This year in September I was in New Orleans. Going to New Orleans had been my wish for a very long time, but I didn’t want to go before I turned 21, since most of the bars won’t let you in otherwise. Which means I had a lot of time to dream about it before I actually went there. I read about it, I read about the food there, I looked at the pictures, I listened to bands currently playing in New Orleans, I watched Treme and so on. When I finally got there it was everything I expected it to be and so much more. Without a doubt it’s a city of my dreams. And now, three weeks after the trip, I find myself missing it more and more. I miss having problems deciding on what live music I’ll listen to on that day, I miss the amazing food, I miss the unbelievably kind people, I miss beignets, I miss seeing the wonderful street artists, I miss forgetting about the time because I enjoy the music so much and most of all I miss the music I love, being played right in front of me wherever I go. So I’m writing this, hoping it will make me feel a bit better.
The Spotted Cat Music Club is a cool place on Frenchmen Street just outside the French Quarter. It’s quite famous in New Orleans and everyone from around there will know it. I loved the place from the first day I was there. It was where I went every night for one last beer before going to bed and it’s where I heard The New Orleans Jazz Vipers. They’re a band playing traditional jazz and they’re quite renowned around the Frenchmen street. Here’s an example of what they sound like. I think it goes without saying that it’s a completely different thing hearing them live. It’s hearing them live when you can so easily feel all the energy and joy that they exuberate.
All of them are great, but Joe Braun, the saxophone player and singer on some
songs, is really something special. Seeing him on and off the stage, talking
to him and hearing his music gave me something to think about. Off the stage,
he’s actually a quiet, shy guy and when I went to talk to him to tell him how
much I’ve enjoyed their music, he was just so humble and modest. So when he’s
hanging around the bar and on the street, he seems like an average guy, but
when he hits the stage and starts playing, he becomes someone different. His
singing is truly wonderful as is his playing. He puts so much emotion and
energy into it. Listen to him sing and play on “Lonesome
Me”, a Fats
Waller song. It feels like music isn’t just something he does, it’s a part of
who he is. Without the music, he’s only a shadow of himself. It’s only when
he’s singing and playing that he really becomes himself, and that is what
makes his music so genuine and full of energy.
One day I heard the Jazz Vipers play a song called New Orleans (they haven’t recorded it, so here’s a Louis Armstrong version) and Joe was the one who sang it. Another thing become apparent that day. The way he got serious and happy at the same time when they started playing this song, the way he sang “just think of New Orleans” really slowly and the emotions you could feel in his singing made me realize he must feel a deep connection towards New Orleans. He doesn’t just like the city, he loves it with all his heart and he wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, no matter what happened. It’s impossible to explain it with words, so I’ll just let him explain the way he knows best. Here’s a song he wrote after Katrina, inviting people to come back to New Orleans “I Hope You’re Coming Back To New Orleans”.
New Orleans really grows on you and if I miss it so much after being there for only 10 days, I can only imagine what it must mean to someone living there.