What’s in a name?

Share the new New Orleans live music experience from the front row.

“The power of rock and roll is a constantly amazing process.”

— Jann Wenner, first sentence from the Rolling Stone review of the Beatles’ ‘White Album’, December 21, 1968

Source: WYES/Bruce Spizer

September 16, 1964. What happened that day?  Send us a quick response if you instantly recognized the date.

The Beatles played Tad Gormley. Think about that for a second. The world’s pre-eminent rock and roll band played a small venue in City Park. This was the event that first came to mind when I thought of a proper descriptor for this new project. What was the most important live music event in New Orleans history? 

The live music experience is September 16th‘s raison d’etre. We intend to serve as a voice and a partner during what may be one of the greatest runs of live music opportunities in New Orleans history. Our primary focus is live music, plain and simple. We may wander into some peripheral topics like food and other experiences worth discussing, describing, and sharing. But it’s the experience that we want to highlight, and it’s the music that is the “tie that binds”.

So why now? If you choose to and can afford it, you can see 7 of my 20 favorites bands in the first half of 2019 in New Orleans. SEVEN. Here I had been lamenting how bad popular music is today, especially when juxtaposed with the descriptions I’ve read and the music I’ve listened to from the 60s and 70s, arguably the Golden Age of live music from a historical standpoint.

My top 20 bands list is pretty diverse. I love guitars of all types, almost always a prominent force in the music that really moves me. I need rich, smoky, soulful voices – the ones that can’t be repeated or mimicked or synthesized. And harmony, both vocal and instrumental. But most of all, I love live shows – those gigs when the energy from the stage meshes seemlessly with the energy in the crowd. Performers. Unique experiences. Festival shows. Timeless and prevailing.

So what’s not in that Top 20??  Well, for starters anything that can be replicated easily. That kind of eliminates all the teeny pop from Britney and Christina to Taylor, Ariana and Selena. A trained mixed-bred cavapoo could almost match those “artists” note for note, but I guess you’d miss the push-up bras and sequins. Oh well. I respect the aforementioned musicians for their mass appeal and their ability to generate Beatles-like followings amongst the 20 and under crowds. But it’s just crappy music, plain and simple.  Change my mind.

An example of a band with trans-generational appeal from the 2000s is Dave Matthews Band.  I don’t love the music, but it reminds me of experiences from my youth, and it’s a great live show. Dave has energy. Dave has creativity. Dave has a talented ensemble.

My wife would be chastising me now: saying what about JT or Lady Gaga?  While they may check a lot of the boxes, I still haven’t heard anything trans-generational, music that will still be playing in 20 years. Talented folks for sure, but save me the comparisons with Mick. 

The years 2000-2010 may have been the worst decade in music history, the tail end of the long cycle of rock and roll history that started in the 1950s, peaked in the 60s and 70s, yelled in the 80s, scream-cried in the 90s, and became fully commercial and devoid of musical quality in the 2000s. But there’s hope now: the cross-currents that led to the new age of the live show recently are pretty clearly evident now. It all started with Napster.

The internet has made music readily available in every form. There are no records anymore (or CDs), which means that artists can’t make a living selling records. So they have to tour. This is good for us, the consumers. And there’s a huge market for live shows of every kind now, even artists that may be on MY “Bottom 20″….  shit, Taylor sells out the Superdome in a matter of hours.  But this touring trend has also exposed the middle ground, where I would argue that all of us should be devoting our time and attention.

So why New Orleans?  New Orleans is and has always been musically important, and we all know the rich history from Louis to Fess to the Night Tripper to Allen Toussaint, so insanely good and unique, and critical to all things rock and roll. But that isn’t the focus of this cyber-rag or whatever we will ultimately deem it.  Our focus will be on LIVE music, and we hope our words will be a platform for others to write and talk and share thoughts and experiences. We have an opportunity, here and now in New Orleans, to go out and absorb some of the greatest music available today, to touch the stage and blow out our ear drums. Some shows will disappoint, some will inspire, some will be memories we will talk about years from now. We will give you our thoughts, and we hope you share yours in return.

For our purpose, one important detail about New Orleans NOW is that we have newly renovated or developed venues to capture traveling bands that we’ve never captured before. Historically, we’ve consumed our live music in clubs and the rare show big enough to do the Dome (Paul McCartney, Rolling Stones, etc.). Those offerings were cool, but I’d argue that the Dome may have the worst musical acoustics in America, especially before Katrina and the renovation after the storm (U2 and Green Day sounded just fine to me!). Our clubs, as great as they are, are limited in terms of size and ambiance. That makes the clubs less economically attractive to the travelling bands that have seen album sales plummet over the past several years. House of Blues was our marquee venue not too many years ago (and our biggest sub-20,000 seat venue).

The Saenger, the Orpheum, the Joy, the Civic, now the Fillmore. This is our renaissance here in New Orleans. These types and sizes of shows used to skip our town, and now we are getting them ALL. A musically-crazed town getting the manna it has always deserved. And you can hear it in the streets and in the restaurants. 

“Hey did you see John Prine and Margo Price at the Orpheum last night?” 

“Nah, I’m not a huge John Prine fan.” 

“Forget about John Prine, you have to hear Margo Price. She’s like a young Emmylou.”

We are in the Golden Age of Live Music in New Orleans, and those types of experiences are becoming more commonplace and more available. I know that’s a bold statement, but it’s true. Our population is responding and becoming a part of this live movement. We intend to be your partner, eyes, and voice through this amazing journey.

I have another date for you to consider. May 2, 2019. We all know what’s happening that day, potentially the biggest live experience in New Orleans since September 16, 1964. www.september16th.com

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