Happy New Year to you all.
This is my last blog of 2013, and I hope this year is better for you than last, fiscally, emotionally and physically.
We’re looking forward to 2014 at OffBeat because it’s going to open a new, interesting era for us, and we hopefully will be working with the Louisiana Music Factory to bolster the reputation of Frenchmen Street as a music destination in New Orleans. With the addition of a music retailer, I believe the whole vibe of the street will change for the better. The less Frenchmen Street is like Bourbon Street, the better.
Now, there’s a place for everything in New Orleans, and I’m not saying the Bourbon is a bad thing. However, New Orleanians know that locals typically don’t patronize Bourbon Street when they are interested in hearing local music. That’s where Frenchmen comes in, and indeed, the other music clubs that are located throughout the city: in the Warehouse District, Uptown, and in Mid-City. But Frenchmen surely has the highest numbers of music clubs in one location outside the Quarter.
Because the music scene on the street has developed organically, Frenchmen has developed from a “hidden gem” to a place that’s becoming known by visitors as a music destination when you visit New Orleans.
And therein lies the rub.
Unless this city can get its tourism promotion act together and foster interest in the city as a “music” destination—a place where you can experience authentic music that’s indigenous to this wonderful city, Frenchmen Street may be degraded into another “party “ destination.
I know this may sound elitist, and if it does, I apologize, but I truly believe that there’s a huge difference in people who want to experience real culture in contrast to those who simply want to wallow in a 24-hour-party atmosphere.
It’s the difference between feeling it and being numb to it. Do you understand?
Let’s face it: we live in a capitalistic society and in a city that’s used its laissez-faire attitude towards alcohol and party-for-the-sake-of-anything to manufacture a mentality that we need tourists here despite the cost to our culture. As long as it makes money, it’s good to go.
So how does one create an approach to business that encourages sensitivity to culture? I don’t know the answer to that question.
I do know that Frenchmen is now the hot area to invest in bars. One (Bamboula’s) recently opened with barkers (never before seen on Frenchmen, only on Bourbon), fishbowl-sized drinks (ditto) and rumors that the Frenchmen Street Theater located behind an adjacent to Bamboula’s is going to offer burlesque (ditto).
There’s another three-story place that’s under construction next to Bamboula’s, a two-story Dat Dog under construction on the corner of Chartres and Frenchmen, leaving only the venerable and totally underused old Café Brasil property vacant. And if the street continues to attract businesses that want to make money and at the same time ignoring the culture, and if they have a big enough wad of cash, I’m positive that the prime property at Café Brasil could also be scooped up.
Despite its “support” of music, the city has not put together anything that addresses music per se, nor does it have the resources or will to enforce regulations that have a negative impact on preserving the culture.
We have neighborhood associations that wield significant–too much–power over city officials (witness the in the past week, the Vieux Carre Property Owners and Residents Association (VCPORA) influence over the City Council to introduce their “Seven Essential Items” for crafting a new noise ordinance for the city (some of which I can agree with; some of their points are ludicrous, like the actual decible levels and the measurement of so-called “noise”–read music–at the property line from which the sound emanates). Supposedly, the VCPORA gained support for other neighborhood associations in this endeavor.
Why aren’t the cultural entities related to music making a stand regarding music.
Why are the few members of neighborhood associations so influential?
Why? Because the squeaky wheel gets the grease. They squawk, they’re organized, they have the money to hire publicists to get their agenda into the mainstream media. Until the cultural advocates in this city can organize to squeak just as loudly, we don’t have a shot in hell of getting any attention or action on the cultural agenda. That takes money; that takes organizational structure. MaCCNO (the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans) is trying…but they don’t have a lot of money.
And here’s something else to think about: most cultural organizations are non-profits and by law, they can’t advocate (the Arts Council—as if they advocated for music anyway; the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation; French Quarter Festivals, etc.). There is virtually no lobby for culture in this city that has any clout whatsoever.
Who is going to step forward to advocate for music?