New Orleans is well-known as a hotbed of local music, but the best place to experience that heritage can be elusive for a newcomer or tourist. Bourbon Street, though jam-packed with noise, isn’t really the place to experience the best music this city has to offer, and even the more elusive Frenchman Street, another great place for going out, doesn’t necessarily hold the authentic musical experience that visitors crave.
So where should visitors go to get that musical history that the city is so well known for? Well, on a recent trip to New Orleans I took it upon myself to answer that, sussing out several heralded spots to catch a live set. On my trip, I was staying at the Hyatt Centric French Quarter New Orleans, which is right in the heart of all the action in the French Quarter, and it was remarkably easy to get out to most of these locations from there.
Plus, after venturing into the less bustling neighborhoods of the city, it was nice to return to the well-lit, jampacked French Quarter where I always felt right at home — enough to head out and grab another drink following the show, some nights.
The hotel was a great launching pad for anyone looking to explore the city while staying right in the heart of it, and I can’t recommend it enough. These haunts are a little off the beaten path, but still totally accessible — even if you don’t know the city well. The point of these venues is that they don’t necessarily host touring acts who are coming through the city, like scheduled concerts, but rather, have house bands or local bookings that give the shows both a more relaxed, and a more prestigious feel — so check out my musical recommendations below.
Bacchanal Wine Bar
600 Poland Ave
Luckily, I have an inside line on New Orleans courtesy of Uproxx’s Editor-in-Chief, Brett Michael Dykes, a Louisiana native. He told me the story of this incredible outdoor wine bar, which originated as a hub for chefs who were left without restaurants following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in the early 2000s. Already established as the neighborhood wine store, Bacchanal turned their outdoor grill area into a place chefs left jobless by Katrina could prepare food, and drew a massive local crowd to these community-oriented events, where music quickly became part of the package.
Eventually, the casual grilling turned a bit more formal, with an official restaurant opening up and a stage that now draws visitors and tourists as well as locals. But the early backyard party-feel is still totally present, and a built-in wine and cheese shop means you can grab a bottle and some snacks, pull up a couple lawn chairs, and hunker down around the stage just like you would a campfire. The spirit of the south is definitely present in this beautiful backyard — persistence, friendship, wine, and music, all in one lovely package. For a casual and relaxed live music experience, head out to Bywater to soak in the experience of a truly unique, community-oriented venue.