Hi. My name is Danny. I’ve been touring with bands for some time and want to tell you about some of the places we’ve been. I know, I’m missing some important things from these cities but this is just what I’ve had time to see. If you have suggestions regarding where to go in your beloved hometown the next time I’m hurtling through in a van filled with drunk people, please let me know.
Hard Target is an action film starring Jean Claude Van Damme set in New Orleans about a Cajun sailor named Chance Boudreaux that is also a trained martial arts master. Chance lives the normal hum drum life of a sailor / martial arts expert until a group of men tired of hunting animals decide to hunt humans and choose him as their next target. Needless to say JCVD doesn’t like the sound of this and proceeds to kill everyone in New Orleans. At one point in the movie Jean Claude Van Damme surfs on a dirt bike while shooting an uzi then does a front flip over a truck and the truck explodes. In another scene he bites the tail off a rattlesnake to turn it into a silent trap for his Cajun adversaries. This movie exists, that is actually the plot, and it grossed over $74 million dollars. If you’re still confused as to how Donald Trump is garnering so much support in the United States, consider Hard Target’s tremendous success.
I bring up Hard Target because until last year that movie was pretty much all I knew about New Orleans. I’d also been to the restaurant Pappadeaux’s, seen Emeril’s hot sauce, and heard frat guys talk about the cities mind blowing alcohol laws. Dude, you can walk around with a beer. DUDE. It seemed like a place whose culture had been completely commercialized and all that was left were drunk people from Nebraska fighting in the streets. With the above in mind I had relatively no desire to visit New Orleans. And I didn’t. Years of touring did not take me there except once or twice and what I saw of Bourbon Street, because that’s all I had time to see, was unimpressive.
Then one great night completely changed my perception of New Orleans and I don’t remember that night at all because alcohol shut off my brain. Let me explain. When you drive to New Orleans from the West, a very typical thing to do on tour, you cross large, beautiful, wetlands. Last spring we were making this familiar drive and I was thinking about how isolated the city must have been before modern infrastructure and I suddenly became very interested in New Orleans. I read the city’s Wikipedia entry and determined that after the show I would try and see what lay beyond Bourbon Street. Problem was I didn’t know where to start other than yelping gumbo restaurants, which, I did. Enter Isa. Isa is a friend of the band I tour manage and we met her when she worked for our label. In college she worked at a bar and is a patron of the city with good taste. After our show at the House of Blues I cornered her and demanded a proper tour of the city. She obliged and off we went. I woke up the next morning with a hang over for the ages and the knowledge that I’d had an enlightening experience but I didn’t remember it at all. I knew that I was now a fan of New Orleans… but why…?
I remember taking a walk with Tim, the bassist for the Griswolds, and trying the Coffee at Cafe Du Monde before the show. If you are unfamiliar Cafe Du Monde pays homage to the cities French colonial origins by making a very milky latte and serving fried french pastries called, Beignets. You’ve probably had these. If you haven’t they’re worth a try and the only tip I can offer is to get the latte iced and don’t drink it in the cafe, it’s hell on fanny packs. At one point, I believe during the civil war, there was a coffee shortage in New Orleans and they padded their coffee grinds with ground Chicory; this is what they serve at DM. I had an excellent dinner at The Gumbo Shop. It’s fairly touristy but the decor and atmosphere don’t feel touristy. We ate some Alligator Sausage as an appetizer and Étouffée as our main course. Both were so exceptional I wish I could move to a room above the Gumbo Shop and eat there every day. Then there was the show. I don’t care much for House of Blues properties so, meh. Then we left and the night got interesting and that’s where my memory begins to fade. Now I know there was a music festival with a lot of percussion, beers, a dude in a cowboy hat, cigarettes here and there, aaaaaand more beers. To help jog my memory I emailed Isa and demanded that she break down that evening and some other stuff she likes about THE BIG EASY.
That show at Maison was part of JUJU Fest, a week-long festival celebrating West African music in NOLA. Not sure exactly what show it was, but I remember it was entirely percussion. That was a super great one (festival) to be in town for, but there are also festivals happening basically all of the time in NOLA, so might be worth a quick google if you know you’re gonna have some time to party while there.
- If you need to check out Bourbon Street, do it after load-in or something but before it gets too late. Heading there late night to get wasted is a stupid idea. Too many criminals out to rob people at gun point or whatever. NOLA is a dangerous city in general, but Bourbon Street late night is really risky if you end up putting out any kind of “I have money/Tourist” vibe. Head to some local spots instead. Don’t be stoopid. (you heard it y’all, don’t be stoopid).
- Check out Frenchman Street. A bit more touristy than it was a few years ago, but still the local’s version of the gross, soulless mess that is Bourbon St. If you’re coming from the French Quarter or CBD, head down South Peters Street & check out some dives such as Molly’s on the Market on your way or grab some to-go booze somewhere & take walk by the Mississippi river like a local would.
Maison is top of the list, with no cover and a great lineup of different styles of music that run till about 2/3am (sometimes later). The Spotted Cat is great for jazz, DBA, Cafe Negril and Blue Nile are also worth a visit. If you’re into EDM, check out The Dragon’s Den.
Hungry late night? Try 13 – great basic American food with plenty of options for the meat-free jerks you may be on tour with. Highly recommend any variety of Tachos (tater tot nachos). If you’re feeling something more Asian the Seoul Shack at the Dragon’s Den for some great Korean or try Yuki for Japanese, a tiny spot usually with some kind of bizarre local musician playing just by the door & movies projected behind the bar. Gene’s Po’Boys is also just a few blocks off Frenchman if you’re really craving some typical local cuisine.
- R Bar – Just a short walk from Frenchman Street, this is a local staple. Great people, cool 80’s movies projected behind the bar & a pool table, with classy decor & a good selection of drinks from cheap basics to more pricey. They even sell haircuts & a shot one day a week (I think Mondays) if you’re looking to kill 2 birds with one stone.
- Super Super late night try either Big Daddy’s & Mimi’s in the Marigny (closer to Frenchman Street and the French Quarter) or venture Uptown for a visit to Snake & Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge, one of the best dives in the country. It’s literally just a shed with a bar in it, lit up by christmas lights, but you’re bound to meet some wacky characters and make some friends for life there. (Texas dude, remember Carissimi? Maybe not, you were pretty sloshed.) (MYSTERY OF THE COWBOY SOLVED!) Also they serve Schlitz, so…win.
Hope LA is full of sunshine & awesome!
So that’s what I did that one time there and this is what I suggest you do. I also suggest staying in the French Quarter in an Air Bnb and not renting a car. Uber is fine there and parking is a fucking nightmare. We also like getting breakfast at a place called The Ruby Slipper. Eggs Cochon. Do it.
If you hate this and feel compelled to send me anthrax, don’t. If you have other suggestions on what to do in New Orleans, hit me up yo.