So yesterday, to say the very least, was a big day in New Orleans. The New Orleans Saints football team was playing against the Minnesota Vikings in a game that could send the Saints to their first Super Bowl in the teams 43 year existence. As I mentioned yesterday, New Orleans is a city that takes advantage of any reason to celebrate or have a party, and yesterday was far from an exception.
The game was in the evening here, but the anticipation of it was going strong all day long. As we walked down Bourbon Street, there was not a step you could take without hearing music in some form. The street was blocked off to traffic by mid-morning, and crowds were already out. I was perhaps the most out-of-place person on Bourbon Street, being the only one in town not wearing a Saints jersey or t-shirt.
One of the assumptions that I had going in to this trip was that, sure, there would be good music, but I didn’t realize that genuinely good music would be everywhere. I assumed that the great music would be limited to the Preservation Hall and House of Blues-like establishments, but even the “amateurs” are groups I would be happy to see in any top-tier jazz club.
As I walked in to the famous Pat O’ Brien’s bar for lunch (which consisted of free chili dogs and potato chips…that’s right, free), even the dueling pianists were impressive. Most times a dueling piano bar you get cheesy guys pounding out classic rock while modifying the lyrics in some perverse fashion for a laugh. Here, you had two smokey voiced laidies from Mississippi singing everything from jazz to Billy Joel to church music.
Street musicians might often suggest an untalented panhandler. As I settled into my seat at the Chartres House Cafe for a plate of crawfish cakes minutes before the football game was to start, a brass band came passing right by my table, led by a trumpeter who performed a solo I would have recorded, pressed, and packaged if I had the opportunity.
During the game, a man who introduced himself as an advertising executive named Bo told me that a world-famous jazz musician was to be performing in a tiny room free of charge on the fourth floor of the Wyndham Hotel. I was happy with what I was seeing on the street.
The Saints won that evening, and 4 1/2 years after Katrina, the city finally had a victory, and their team was going to the Superbowl. They celebrated accordingly. Bourbon Street was packed with people cheering, with music from every balcony, and no more than two seconds went by without someone shouting “WHO DAT?”, the Saints adopted motto.