The Revivalists’ Music Guide to New Orleans

Vocalist David Shaw shares seven spots for a music lover’s Big Easy bucket list

Photo: Paul Broussard and

Preservation Hall in New Orleans.

“New Orleans is a music culture town,” says Revivalists frontman David Shaw. “It’s not a music business town.” What he means is that creativity and connection tend to grow organically—or at least that’s how it happened for the Revivalists when the band formed more than a dozen years ago. Jams and workshops around town (and even a serendipitous bike run-in on the street) brought the chart-topping eight-piece together in 2007, and their roots-rock music, including the 2016 hit “Wish I Knew You,” has since led them far beyond the Crescent City limits. From international tours to music festival appearances and, most recently, a recording session at Muscle Shoals for their new EP and documentary, both named Made in Muscle Shoals, the band continues to gain far-reaching momentum. But at its core, the Revivalists will always be a New Orleans band—a title they wear proudly. “You’ve got to be yourself, and celebrate your differences: That’s New Orleans in a nutshell,” Shaw says. “We all come from different musical backgrounds, different familial backgrounds, different cultural backgrounds, different religious backgrounds. There’s a lot of diversity. That’s really what makes the city special, and I think that’s what makes our band special, too.” 

photo: Zackery Michael
David Shaw, center, and the Revivalists.

With so much to see in the Big Easy, we asked Shaw to break down a few must-visit music spots for travelers passing through. Here are seven of his favorites (with a few bites to eat along the way). 

501 Napoleon Avenue

Founded in 1977, Tipitina’s takes its name from a song by the R&B pianist Professor Longhair, who performed at the venue from its inception until his death in 1980. Today, the venue’s foundation supports music education for Louisianans of all ages—Revivalists guitarist Zack Feinburg first met the group’s drummer, Andrew Campanelli, at one of Tipitina’s Sunday workshops—and the Garden District haunt remains a favorite for Shaw. “It’s hallowed ground,” he says. “There’s really not a bad place in the house to stand and watch the show.”

photo: Justen Williams, 343 Media

The Howlin’ Wolf
907 S. Peters Street

“The Howlin’ Wolf is a great place to go catch a show—and it was very integral in our growth,” Shaw explains, noting that the club’s management also managed the Revivalists during their early days as a band. Now, he treasures the Warehouse District venue for its eclectic lineups. “They’ll host super jams, niche out-of-town acts that only play once or twice a year, and guys from much bigger bands who come in to do side projects.” 

The Spotted Cat
623 Frenchmen Street

Plan to make a night of club-hopping on Frenchman Street, where a two-block stretch of tiny venues keep live music ringing late into the night. At the Spotted Cat, the hopping jazz district’s crown jewel, expect old-school sounds and an intimate atmosphere. “It has the hottest jazz you’ve heard in a long time—fusion, Dixieland, straight-up, hot gypsy jazz—and people spilling out into the street,” Shaw says. Top-notch instrumentalism makes this a hotspot for aficionados of the genre, both off-stage and on. “You’re not gonna be up there performing unless you’re a real player.

The Apple Barrel
609 Frenchmen Street

Break up the trek across Frenchman Street with a bite at Adolfo’s, a Creole Italian restaurant, then venture downstairs to the Apple Barrel for a song or two. “It’s a true hole in the wall, which I just love,” Shaw says. “Some of my favorite artists play there,” including the local legends and regular performers Jack Sledge, a songwriter, and pedal steel player Dave Easley. The venue’s first-rate acoustics make it a popular spot for live recordings, too. Just be prepared for tight quarters. “It’s half the size of your living room,” jokes Shaw. “It’s very, very small. There’s room for the band and like, four people—and the band is playing on top of each other.” 

photo: Courtesy of New Orleans and Company

Maple Leaf Bar
8316 Oak Street

Tuesdays at this Uptown spot are well worth staying out on a school night for: That’s when the Grammy-winning Rebirth Brass Band has a standing gig, cranking out their signature blend of funk, hip-hop, jazz, and New Orleans soul. But the Maple Leaf’s real draw is the consistent roster of up-and-coming local talent. “You can always hear New Orleans music at the Maple Leaf,” Shaw says. “It’s hot and sweaty, and it just smells like history.” Already in the neighborhood? Fuel up next door at Jacques Imo’s, where Shaw orders the stuffed shrimp and recommends first-timers try the alligator cheesecake—seriously. “It’s famous.”

Vaughan’s Lounge
4229 Dauphine Street

For twenty years, the famed trumpeter Kermit Ruffins held down a weekly residency at this Bywater mainstay, and it’s easy to see what kept him coming back. “It’s a hidden gem,” Shaw says. “You can hear anything from jazz to blues to a brass band up in there.” Shaw recommends checking the schedule for a set from hometown heroes Corey Henry & the Treme Funktet

Preservation Hall
726 Saint Peter Street

No visit to the Crescent City is complete without a trek to this beloved institution, which was established in 1961 as a haven for traditional New Orleans jazz. Home to the world-renowned Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the venue hosts shows almost every night of the year and runs programs for the next generation of jazz musicians, too. “Its history is unmatched,” Shaw says. “It’s just a special place. For the rest of your life, every time you think about New Orleans, you’ll think about the particular kind of magic that you felt inside Preservation Hall.”

photo: Courtesy of New Orleans & Company
The Preservation Hall All Stars.