volunteer but he sure did add some class to the place.

While you’re relaxing read up on Allison Miner

It’s very low-key at Allison Miner Stage. They interview performers who, in between questions or as part of the answer play their music. It’s a nice quiet respire regardless of your air conditioning or restroom needs. I recommended it.

Have a happy Fest

Will Norris for New Orleans Music Tours LLC

Americana Music Triangle – Music Tourism

A New Hit Maker –

Three years ago a chance meeting led to Aubrey Preston and Anthony Scarlati taking a spur of the moment music tour with me. The were researching Aubrey’s idea of promoting music tourism in the Americana Music Triangle. A triangle of Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans. that officially launched yesterday covers five states and a couple-a dozen cities where  jazz, blues, gospel, bluegrass, country, rock n roll and r & b developed. The route the site covers has been dubbed the #GoldRecordRoad  The site is a great resource of music history and culture tied together with maps and encouragement to “ask the locals” and explore.

Now back to the chance meeting. It was a scorching hot day when I met Aubrey and Tony so rather than the usual 2-hour walking tour we hired a pedicab. Pedicabs were not designed to gracefully carry three big guys in the single bucket seat. We traded off with one person in the seat and two hanging a cheek over the fender. It was a great time and it’s still the only pedicab music tour I’ve given. (Note: the challenge is that walking tours go any way needed up or down one-way French Quarter streets. On the other hand pedicabs must go with the flow of traffic which means to get to some of the historic music spots we had to loop around a block, weave through Bourbon Street and slip past delivery trucks, cabs and people, people, people.. My historic music stories and playlist were not at all in sync with story locations. So Aubrey and Anthony got a tour that to me seemed to be like John Lennon’s Revolution #9 but they didn’t notice or didn’t care, they loved it.)

Yesterday the AMT launch started in Nashville with a host of dignitaries and Keb Mo performing. A coach bus and caravan of music loving press, tourism and music pro’s hit the road for Tupelo and Jackson, MS. Tomorrow morning, May 6, 2015 they’ll kick off the Louisiana leg of the music triangle in Lafayette. I’m looking forward to seeing them cut the ribbon or click a keyboard or whatever is done these days.

Street Musicians on Royal or Frenchmen – Family Fun

Frenchmen Street – Moderately Family with Dining & Live Music

Frenchmen Street is a fork at the intersection of Decatur and Esplanade streets. Five blocks long and one singular mind, great music clubs.  No strip clubs, no t-shirt shops, no dueling speaker volume and no barkers or cover bands.  Its a wide variety of music anchored by jazz, mostly traditional and quite a wide range of styles. You may see brass bands, European Gypsy ‘hot jazz‘ and swing.  Quiet during the day it’s, hoppin’ at night.

Not Family Friendly – Bourbon Street

At night Bourbon Street (yikes) is closed to vehicle traffic at night. It’s amanic, throbbing, bright lights, cheap drinks, and mostly for adults 21 years or older. By day Bourbon opens to cars and lots of delivery trucks, mostly beer trucks. Rarely is street music seen. Too noisy with clean-up crews and trucks.  Just one block over is the serenity of Royal Street. No bars, beer deliveries conversely by day it’s closed to vehicles. It’s antiques, galleries and street performers of all kinds – music, magics and strange living mannequins.. Musically jazz predominates and like Frenchmen Street its a wide range. Occasionally you may see a classical harpist or resounding opera performance.  Its a tiny taste of what Frenchmen Street is about.

Ultimate In Family Friendly – Royal Street

I’ve begun doing very brief interviews with the  street musicians on Royal. Three or four questions. Rarely more that two minutes.  The stories of the musicians are more intriguing than I expected.  The “where ‘re you from?” and “why ‘re you playing here?” answers are not what I expected,  The one below was shot on Frenchmen Street late afternoon in November 2014. Others are posted on our YouTube ,  Enjoy.

For info and schedules for many of the night clubs go to Frenchmen Street Live.  Daytime street music performers have no web site, no schedule, just stroll, enjoy and tip.

Dave Grohl gets it. New Orleans the center of the musical universe

In recent Rolling Stone magazine interview Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) shares his enthusiasm for New Orleans and our culture, history and influence on the rest of the world of American popular music.

The late Ernie (Mother-In-Law) K-Doe claimed to be the emperor of the universe. Not sure which universe he envisioned but there’s no doubt he grew up and recorded this rich musical universe surrounded by the stars of this universe of 300 years of music – New Orleans.

