first gig

Losing NOLA: Donna’s

New Orleans is my holy city. The soundscape of it is a spiritual practice, a place to reflect, to create, and to commune.  Each musical venue – perhaps a sidewalk, a bar, a stoop, the length of a street, a high school band room, under a bridge, or the stage of a jazz club – has earned its story of veneration. When a musical site fades, New Orleanians grieve.

Today we’re grieving for Donna’s Bar & Grill, the last live music club on North Rampart Street.  It faces Armstrong Park, the site of Congo Square. For those of you into television, Rampart divides the French Quarter from the Treme neighborhood, where the HBO show Treme is based.

Offbeat, New Orleans’ music news resource, has just published an article about the closing of Donna’s. Read it here.

On her site, Donna gives us a farewell notice as seen below. You can click on the image through to her website:

I am very saddened by this. Donna’s was the first place I saw Mardi Gras Indians perform.  It was also the first place I had REAL red beans and rice (which I always thought was appropriately across from Louis Armstrong Park). It was a place I saw so many friends have their first ‘real’ gigs, especially after my favorite dive closed down (The Funky Butt – which closed right before Katrina).

As an aside… when things like this happen, as they do so often these days, it only reinforces what I want to do after I have that PhD under my belt. Someone needs to step in and create a cultural space to disseminate grants to keep these places alive, a place to archive the stories, objects, and traditions and to foster tourist expectations, a place to sell the music, to offer tours of our sacred musical spaces,  and to teach a new generation of New Orleans musicians. So many of the above organizations exist as separate entities, and none of them work together to become a strong enough voice on a National level.  If someone gets to putting it together before I do, I’ll raise a glass to them.  In the meantime, I’d wager that a jazz funeral for Donna’s is in the midst…