This is My Town: Looking for live New Orleans music? Here’s where to go

African American Jazz Musician Blues Club Performer
African American Jazz Musician Blues Club Performer

By: Matthew Lammi MD, MSCR
Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine
Section of Pulmonary/
Critical Care & Allergy/Immunology
Cardiovascular Center of Excellence
Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans
Co-director, Comprehensive Pulmonary Hypertension Center at University Medical Center, New Orleans

When people ask why I came to New Orleans, my professional answer was for the job opportunities at Louisiana State University. The real reason is simple—the music. People from Austin, Nashville, or New York may object, but New Orleans is unquestionably the greatest live music city in the country, if not the world. For such a small city, the options are unparalleled. Here are some of my favorite venues, grouped geographically (check out the music calendar on  for specific listings).

French Quarter

Preservation Hall: This New Orleans institution features traditional New Orleans Jazz by some of the greatest players in town every night at 5:00 pm, 6:00 pm, 9:00 pm, and 10:00 pm. To get a ticket at the door, expect to stand in line about a half hour before show time. Online you can purchase a “Big Shot” ticket that allows you to skip the line. Pres Hall is an all ages venue and is a wonderful place to take kids to experience the live music.

Bourbon Street: If you’re looking for music, skip Bourbon Street and head to Frenchman Street (below). If you want to stroll and check out the best street musicians, head down Royal Street.

Frenchman Street: This is located in the Marigny section of New Orleans, just adjacent to the French Quarter. By my count, there are 15 music venues within a 3-block stretch. If you like to live spontaneously, Frenchman is a great place to wander and let the music pouring out of each club draw you in.

d.b.a.: Features classic New Orleans artists such as the Treme Brass Band, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, and Little Freddie King. If there is a chance to catch John Boutte at d.b.a on Monday, don’t miss it.

Snug Harbor: Snug is the premier jazz club in New Orleans for both national/international touring acts and local legends such as Ellis Marsalis, Donald Harrison Jr., Jason Marsalis, and Herlin Riley.

Spotted Cat: Hole-in-the-wall jazz club featuring traditional jazz. There are even 2:00 pm shows, for those who finish up conference early.

Three Muses: Great place to combine delicious food and soul-satisfying music.

A taxi/Uber/Lfyt ride away

For those looking to check out more of a local/nontourist scene (who should be everyone), the options are nearly limitless, but here are some of my favorites:

Maple Leaf Bar (Uptown, Oak Street): For the quintessential New Orleans experience, grab dinner at Jacques-Imo’s and head to the Maple Leaf on Tuesday for Grammy Award-winning Rebirth Brass Band.

Tipitina’s (Uptown, Tchoupitoulas Street): Tips is probably the music historically famous live venue still active in New Orleans and draws the greatest acts from the region and nation.

Chickie Wah Wah (Mid-city, Canal Street): Intimate listening space for those looking to really enjoy the music.

Howlin’ Wolf (Warehouse District, St. Peters Street): Sunday night—check out the Grammy-nominated Hot 8 Brass Band for authentic New Orleans music (I may be biased since they played in the parade for my wedding…).

Julius Kimbrough’s Prime Example (Seventh Ward, N. Broad St.): Classic neighborhood jazz club with shows nightly at 8:00 pm and 10:00 pm. Email or text the owner Mr. Kimbrough for a table reservation.

Bacchanal Fine Wine and Spirits (Bywater, Poland Ave): Appropriately subtitled “NOLA’s Backyard Party,” this outdoor venue hosts music at noon and 7:30 pm, along with 5:00 pm on weekends. Catch some of the hottest young musicians on the scene, along with killer food and wine.