Thanks Dave for gettin’ it and for sharing it with everyone that touches your musical world. You’re telling the world exactly what our Music Gumbo tour is all about. Love it. @tourNOLAmusic #nolamusictours

Will Norris

New Orleans (Universe) Music Tours LLC

Angola Prison :: the October rodeo :: 1933 Leadbelly

The inmates at Louisiana State Prison at Angola put on a great rodeo every Sunday in October. Its serious traditional rodeo using Angola bred horses.  There are some gotta see events such as the Wild Cow Milking and Convict PokerCheck out these action photos.

If you don’t have time to attend or you’re doing time you can by the t-shirt with the famous logo “Angola – A Gated Community”

Angola prision wear and novelty

In the music world Angola is where in the 1933 John Lomax and son Alan met and recorded the blues legend Huddie William Ledbetter better known as ‘Lead Belly’.   The PBS series American Roots Music :: Oral History interview with Alan Lomax tells the story of their recordings and influence the Lomax’s and Lead Belly had on each other.  

Hear Lead Belly’s John Hardy


“Where Was Matt?”

… hanging out in the Quarter with New Orleans Music Tours!

We had the privilege and pleasure to host Matt Harding on a recent adventure in New Orleans.  He was on an assignment for the Disney company to put together a video compilation of “It’s A Small World”.  The project was to put together something that really reflected the original vision that the Sherman Brothers had for the song.

The design for Matt’s project was to have street performers from around the world combining to perform a single edited version of the song.  Our job was to help him identify candidate performers and negotiate the process of getting it onto video.  It was an adventure, particularly the negotiate part.

There are multiple videos available of Richard Sherman explaining the original vision and the origins of the song.  This is one of the better illustrations.  (If you want to find out more about the brothers, there’s also a biographical documentary called “The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story”.)

New Orleans Music Tours even uses one of their songs in a tour.  “I Wanna Be Like You” was a song performed by Louis Prima, a New Orleans legend, in The Jungle Book.  We tell that story and feature the recording on the Music Gumbo tour.

The Boswell Sisters Are Here!

Well, at least their memory and a celebration of them is.  The Historic New Orleans Collection is featuring an exhibit honoring them … and the opening reception is tonight – 6:30 to 8:00 P.M.!

The Boswell Sisters were a close harmony vocal trio singing in the new jazz style in the 20s and 30s.  They inspired a subsequent generation of singers, including the Andrew SistersBoswell Sisters with Bing Crosby The enclosed photo includes Connee’s frequent duet partner, Bing Crosby (the most popular male vocalist of the 30s!).

“Shout, Sister, Shout!  The Boswell Sisters of New Orleans” is one of the many rotating exhibits that the Collection features.  They are always excellent and always FREE.  Don’t delay in getting to this one.  It closes on October 26th.

“Indians, Here Dey Come!”

Like the rest of the country (world!), New Orleans recognizes the term Super Sunday as being the day of the Superbowl.  However, we also have a designation that’s unique to us.  It’s when the Mardi Gras Indians have their annual uptown congregation.

The date is designed to be the Sunday closest to St. Joseph’s Day, nominally the third Sunday in March.  Ordinarily, that would have put the parade on this past Sunday but, because of the rain threat, it has been re-scheduled to March 23rd – this coming Sunday.

Recently, the Indian congregation has been at A.L. Davis Park uptown, with a parade route that cycles through Central City on LaSalle, Martin Luther King, South Claiborne, and Washington Avenue.  There should be music in the park, probably before, after, and maybe during the parade.  Nominal start time is noon.

Check here for more details.

Be sure to bring your camera!!! Mardi Gras Indian - Super Sunday 2013 This is a photo opportunity not to be missed.

If you want to experience more about Mardi Gras Indians and the culture, one of the best places is the Backstreet Cultural Museum in the Treme neighborhood.  It’s a great folk museum run by Sylvester Francis and also features New Orleans’ Social, Aid, & Pleasure Clubs.  New Orleans Music Tours’ Music Gumbo tour ends just a few blocks from the museum – great opportunity to swing by and immerse yourself in some uniquely New Orleans culture.

Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival

Put it on your calendar for this weekend – Saturday & Sunday, March 22nd & 23rd.

Congo Square releifThe Congo Square location is a key stop on our “Music Gumbo” tour but the site is still largely under-utilized.  Fortunately, that is slowly changing.  Among other activities, for the seventh year, the Jazz & Heritage Foundation is organizing a New World Rhythms Festival.  It’s a great chance to experience some music that doesn’t get enough play in New Orleans in a place that is truly hallowed ground.

