The Last Holdout: Live Music is Playing Around the U.S.?Why Not in New Orleans?
Sep 28 2020

The Last Holdout: Live Music is Playing Around the U.S.—Why Not in New Orleans?

By: Melanie Hucklebridge

Big concerts might be a thing of the past, but many cities are still allowing music venues to hold live performances. For cities like Memphis, Chicago, and even Los Angeles, live music events are still widely attended. The music scene in New Orleans not only keeps thousands of people employed, but also puts much-needed money into the city's economy. The positive Covid test rating in New Orleans is no worse than some of the other cities that are still holding live performances, but what is it that makes it the last holdout?

Some people tend to believe that if venues are allowed to feature live music, it would automatically lead to a rise in cases. But if we look at cities such as Los Angeles, we can see that that isn't necessarily the case. The Mint in L.A. has taken to holding "sidewalk sessions" to comply with government restrictions while still giving people a chance to have a safe outing that they can enjoy. The bands perform on the sidewalk, while nearby tables, where guests can dine, are spaced to adhere to social distancing. Not only is the venue hosting musicians, but also standup comedy performers.

In New Orleans, however, nearly all music venues are closed right now to public events.

Even NOLA staples such as BB King's Blues Club are open in other cities. The original BB King's Blues Club in Memphis is still operating with dine-in and live music. The Beale Street venue reintroduced live music June 17, following the March 11 shutdown, with the P.S. Band being the first performers. The venue has been making moves to present itself as a getaway by boosting both their menu and their music. Meanwhile, the BB King's Blues Club in New Orleans is closed until further notice, even though they are also a restaurant. This brings up the question of what it is about New Orleans that causes this community to still remain relatively shut down, even when there are some cities whose rates are worse than ours?

Although there are still a growing number of coronavirus cases in New Orleans, the restrictions on bars and restaurants are causing more problems for people than good. Local music venues like Tipitina's and the House of Blues have been struggling to stay afloat since the initial shutdown. Both of these venues are completely closed, and both have been presenting livestreamed performances.

"Right now, we're focusing on streaming shows as our main way of putting out music, since we aren't allowed to be open," said Brian "Tank" Greenberg of Tipitina's. "We launched tipitinas.tv as the new platform for hosting the streams. There are six episodes per season, and customers have the option to purchase the whole season or each show à la carte."

"Live music in front of a crowd will always be what we do best, but until we can bring people into Tipitina's for the music they want, we are trying to bring Tipitina's into peoples' homes," he continued. "That's our long-term goal with tipitinas.tv. When we are allowed to start hosting live music for an audience, we plan on continuing the online platform for the people all over the world who want to recreate the feeling of hanging out at Tip's."

The current positive Covid test rate in Orleans Parish is barely above one percent (1.1 percent) according to covidactnow.org, whereas places like Chicago are hovering at a nearly four-percent positive test rate. And yet, music venues such as the Jazz Showcase in Chicago are open limited days with live music available.

When considering the atmosphere of New Orleans, it is confusing as to why there couldn't be more outdoor performances with regulated areas or even just the occasional waterfront show. Is the closure of music venues meant to keep tourists away and natives safe, or is it meant to exhibit some sort of control over the largest source of revenue for the city? Either way, we're all looking forward to the day when we can enjoy local artists in-person instead of behind a screen.

"No one's ever accused me of being an optimist, but I cannot fathom a world without Tipitina's," said Greenberg. "So, until there is no tomorrow [for Tip's], I'm going to keep pretending like there will be."

For more information on these venues, please visit their websites:

The Mint, 6010 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, (323) 954-9400, themintla.com
BB King's Blues Club, 143 Beale St., Memphis, TN, (901) 524-5464,
bbkings.com/memphis
Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Ct., Chicago, IL, (312) 360-0234,
jazzshowcase.com
BB King's Blues Club New Orleans, 1104 Decatur St., (504) 934-5464,
bbkings.com/new-orleans
Tipitina's, 501 Napoleon St., (504) 895-8477,
tipitinas.com
House of Blues New Orleans, 225 Decatur St., (504) 310-4999,
houseofblues.com/neworleans


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