In the last few months, I have received about a dozen emails from readers who had recently spent a week or two in New Orleans. For some of them, it was their first visit. Some were there for the French Quarter Festival; but others had opted for the quieter and less crowded weeks after the Festival.
Let me say straight away that they all reported having a great time and returned home exhilarated. Several had set out with the aim of catching favourite bands. They generally succeeded, and assured me that seeing the bands in person (and sometimes managing a chat with them) was even better than watching great YouTube videos.
Yet there were just a few grumbles too. These included complaints about time-keeping and punctuality. These points were made: sometimes a band is advertised to start playing at a certain time; but they spend so long chatting and setting up, that the concert actually begins almost half an hour late. Similarly, a band told a tourist it would be busking in a certain spot until 1pm, but when he turned up to hear them at 12.30pm, he found they were already packing up and leaving.
I fear such things are bound to happen. In New Orleans, as in many countries of my experience, people have a relaxed attitude to matters of time-keeping and punctuality.
However, the point was made that Tuba Skinny always started right on time (for example, at their dba concerts). There was always high praise for that particular band. Most people managed to catch them at least once busking in Royal Street.
Some of the lesser bands were criticised for poor discipline and a somewhat cavalier attitude to their audiences. Here's an extract from one correspondent:
Arriving at 7pm, I asked where the band was. I was told they were delayed by the non-arrival of one of their number. I chatted to a couple at the bar (2 of the only 3 attendees apart from myself). After that the sequence of events was as follows:
7.30 Band (less the missing one) started playing to about 5 spectators.
7.40-7.45 Trombonist arrived, placing his instrument by his seat on the stage, went to the bar, ordered a 'shot', downed it, ordered a pint and went outside to drink it with a cigarette.
7.55 Trombonist joined the band. Turned out he was also the vocalist.
8.15 1st set finished, the couple having left earlier. I left, leaving about 3 people in the audience.
I must admit having had a couple of similar experiences myself in the bars of Frenchmen Street. But I think such performers are their own worst enemies. They will not make a living and will be soon rejected.
But let us end positively: for an example of the sort of music recent visitors have enjoyed: