Frenchmen Street

2 posts

d.b.a front door

Where Did The Live Music Go?

The pandemic has hit the world of live music harder here in New Orleans, it seems, that almost anywhere else. When a city like ours, whose identity comes in large part from a vibrant music scene, shuts its bars, restaurants, hotels and other performance spaces — well, it’s like a punch in the gut.

Fortunately, live music itself isn’t going away without a fight. It’s just going on-line.

Over at Tipitina’s, Galactic (the club’s owner and its house band) experimented with Tipitina’s TV. Season 1, which just ended, offered up six live shows featuring a spectrum of New Orleans talent: Rebirth Brass Band, Anders Osborne, Tank & The Bangas, Samantha Fish, The Radiators … and Galactic themselves.

From what we saw and heard, production values were first-rate. Tip’s partnered with the streaming platform nugs.net, which enabled those who bought a full series pass to watch any show they’d missed.

No word on the success of Tipitina’s TV, or whether there will be a Season 2

d.b.a. … Usual?

Meanwhile, on Frenchmen Street, the proprietor of d.b.a. is working on his own streaming solution to bring back live music. Tom Thayer says “d.b.a. Live” will be a partnership with the live-streaming platform StageIt.com.

The first show streamed Wednesday night and featured d.b.a. stalwart Walter “Wolfman” Washington. As you might imagine, the music was smooth and bluesy. The technical quality, though, was a bit glitchy … not nearly as seamless as the offerings on Tip’s TV. It’s possible there was just so much interest in the Wolfman that the StageIt stream ran out of bandwidth.

Speaking of offerings, one nice feature of StageIt is the opportunity to tip the musicians. Thayer says they get to keep 100% of those tips, plus a share of the “virtual ticket sales.”

Unfortunately, if you miss a d.b.a. live stream there’s apparently no way to watch a rerun. Kinda like life: once it’s gone it’s gone. But the good news: the Wolfman will be playing each Wednesday night … just like he did before the pandemic.

You can read more about d.b.a.’s comeback at NOLA.com.

Miles Davis on Frenchmen Street

Frenchmen Street Musicians

The musicians left Frenchmen Street right before St. Patrick’s Day. Ironically that’s when New Orleans began its lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Bars, restaurants and entertainment venues were closed. That included the dozen or so music clubs scattered along Frenchmen, located just downriver from the Quarter.

Doors and windows boarded up, this once vibrant arts and entertainment district became a plywood-paneled ghost town overnight. Deprived of their usual music venues, some musicians went on-line, playing virtual gigs on Facebook.

But while the entertainment part of Frenchmen Street fell silent, art continued to thrive. Muralist Josh Wingerter used the boarded-up windows as his canvas, creating quarantine-inspired artworks of familiar musicians and other pop figures. Several of them became Internet memes, including a portrait of Louis Armstrong with pandemic-appropriate PPE:

Louis Armstrong on Frenchmen Street
Louis Armstrong

We weren’t able to photograph Wingerter’s art until after some other “artists” had tagged the empty spaces surrounding his images. Fortunately, these graffitists had mostly kept their spray cans away from his work.

Mahalia Jackson
Mahalia Jackson
Dr. John
Dr. John
Professor Longhair
Professor Longhair
James Booker
James Booker

For now it’s heartening to see these musicians still entertaining Frenchmen Street passers-by. With restrictions easing, some clubs and restaurants may soon re-open … making us wonder: what’s going to happen to all those artworks?