Louisiana is made of live music. The beauty of Louisiana’s musical tradition is that it's a participatory one. People of all ages and backgrounds dance, often in the same club to the same bands. The lines between the bands, the music and the audience are often blurred in the juke joints, honky-tonks and dancehalls of Louisiana, creating an energy you are hard-pressed to find anywhere else. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are 10 live music venues where you can be sure to pass a good time.
Cafe Des Amis, Breaux Bridge
Every Saturday morning, the tables of this art-festooned restaurant on Breaux Bridge's picturesque main drag are pushed to the back to accommodate a zydeco band and a torrent of dancers. They still serve the best Cajun breakfast around, but you should probably wear your dancing shoes when you go.
Fred's Lounge, Mamou
Fred's is only open during Mardi Gras and Saturday mornings, when they host the Cajun music radio show that has been running there since the 60s. It's a good time out in the Acadiana prairie. Don't be too shocked when Tante Sue takes a pull from the Schnapps bottle holstered to her waist and pops a piece of boudin to your mouth from a cardboard box as she makes her way around the dance floor.
Teddy's Juke Joint, Zachary
Teddy Johnson was born in the house that is now one of the last juke joints on Highway 61. He holds court, sometimes wearing a cape, from the shrine-like DJ booth in the back, carrying on and shouting out to the crowd over blues and R&B records or summoning the band to the stage. A dizzying, Christmas light-draped piece of living history, Teddy's is not to be missed.
Birdie's Roadhouse, Varnado
This little wooden house on a curve in the highway north of Bogalusa is the rockingest little club you've never heard of. The local crowd is beyond friendly, but things get rowdy when the blues and roots bands get going. It's only a matter of time (and a few beers) before people take to shimmying up the brass pole holding up the roof, sliding down to the packed dance floor. It gives a new meaning to "house rockin'."
Preservation Jazz Hall, New Orleans
There is no more traditional a jazz haunt than Preservation Hall, a sparse square room in the tourist riot of the French Quarter. Pull up a spot on the floor and prepare to find out what New Orleans jazz has always and continues to sound like as the world’s finest practitioners of it wail every night of the week. Be prepared to tip at the end when those saints come marching in.
Jolly Inn, Houma
Werlien Prosperie and his band Couche Couche keep the Cajun fais-do-do tradition alive every Friday night at the Jolly Inn, a charming restaurant and dance hall in Houma. You need not be an expert dancer; there is always someone ready to show you a step or two to get you in sync with this great Cajun tradition.
Roque's Blues Hall, Natchitoches
Roque's is one of the last surviving north Louisiana juke joints; a nondescript club with a live blues jam on the last Friday of every month. It's not a flashy place by any stretch, but then blues is not always flashy music. It's the real deal, not watered down, in one of the last places to find it.
Enoch's Irish Pub, Monroe
This homey pub in Monroe has been playing congenial host to area blues and folk musicians since 1980. Artists like Jerry Jeff Walker and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown have graced the stage that also hosts the occasional bluegrass and Irish music session. Like any proper pub, Enoch's is the kind of place you like to make your home base.
Blue Moon Saloon, Lafayette
This combination bar/live music venue/tourist hostel hosts Lafayette's finest music seven days a week. Everyone from the young blood Cajun groups like Lost Bayou Ramblers to world-renowned groups like Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys tear into it on the Blue Moon's back porch. It's pretty much a guaranteed good time no matter who's on the bill.
Miller's Zydeco Hall of Fame (Formerly Richard's), Lawtell near Opelousas
This no-frills, low-ceilinged dancehall is still, after half a century, the center of the zydeco universe. Bands like Keith Frank's Soileau Zydeco Band hold forth as couples shimmy away in the dark of the dance floor.