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Club Notes 

Dear class of 2011: Sure, you may have told your parents, your admissions counselor and your SAT tutor you were heading to New Orleans for the heady atmosphere of academia. And we agree with you: Loyola has a gorgeous library; the women's center at Tulane University is the oldest and most comprehensive in the South.; the venerable African-American studies program at Xavier is a gem; and U.N.O. offers unparalleled bang for your educational buck. Good for you, freshmen, for choosing New Orleans as your home of higher learning over the next four years. However, maybe it hasn't escaped your attention that the City That Care Forgot also has no legally imposed closing time for establishments that host live music and serve cocktails. We also, even post-Katrina, are home to nearly as many musicians as students. So open up those shiny new notebooks and sharpen your pencils -- and remember not to register for any classes before noon on Mondays. Take notes.

The curriculum of Rock 'n' Roll 101 indicates that certain destinations are a prerequisite for any student of New Orleans music. Before you advance in your studies, be sure you're thoroughly familiar with Tipitina's (501 Napoleon Ave, 895-TIPS; Tip's was established more than 30 years ago as a home for local piano wizard Professor Longhair (you'll want to visit the Louisiana Music Factory at 210 Decatur St., 586-1094 for study materials if you're not familiar), and was also the first physical home for New Orleans' jazz and heritage radio station, WWOZ 90.7 FM. These days, Tip's is the spot for all-night jams at Jazz Fest time from local jazz and funk outfits like Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk and Galactic. It also hosts major touring acts, as well as being home to the Tipitina's Foundation, which raises money to provide instruments for music programs in the city's public schools. There are weekly music workshops for kids lead by local stars and special nights feature homegrown talent. The Maple Leaf (8316 Oak Street, 866-9359) in the Riverbend, just a stone's throw from Tulane and Loyola, is also a necessary destination, at least for the Tuesday night traditional gig from the raucous Rebirth Brass Band. The rest of the week offers more funk, blues and even poetry readings on Sundays. Get a taste of New Orleans in the '50s at the venerable Mid City Lanes Rock 'n' Bowl (4133 S. Carrollton Ave., 482-3133), where you can bowl a frame or two, eat a burger, drink an Abita Amber (that'll be on the quiz, too) and catch performances from top local zydeco, swing, rock and R&B acts like Snooks Eaglin -- the legendary blind former street singer who rarely plays anywhere else. Down on the border between the French Quarter and the Treme, there's Donna's Bar & Grill (800 N. Rampart St., 596-6914), serving up brass band action and New Orleans-style soul food. For soul food, on Thursday night there's nowhere else to be but at Vaughan's (800 Lesseps St., 947-5562) in the Ninth Ward, chewing on a smoked-sausage sandwich and listening to the sweet, sloppy Southern sounds of Kermit Ruffins' Barbecue Swingers. Recent additions to the local music canon include Jin Jean's Lounge (1700 Louisiana Ave., 894-8494), with live local jazz, brass and R&B all weekend long; Chickie Wah Wah (2828 Canal St., 304-4714) mixes it up in Mid-City, with Crescent City funk and jazz standards, plus experimental rock and jazz acts.

Rest assured that even though we've made our mark on the world with funk and jazz, New Orleans is not an island populated only by sousaphones and thumping bass. There are many homes here for that other, beloved four-letter word: rock. One Eyed Jacks (615 Toulouse St., 569-9100; is a louche, swanky oasis for both local and national rock 'n' roll. The front bar, with flocked burgundy wallpaper and a jukebox equal parts gospel and metal, is a worthy watering hole, while the back room is home to local stars like the Bingo! Show and the Morning 40 Federation and touring bands that run the gamut from punk to indie to alt-country. The House of Blues (225 Decatur St., 310-4999; and its boutique Parish room are reliable spots for major touring acts. Recent shows have included the Detriot Cobras, Ratt, Taylor Hicks and Daniel Johnston. In the Warehouse District, Republic New Orleans (828 S. Peters St., 528-8282; books indie stars like Neko Case, TV on the Radio and Modest Mouse in a cavernous two-story club that splits the difference between sprawling dive and luxe lounge; the long-standing venue the Howlin' Wolf (907 S. Peters St., 522-WOLF), which moved to its current spot just before the storm, is big on blowout multiple-band shows from local acts, including brass bands like the Soul Rebels and the Hot 8, and top bounce purveyor DJ Jubilee.

The tiny Circle Bar (1032 St. Charles Ave., 588-2616) on the Lee Circle roundabout, can only pack in 75 or so attendees for a gig, but the ramshackle townhouse offers a unique and eclectic calendar of local and touring rock, folk and jazz acts that almost guarantees an interesting experience anytime you pop in. Plus, the jukebox is one of the finest in town ­ a collection of rare and obscure punk, soul, garage and R&B recordings out of which most are unobtainable in your average record store. Checkpoint Charlie's (501 Esplanade Ave., 281-4847) has a split personality that's evidenced by multiple visits at different points during its twenty-four-hour schedule. By day, it's a laundromat and boozing station for the very bored or very needy. By night, the cheap food and drinks are still on offer, along with music from the clever, subversive folk of the Fens on Monday, to the acoustic blues open-mic night on Tuesday, to the screeching punk and metal of any band that's touring couch to floor to couch. For Uptown rockers, Le Bon Temps Roule (4801 Magazine St., 895-8117) (and believe us, after a semester you won't need French 101 to translate that phrase) is a laid-back joint with pool tables in the front room and local rock bands for cheap or free in the back. Farther Uptown lies Carrollton Station (8140 Willow St., 865-9190) whose rootsy rock aesthetic is of the grown-up variety. Catch the city's bravest singer/songwriters on Monday's open-mic night, or occasional gems like Susan Cowsill doing her monthly "Covered In Vinyl" series, in which the Americana queen takes on a classic albums. The last event featured selections from the Clash's catalog.

