One of my main missions for this trip was to see some authentic New Orleans jazz. Having known nothing about the city prior to landing, it was a bit intimidating trying to find venues. After an unsuccessful trip down Bourbon Street, we thankfully met up for a Music Gumbo walking tour, and our guide gave us tons of great tips for where to find great music. As a matter of fact, one place he recommended was Preservation Hall, an institution down in the French Quarter.
- Arrive at least an hour early for your showing. The venue is super small and compact, so space is limited. It is also incredibly popular; don’t underestimate your chances of getting in and be prepared to wait another hour if you don’t get into your desired showing.
- Earlier shows can happen (5 PM or 6 PM), and they tend to fill up very fast. Early, early, early!
- Tickets are cash only. Exact change will make things go so much more smoothly for you as well.
- Unless you buy seated premium seats before you arrive, you will have to stand for the entire show. Prepare yourself accordingly.
- The space is super compact. You will be rubbing shoulders and elbows with complete strangers. Be prepared to cozy up! If you are claustrophobic, this is not the venue for you (unless you snag some seats early).
- There are also no bathrooms and no bar or food of any kind inside. They do let you bring in drinks, so you can send one person on a drink run while the others hold your spot in line.
- There is also no air conditioning or heat. Prepare accordingly!
Hall Allstars Band
On our first night, we were lucky enough to see the Allstars (Hallstars) band. This is the band that goes on tour around the world to spread the good word of Lousiana jazz to the masses. If you’re lucky enough to see these guys, you are in for a treat! The songs are super up-tempo and catchy. You can literally see the music move through the musicians’ bodies as they bob and sway with every note they play (shout-out to the trombone player for rocking it very hard in this regard). The energy was incredible in the room: Everyone was moving as best they could (given the cramped space) as each song played. I was blown away with how on-point this band was; they were everything I was looking for in a New Orleans jazz band. Not to be missed if you can catch them!
On our second outing, we saw the Legacy Band, which had a few more seasoned vets who played some older tunes and jazz standards. The vibe was definitely different: The leader was more chatty, giving long backstories, reveling in the history behind each song his band would play. It was a lot more interactive as well: We were encouraged to clap more and during the final song, I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You, we got into a little call and response with the leader as he sang through the parts. That’s another thing I noticed with the Legacy Band: They did many more songs with singing and lyrics. Their songs were also slower and more bluesy. I’m really glad I got to see them; it was a really nice contrast that highlighted the diversity of the jazz scene in the city.
It was pretty incredible to have two wildly different experiences at the same venue two nights in a row. You have to get there over an hour early for your showing but you won’t be disappointed with your show, whichever band happens to be playing!