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 a visit to these venues and you'll sure to pass a good time.
Guide to Louisiana's Live Music Venues
Whether you start your music adventure here with zydeco breakfast or end the night here with rocking live music, you have to experience the zydeco breakfast served every Saturday morning. Live music and tasty brunch fare are just a few of the highlights at Buck and Johnny's. Located on Breaux Bridge's picturesque main drag, this formerly abandoned car shop has been brought back to life as a multi-use restaurant and event space. Head to the Filling Station (a.k.a the bar) and enjoy the open air patio in between music sets. Definately wear your dancing shoes!
Fred's Lounge, Mamou (northwest from Lafayette)
Fred's is only open Saturday mornings and full time during Mardi Gras, 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 the matriarch and widow of the club's founder, 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.
A trip to New Orleans would not be complete without experiencing live music at Tipitina's. This jamming venue, located in an old warehouse off Napoleon Ave. and Tchoupitoulas St., was founded in 1977. The name Tipitina's was inspired by the song "Tipitina" by Professor Longhair who played at the venue until his passing in 1980. The venue has played host to so many New Orleans music legends including Dr. John, the Neville Brothers and Trombone Shorty who have all graced the stage at this standing-room-only venue.
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.
Located in Mandeville, on the north side of big ol' Lake Pontchartrain and a quick drive from New Orleans, this simple little roadhouse features big and local musicians. The sounds of New Orleans style jazz and brass funk, as well as the Cajun tunes born from the bayou pour out of this venue. The building is more than 100 years old, and has been known as a popular venue for African-American performers since the 1930's. Read more about the past performers.
The appeal of Dew Drop Jazz & Social Hall isn’t just in its music, but in the building itself. Constructed in 1895 by members of Mandeville’s African-American community, the simple, unadorned wooden building once hosted New Orleans jazz musicians who took steamboats across Lake Pontchartrain to play. These days the community-oriented venue hosts traditional jazz concerts throughout the spring and fall months.
Established in 1998, Werlien Prosperie and his band Couche Couche kept the Cajun fais-do-do tradition alive at the Jolly Inn. Live Cajun bands still pack the dance floor with a Cajun two step, waltzes, line dances and swamp pop on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons. 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.
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.
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.
Rocky's Cajun Kitchen, Eunice (northwest from Lafayette)
Welcome to Rocky's where live music fills the air multiple times a week. This restaurant and Cajun dancehall hosts jam sessions every Wednesday, while live music from Louisiana's Cajun musicians happen Thursday through Saturday nights. Drop in for a jam session, hear songs in Louisiana French, dance, eat and take in the Cajun culture.
Frogmore Plantation’s Delta Music Tour, Ferriday (northeast from Alexandria)
Experience the music of the Delta right at the source. Frogmore Plantation & Gins is a historical site that offers visitors insight into plantation life dating back centuries. The Delta Music Tour’s singers and narrators are your guide, and on your tour of the plantation, you’ll hear songs and stories of bygone days. After your plantation visit, you’ll be guided on a tour of the Delta Music Museum in Ferriday, which honors legendary Louisiana musicians.
Upscale cocktails and laid-back tunes are on the menu at this Shreveport bar and music venue that opened in 2017. The emphasis here is on local music and expertly crafted drinks, making The Bar Chord a welcome addition to Shreveport’s cultural scene.
Snug Harbor is one of the main draws to Frenchmen Street, a strip of music venues and restaurants just steps from New Orleans’ French Quarter. This is arguably the jazziest among them, featuring the likes of the legendary Marsalis family (Delfeayo, Jason and Ellis) and local icons Dr. Michael White and Charmaine Neville. If you want to hear authentic New Orleans jazz music, this is a good place to start.
For a taste of New Orleans nightlife beyond the French Quarter, head Uptown to the Maple Leaf Bar. This beloved neighborhood venue is perhaps best known for its weekly performers (Grammy Award-winner George Porter Jr. on Mondays; the Rebirth Brass Band on Tuesdays), and its long list of jazz, blues and rock luminaries who’ve graced the stage over the past 40-plus years.
As part of Baton Rouge’s Shaw Center for the Arts, the Manship Theatre features top-notch dance, theatrical and musical performances. This is one of the crown jewels of Baton Rouge’s cultural scene, notable for its diverse lineup. The 2018-2019 season alone includes everything from Shakespeare to Cuban bands, to Motown bands and Grammy Award-winning musicians.
The Varsity Theatre is located near the heart of Louisiana State University’s campus. The college vibe is a big part of the Varsity’s charm — this is a popular spot for watching LSU football games — and with its packed performance schedule of rock, funk, blues and pop performers, there’s always something going on here.