Of course, you can't live in New Orleans without getting schooled on jazz. Just off Bourbon Street, Preservation Hall (726 St. Peter St., 522-2841) was founded in 1961 as a pre-emptive measure at a time when the prevailing idea was that traditional jazz, as invented at the turn of the 20th century by artists like Jelly Roll Morton was going to die out. Now far more than a museum piece, the hall is not only home to the world-famous Preservation Hall Jazz Band; they're also a center for musician's aid efforts and shows from local R&B luminaries like the legendary producer Wardell Quezergue. The Palm Court Jazz CafŽ (1204 Decatur St., 525-0200) also a destination for authentic traditional jazz on most nights, is the home of the Palm Court Jazz All-Stars. The civilized atmosphere, which includes a long mahogany bar and white-tablecloth service for a menu of traditional New Orleans cuisine, makes it a top spot to bring the parents when they come to town. Snug Harbor (626 Frenchmen St., 949-0696; has long been home to both traditional and more avant-garde jazz acts. The two-story showroom's nightly 8 and 10 p.m. shows are often pricey (for New Orleans), but worth it. In any given week, you can catch homegrown acts like the ragtime and novelty revival outfit the New Leviathan Oriental Foxtrot orchestra, contemporary jazz stars like Irvin Mayfield and Terence Blanchard, or touring acts like Mose Allison. The Frenchmen Street cluster of clubs that it anchors is the locals' version of Bourbon Street, with music spilling out of every door, minus the excessive neon (both in the signs and the oversized drink containers.) Across the street from Snug, the Spotted Cat (623 Frenchmen St., 943-3887) never charges a cover for raucous gypsy jazz, ragtime and eclectic acts like the Washboard Chaz Trio, the Hot Club of New Orleans and Vavavoom. Cozy dba (618 Frenchmen St., 942-3741) has a dizzying bill of fare that includes dozens upon dozens of microbrews, single malt Scotches, wines by the glass and other compelling spirits. It also books a quirky roster of local musicians scaled down to fit the smallish stage in the back. It can be an intimate space to catch side projects or solo nights from some of New Orleans' top artists. The bar isn't above booking a loud, funky band and packing the joint to the rafters with a party that can overflow into the street. A stroll down to the other end of Frenchmen brings you to the exotic Dragon's Den (435 Esplanade Ave.), where you can sit out on the balcony overlooking Esplanade Avenue and dig some of the most innovative local bands in town, like the Sun Ra-influenced Other Planets or the punk-gypsy-polka hybrids the Zydepunks, whose shows often turn into sweaty dance parties that go on till dawn.

For a gay-friendly club scene, head down to the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann streets, the longstanding nexus of gay nightlife in New Orleans. The Parade above the Bourbon Pub (801 Bourbon St., 529-2107) and Oz (800 Bourbon St., 593-9491) across the street pump house and techno till dawn, with plenty of flashing lights and videos on big screens, as does Lafitte's in Exile (901 Bourbon St., 522-8397) just down the street.

New Orleans being what it is, there's plenty of stuff going on off the beaten path, from local rock bands that use French horn and accordion to all-night DJs spinning vintage soul. At Mimi's in the Marigny (2601 Royal St., 872-9868) DJ Soul Sister has two parties a week showcasing her tasty funk and rare groove collection. The scarlet-lit bar ­ neighborhood headquarters for downtown bohemian types ­ serves hot and cold tapas well into the wee hours and books a music calendar full of whatever homegrown oddities the neighborhood offers up, from Casiocore to cello. You never know what you're going to get at the Hi-Ho Lounge (2239 St. Claude Ave., 945-4446). Any given week could include a bluegrass jam, a bloody punk rock gig, or a quiet night with the jukebox. A T-shirt or a calendar from the Saturn Bar (3067 St. Claude Ave., 949-7532) is a must-have souvenir. The endearingly cluttered bar, open for more than four decades, is a local landmark for its junk-shop dŽcor, cheap drinks and occasional shows from local rock bands. And even deeper into the Ninth Ward, the quintessential alternative locals' experience can be had at Bacchanal (600 Poland Ave., 948-9111), a wine shop that hosts a popular Sunday dinner, Saturday wine tastings and Friday tapas night with food and local bands in the verdant courtyard.

Put away your pencils, but hang onto these notes. We think you'll find New Orleans nightlife is a demanding, but ultimately rewarding course of study. Just don't work too hard.

click to enlarge Kermit Ruffins plays at Tipitina's - CHERYL GERBER
click to enlarge In the Marigny, the Spotted Cat has a mix of traditional and - gypsy jazz and doesn't charge a cover. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • In the Marigny, the Spotted Cat has a mix of traditional and gypsy jazz and doesn't charge a cover.


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