The most regular activity that takes advantage of Congo Square iLuther Gray in Congo Squares the weekly drum circle sponsored by the Congo Square Preservation Society.  The key person behind the organization and leader of the circle is Luther Gray, also affiliated with Bamboula 2000.  Luther leads the participatory drumming in Congo Square  when that’s included in one of our private tours (yup, participatory – tour guests are doing the drumming and dancing).

Live Music In New Orleans – Today and Tomorrow

A guest on one of our tours asked for recommendations for live music today and tomorrow – specifically about zydeco, blues, and rhythm and blues.  She was also wondering about Preservation Hall.  Our response seemed worth sharing with others.


Your best bet for zydeco appears to be Dwayne Dopsie at the Krazy Korner today at noon.  He’s got a credible pedigree as part of the family of the late Rockin’ Dopsie, one of maybe the first or second generation of high profile zydeco players.  (He’s a much  different show than Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr.  The original’s dead.)

If she’s playing, my rhythm ‘n’ blues pick tonight would absolutely be Eudora Evans & Deep Soul at the Balcony Music Club.  Her website says that she’s playing but the ‘OZ listing for the club has someone different.  The ‘OZ listing is probably more current but, if you’re down there, it would be worth swinging by to check.  I would best describe her as old-school soul.  When I go, I always request “Can I Change My Mind”, an old Tyrone Davis and Roy Buchanan Song that hardly anybody has in their repertoire.

Andy Forest is listed for the late set – 9:00 P.M. – at BMC.  He’s an eclectic blues guy.  He will probably be electrified and raucous for this set.

Vaso appears to have a night of blues and the 7:00 P.M. band – Ed Wills – is one that I like.  He frequently plays at BMC, too.  Vaso is the venue right at the corner of Frenchmen and Decatur.

The Funky Pirate is the most prolific venue for blues, in spite of being on Bourbon Street.  Between Sunday and Monday, I would target Sunday – 4:00-8:00 P.M.  Mark Pentone is a credible player.  The late band is listed as John Lisi & Delta Funk.  They’ll do a credible job with a little more of a New Orleans and groove oriented sound.  Gary Brown on Mondays is good and is a long time Bourbon Street fixture but is more of a mixture – blues, r’n’b, soul, and even smooth jazz.

Guitar Slim, Jr. would be of a later urban blues style.  He’s playing early in the ‘hood at the Ooh Poo Pah Doo Bar.

If you want to stay up late and are OK with a taxi ride, the Joe Krown Trio will be at the Maple Leaf starting some time after 10:00 P.M.  That’s a real interesting organ-guitar-drums trio and should be laying down some nasty New Orleans funk and a little bit of soul.

The best option for Cajun music is Bruce Daigrepont doing a fais-do-do at Tipitina’s tonight, 5:30-9:00 P.M.  It’s not zydeco but it’s a South Louisiana cousin – more white and country music associated.  This is the closest you’ll get to a South Louisiana dancehall feel without leaving New Orleans.  If you go, tell Gina Forsyth (the fiddle player) that Dave Thomas says “hi”.


Li’l Red & Big Bad at BMC for 7:00 P.M..  She’s a white girl from the Westbank and can really lay it down.  She’s followed by a blues jam that can be a mixed bag because there’s no predicting who will show up.  If y’all are players, it might be a chance to sit in.

Luke Winslow King at d.b.a. for 7:00 P.M. is acoustic delta style and good.  He may have a couple o’ three other musicians joining him.

It’s a taxi ride and is likely to have a later start time than advertised but Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen is killer funk – 9:00 P.M. at the Maple Leaf Bar.  He’s a Brit that plays lots of terrific New Orleans styles.  This will be a band of long-time New Orleans musicians.  He’s best known for touring and recording extensively with Bonnie Raitt and writing a lot of songs for her, too.

Preservation Hall

There are two good choices for Sunday and Monday, one of which has a great backstory.

The clarinet player leading the band tonight is a white guy named Tommy Sancton.  As a teenager, he hung out with the old black musicians in Preservation Hall at a time when mixing of the races was particularly volatile.  Specifically, he studied clarinet with George Lewis, who died in the the sixties.  As an adult, Sancton made a living as a journalist, running a European bureau for Newsweek.  After Katrina, he returned to New Orleans and started playing clarinet again.  He’s the closest thing that you can get to someone channeling the sound of George Lewis, who was a contemporary of Louis Armstrong.  Sancton told his story in a book called “Songs Of My Fathers” – a terrific read.

Leroy Jones on Monday is an excellent trumpeter – one of my favorite in New Orleans.  I don’t have an entertaining story for him.  He’s just good.

A lot of these venues and some of these performers are ones that we feature on our “Night On The Town”.  Come check ’em out with us.