NOLA's Funk on Tap
Heading to New Orleans for Jazz Fest? Take a detour to the Maple Leaf Bar
New Orleans locals can always spot the Jazz Fest pilgrims. Though the out-of-town contingent runs the gamut from middle-aged guys in Hawaiian shirts to college coeds, after eight-hour music days, they’re all walking with a slight limp, sunburned despite their best efforts, and running on adrenaline and after-dinner caffeine.
Savvy pilgrims often spend the week between the festival’s two music-packed weekends exploring the nooks and crannies of the Crescent City’s world-famous music scene, uncovering the treasures mostly experienced by locals. And the savviest make their way to the Maple Leaf Bar, where they find themselves grooving with a few hundred fellow night owls in an aging Victorian storefront turned nightclub. From the first tune to the last, the largely unlit side room of “the Leaf” becomes a roiling mass of hard-dancing humanity, gleefully packed shoulder to shoulder for the night. A thin blue haze of cigarette smoke hangs over the crowd, which invariably goes split-level as more intrepid members climb onto benches for a little air and a better view of the band. The whole room shakes and dares you not to dance.