Frenchmen Street mainstay the Spotted Cat Music Club plans to reopen this weekend for the first time in more than a year.
The New Orleans Cottonmouth Kings, a jazz band frequently featured at the Spotted Cat before the pandemic, is set to play Friday at 6 p.m. They’re followed by Dominick Grillo & the Frenchmen Street Allstars at 8 p.m..
On Saturday, the Spotted Cat hosts four shows: Panorama Jazz Band at 2 p.m., Russell Welch’s Hot Quartet at 4 p.m., Michael Watson & the Alchemy at 6 p.m. and Meschiya Lake & the Little Big Horns at 8 p.m.
“Our staff, along with our family of musicians, have missed entertaining our many fans, both locally and around the world,” said a message posted on the club’s website.
“With local restrictions having been lifted (sort of), it is time for us to make our return. If this past year has taught us anything, it’s that all things change and people have a way of coming together to adapt with new circumstances. The Cat is no different. … We are adapting to the times with how we run our establishment.”
To conform to current coronavirus restrictions, ticket sales for each show are limited to groups of two or more at socially distanced tables. An individual ticket costs $20 plus service charges, available via an Eventbrite link at spottedcatmusicclub.com.
No dancing is allowed and closing time is 11 p.m., per New Orleans public health regulations. Table service will be provided.
“It is with much thought that we are able to provide a safe space to bring music back to our stage and provide work for many who have been without for far too long,” the club’s statement said.
The return of the Spotted Cat, the club where CNN anchors Don Lemon and Brooke Baldwin repeatedly hosted boozy New Year’s Eve broadcasts, is another sign of New Orleans nightlife coming back to life, albeit at earlier hours.
The nearby Favela Chic, occupying the corner space that was previously home to Café Brasil, was the first Frenchmen Street club to present indoor music since the COVID-19 shutdown a year ago. On March 12, the first day of New Orleans’ loosened Phase 3 coronavirus restrictions, Tyler Hotti & the Cooling Agents performed inside Favela Chic, but without their horn section.
Other clubs in the Frenchmen entertainment district are still closed, but the street hasn’t been entirely silent.
The Yard on Frenchmen, just off Esplanade Avenue behind the Engine 9 fire station, routinely hosts brass bands in its courtyard.
Bands have been busking on the sidewalk outside the closed Frenchmen Street Art Market, as d.b.a. sells to-go drinks across the street.
Musicians also play outside the Royal Frenchmen Hotel & Bar, which hosts nightly, ticketed concerts in its courtyard.
The Dat Dog hotdog restaurant has featured solo pianists and other musicians on its balcony.
In February, Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro, one of the longest-tenured Frenchmen Street clubs, started hosting livestreamed Sunday night performances without audiences on the platform StageIt.com. That series continues Sunday at 7 p.m. with trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis and his quintet.
Elsewhere, music venues are slowly coming back to life.
Bullet’s Sports Bar in the 7th Ward has started hosting trumpeter Kermit Ruffins on Tuesday evenings and the Original Pinettes Brass Band on Fridays.
Last weekend, two of New Orleans’ larger clubs, Tipitina’s Uptown and the Howlin’ Wolf in the Warehouse District, presented their first shows with audiences since the start of the pandemic. Attendance was limited to 75 people, per the city’s current regulations.
The music continues at Tipitina’s on Friday with two sold-out, limited capacity performances by keyboardist Jon Cleary & the Absolute Gentlemen Trio. A trio fronted by guitarist and singer Walter “Wolfman” Washington will be featured at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Saturday; a limited number of tickets are still available.
The Howlin’ Wolf has the Rebirth Brass Band booked on Friday and the Hot 8 Brass Band on Sunday, as it does every weekend through May.
On Thursday, April 1, the Howlin’ Wolf relaunches its weekly “Comedy Gumbeaux” series.
New Orleans’ most active music venue since fall has been the Broadside, the 13,000-square-foot outdoor entertainment spot across Toulouse Street from the Broad Theater.
Open since October, the Broadside has consistently presented top-tier local bands. The 150 allowed attendees sit outside on socially-distanced Adirondack-style chairs.
This weekend, the club has the Soul Brass Band on Saturday at 2 p.m., followed by a joint performance featuring drummer Herlin Riley and percussionist Mike Dillon at 5 p.m. The soul band Lulu & the Broadsides play at the Broadside on Sunday at 3:30 p.m.