Any music fanatic needs to make a trip to New Orleans at least once in their lifetime. Learn why with our ultimate guide to New Orleans music.
*Editor’s Note: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, New Orleans is currently in a Phased Reopening plan. This includes restrictions on live music, clubs and festivals. For more information, see here.
This iconic park that lies in the heart of New Orleans’ Treme neighborhood has a long history of music and celebration. Armstrong Park’s roots date back to the antebellum period when enslaved Africans would meet to unite, sing and dance in Congo Square. That same resilient spirit has followed the park to this day where it is now named in honor of New Orleans’ own Louis Armstrong and is home to a number of the city’s favorites music festivals and special events.
Nothing says New Orleans music quite like a homegrown brass band. Typically comprised of a variety of instruments including trumpets, trombones, clarinets, saxophones, and more, brass bands are a traditional fixture of the NOLA music scene. Find them throughout second line routes, along Frenchmen Street and at special celebrations such as weddings, graduations, birthdays, and even funerals.
This annual Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival incorporates the three things New Orleans is best known for: music, food and festivals. Enjoy freshly made BBQ options from a host of local pitmasters, as well as live jazz and blues sets by some of the city and region’s favorite musicians.
Two multifaceted artists who contributed heavily to New Orleans’ music scene - Dr. John and Danny Barker. One helped to pave the way for jazz musicians and the other helped reinvent the sound. Both were heavily adored and uniquely NOLA.
In New Orleans, every iconic musician gets their start as an emerging artist. During your next visit, take a trip off of the beaten path with GoNOLA’s monthly round-up of emerging artists and discover the new sounds of the city before the rest of the world.
Frenchmen Street is the epicenter of all things live music in NOLA. The five-block stretch of music-fueled fun is best known for its host of local brass bands serving sounds daily. You can also enjoy live music performances, burlesque shows, karaoke, dance parties and more.
From bounce and blues to zydeco and jazz, New Orleans dominates the charts when it comes to unique subgenres - eight specific subgenres according to Spotify. Modern jazz, hip-hop, blues, indie, zydeco, bounce, brass and traditional jazz are the eight subgenres that inspired our Offline Playlist (more below). Learn more about them and their special ties to NOLA here.
Any NOLA native knows the significance of high school marching bands. During Mardi Gras season, the streets are filled with local students parading throughout the city to celebrate one of the most festive times of the year. These young performers are known to fill the air with music, pageantry and fun during each Mardi Gras Parade.
You can’t talk New Orleans music without including the Queen of New Orleans Soul, Ms. Irma Thomas. A legendary artist who always stayed true to her local roots, Thomas is a Grammy Award-recipient, a Jazz Fest hall-of-famer, and a blues icon.
What began as a small fest featuring local music, art and food in Congo Square has blossomed into one of the largest music festivals in New Orleans and the U.S. While the world-renowned New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, or Jazz Fest, has evolved over the years, it remains rooted in its mission to showcase authentic New Orleans culture through food, music and art.
Passed down from one local musician to the next, the Mother-in-Law Lounge is a staple of the historic Treme neighborhood. Originally owned by New Orleans’ own Ernie K-Doe, the Mother-in-Law Lounge was purchased by Kermit Ruffins in 2014 to continue showcasing the spirit of music, soul and fun that Treme is known for.
What do a jazz legend and rap guru have in common? New Orleans! From Louis Armstrong to Lil’ Wayne, the Crescent City celebrates all forms of music and sound. So much so that we have the annual Satchmo Summerfest and Lil Weezyana Festival to honor both of their legendary contributions to American music and New Orleans culture.
Nestled in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood, the Music Box Village is a hidden sculpture garden where the structures double as musical instruments. Visitors can enjoy orchestral shows featuring local and national artists or experience the music box themselves during public hours. The site is also family-friendly, and a great place for kids to experiment with sound and music.
The Neville Brother are two of the most soulful siblings in New Orleans. Throughout their career, the funky four specialized in R&B and soul music with tours around the country.
New Orleans knows that music has the power to unite no matter who you are or where you come from. With that premise, the Offline Playlist was born. Found exclusively on Spotify, this two-part compilation features a host of notable New Orleans musicians, unique genres and original songs. Start streaming today for a taste of NOLA anywhere in the world.
Easily one New Orleans’ most iconic performance venues, Preservation Hall has been a fixture of jazz since 1961. On just about any given day of the year, guests can experience live music by the world-renowned Preservation Hall Jazz band or one of the hall’s 50+ local master jazz musicians.
Award-winning DJ and New Orleans native, DJ Soul Sister is known to shut down parties and festivals across the Crescent City and beyond. She’s graced the stages of ESSENCE Fest, Voodoo Fest, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and countless clubs and performance venues. Next time you’re in NOLA, check out her event schedule to groove with the QUEEN of rare groove.
Even in the age of MP3s and music streaming, nothing beats the priceless satisfaction of a physical copy of a record. Explore some of New Orleans’ beloved record and vinyl shops for collector’s items and music memorabilia.
One of the best things about New Orleans is walking down any avenue, block, boulevard or street and soaking in the authentic sounds of the city from the people of New Orleans. Violinists, vocalists, tap dancers and more are among endless acts and performances found throughout the Crescent City.
A renowned music venue opened in honor of New Orleans’ own Professor Longhair, and has remained one of the most iconic music venues in the city ever since. The list of performers that have graced the stage is as lengthy and it is impressive, including everyone from the Neville Brothers and Trombone Shorty to larger national acts like Lenny Kravitz, James Brown, Pearl Jam, Patti Smith and more.
“U” is hard, but one thing that’s not hard is finding amazing live music all across the city. From Monday to Sunday and, Uptown to Downtown, New Orleans is always bustling with nightly live music. On any given day of the week you can make your way to venues across the city and spot some of New Orleans’ most notable artists. The Soul Rebels, Hot 8 Brass Band, and Jeremy Davenport are just a few familiar faces you’ll begin to see at reoccurring shows throughout NOLA.
The spookiest musical festival around is the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience. Each and every Halloween weekend, New Orleans’ City Park is filled with a host of national headliners ready to rock the city. Past performers have included Kendrick Lamar, the Foo Fighters, Guns N Roses and many more.
WWOZ is New Orleans’ community-supported radio station specializing in music and programming specific to New Orleans heritage and culture. You can experience a piece of WWOZ by tuning in daily to 90.7 FM, stopping by the annual WWOZ Live Music Tent at Jazz Fest or browsing the OZ Live Music Calendar for nightly live music throughout New Orleans.
New Orleans’ own Mia X (aka Mia Young) made history as the first female rapper signed to No Limit Records, Master P’s deeply influential record label that counted Snoop Dogg, Silkk the Shocker and Mystikal as recording artists during the early-to-mid 90s. Mia’s rise to fame coincided with a period in New Orleans’ music history where NOLA-born rappers were topping the charts, from the aforementioned signees of No Limit to the heavy hitters at Cash Money Records, including Lil’ Wayne, Birdman, Juvenile and Mannie Fresh.
There’s no shortage of reasons to fest in New Orleans, and music is one of our favorite fest-worthy features. Whether it’s a gospel get down at the annual Praise Fest or BUKU’s massive lineup of hip-hop, EDM and Indie Rock there are plenty of music festivals throughout the year in New Orleans.
While Zydeco is most frequently heard in the more Cajun-heavy parts of Louisiana, this raucous genre can be enjoyed throughout New Orleans at a number of festivals, including the Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival in March, on the Fais Do Do stage at Jazz Fest and weekly at Zydeco dance night at Rock’n’Bowl, just to name a few.