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Full House 

During the past decade, House of Blues has treated music, art and culture lovers to a diversity of music, African-American folk art and progressive ideas. The New Orleans venue, which opened nine years ago, is capitalizing on the landmark anniversary a little early, kicking off its celebration with B.B. King on Dec. 5.

"Time flies when you're having fun," says HOB New Orleans General Manager Dan Smith. "We're ready to do some big things here to celebrate both anniversaries. What could be more appropriate than starting off with B.B. King?"

Lots has changed since House of Blues (225 Decatur St., 529-BLUE; www.hob.com) opened in a decaying section of the French Quarter. Other businesses revitalized buildings in the area and the street now is a place frequented by tourists and locals who once avoided that stretch of desolation. Much has changed inside as well, with HOB expanding not only its music offerings to include national touring acts and local favorites as well as building the upscale private-membership Foundation Room upstairs and The Parish, an interestingly decorated room that accommodates bands with smaller audiences as well as private parties and receptions. Downstairs, HOB offers a restaurant, dining in the Voodoo Garden outdoors and Sunday brunches that include live bands, tantalizing food and as many champagne mimosas as you can handle. Throughout the club, visitors are greeted with an innovative visual feast of brightly colored artworks and whimsical décor. There's even a retail store that sells CDs on the special House of Blues Music label, T-shirts, jewelry, artworks and souvenirs.

Nationwide, HOB has expanded to eight clubs and also books 20 concert venues with audience capacities ranging from 1,200 at the Commodore in Vancouver to 20,000 at ampitheaters in Austin, Texas, San Diego, Calif., Seattle and Dallas.

"When we acquired (the larger concert venues) it placed us in a more universal position, making us the second largest concert promoter in the country," says Marketing Manager Laura B. Tennyson.

"It allows us to create some flexibility with tours and concert availability," Smith adds. "For the most part we work with agents across the country ... to get music acts when they're on a route or making a path through the South. That's how you get the (range of good) tours. We have all these venues, so we can help connect the dots along a band's tour. It also helps us create our own tours," such as the upcoming Voodoo Music Experience, which brings Gov't Mule plus Drive-By Truckers to the Orpheum Theatre for late-night shows on Halloween and Nov. 1 as well as Taproot, Project 86 and Pulse Ultra in The Parish, also on Nov. 1. HOB also books acts into Twi-Ro-Pa and other area theaters.

"House of Blues New Orleans brings a lot to the community in a lot of ways: altruistically, business-wise and in the way we do business," Smith says. "At the end of the day, we try to balance everything. We're trying to be everything to everybody. We're dealing with different targeted audiences, different demographics and different genres every night."

It's a plan that has worked well for House of Blues, music lovers and the club's employees. "What's unique is our role with locals," says Tennyson. "(Opening the club) gave people here a chance to work with a company where they had a future. Some have been here for nine years and others have moved from here to other House of Blues venues." There also is mobility in the ranks, Smith and Tennyson say. One employee, for example, rose from answering the telephone to the executive assistant to Smith. Similar stories abound at other HOB locations. Allowing such growth as well as providing exposure to a diversity of music, art and human ideals is part of Isaac Tigress' original mission for House of Blues, Tennyson says.

"It's pretty amazing to see how people react to the whole concept," Smith says. "To do hip-hop and Dolly Parton at the same place takes some ability. When I walk through a full restaurant or club and see people having fun, it's all worth it."

Grand Fin-ale
G.W. Fins' Executive Chef Tenney Flynn has received the Culinary Excellence Award from the food services executives convention that met in the city last week. As part of the national meeting, Flynn joined with Chef Guenter Seeger of Seeger's in Atlanta, who won the Clever Ideas Cutting Edge Award, to cook up a memorable feast Oct. 14 for the most picky of diners: members of the convention and media representatives. The dinner was held at G.W. Fins (808 Bienville St., 581-3467).

Riding the Hurricane to Memphis
New Orleans icon Pat O'Brien's bar, home to the world-famous hurricane cocktail as well as entertainment and dining, has opened a location in Memphis' Beale Street Historic district. The Tennessee bar, which opened last month, was constructed to replicate the 1789 French Quarter building that has been home to the original Pat O's (718 St. Peter St., 525-4823) for more than 68 years. In addition to Memphis and New Orleans, there are Pat O'Brien's clubs in Cancun, Mexico, and Orlando, Fla.

click to enlarge House of Blues General Manager Dan Smith and Marketing Manager Laura B. Tennyson take a brief respite in a Foundation Room booth from their busy schedules of bringing musical diversity to New Orleans.
  • House of Blues General Manager Dan Smith and Marketing Manager Laura B. Tennyson take a brief respite in a Foundation Room booth from their busy schedules of bringing musical diversity to New Orleans.
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