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Jazzin' it up ... on the cheap 

Free shows and special deals at local music spots

click to enlarge St. Louis Slim (left) performs with his band at The Spotted Cat. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER

With all of New Orleans' second-line parades, it's easy to get accustomed to music literally in the streets. But the parade season ends in late June, and you'll have to look elsewhere for free music. The good news is that there are a few festivals left, clubs with no cover charges and a few deals at other venues.

  There's free music at the weekly Wednesdays ont the Point (www.wed-nesdaysonthepoint.com) series at Algiers Point. Concerts take place on the grassy levee bank adjacent to the ferry landing. Music is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and there are food vendors and activities for kids. Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes and the Louisiana Sunspots perform this Wednesday, June 27, and July 4 brings Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes before the Go Fourth on the River fireworks display. The final Wednesday on the Point is July 25.

  A handful of summer festivals present free music. On Independence Day, Go Fourth on the River (www.go4thontheriver.com) presents music along the Mississippi at the Steamboat Natchez dock (2:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m.) and at Washington Artillery Park (across from Jackson Square) from 4 p.m. until the fireworks display at 9 p.m. The lineup includes the National World War II Museum's Victory Belles, the Navy Band of New Orleans and Amanda Shaw and the Cute Guys.

  The Mandeville Seafood Festival (www.seafoodfest.com) stretches from Wednesday, July 4, to Sunday, July 8, and there are daily concerts on two stages, with everything from country, pop and jazz to rock and oldies. The festival is at Fontainebleau State Park and there are plenty of seafood vendors, amusement rides, kids' activities, a craft fair, car show and fireworks on July 4. The festival is free for seniors, active duty military and children 10 and younger when accompanied by an adult. Daily tickets are $15, but only $10 when purchased online in advance or before 5 p.m. at the gate.

  There are two days of free live music at the Satchmo Summerfest (Aug. 2-5, www.fqfi.org). Two stages will be set up at the Old U.S. Mint (400 Esplanade Ave.) to celebrate Louis Armstrong's birthday with local jazz and brass band music.

  For those playing hooky or being a tourist, the National Park Service (www.-nps.gov/jazz) sponsors free afternoon concerts Tuesday through Sunday. Shows take place at both the park center (916 N. Peters St.) and the Old U.S. Mint. The times vary, so check music listings (p. 45) or the Park Service's website for details.

  Several music clubs offer summer specials and free weekly events. Tipitina's (www.tipitinas.com) Foundation Free Fridays present free concerts on Friday nights through Aug. 31. Upcoming shows include Walter "Wolfman" Washington and the Brass-a-holics (June 29), Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes (July 6), the Honey Island Swamp Band and Dave Jordan (July 20) and an all-star jam featuring former Radiator Reggie Scanlan, Neville Brothers drummer Willie Green, guitarist Billy Iuso and others July 27.

  Preservation Hall (www.preservationhall.com) presents traditional New Orleans jazz every night and is running a special offer for locals through Aug. 31. Residents with state ID or an Entergy bill with a local address can buy one ticket and get one free.

  The House of Blues (www.hob.com) has three free weekly music events. On Wednesdays, the Parish hosts singer/songwriter showcases from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The Voodoo Garden hosts a free music happy hour on Friday nights from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The Backyard Blues party from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday features $3 mimosas and $5 bloody marys.

  Many venues offer regular no-cover-charge shows. Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta (www.sonesta.com/royalneworleans) features a lineup of top local contemporary jazz bands with some brass bands thrown into the mix. There's no cover charge except for special shows, like a weekly performance by the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. On Frenchmen Street, The Spotted Cat (www.spottedcatmusicclub.com) offers a weekly lineup of mostly acoustic traditional and gypsy jazz, and The Three Muses (www.thethreemuses.com) charges no cover for its slate of jazz and New Orleans music, but tables often are occupied by diners and seating at the bar is limited.

  In Bywater, Bacchanal (www.bacchanalwine.com) recently secured a license for live music and has entertainment in its courtyard most nights, ranging from jazz to flamenco performances. There's plenty of seating on patio chairs at tables, but the space fills up early on weekend nights. The Neutral Ground Coffeehouse (www.neutralgroundcoffeehouse.com) is a cover-free haven for folk and acoustic music. While it's free, throwing a few dollars in the tip bucket is a great way to show the musicians how much you appreciate the music — and to keep things free (or cheap) in the future.

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