One thing you will instantly be aware of when you visit New Orleans, is that it is a city which thrives on music--JAZZ and ZYDECO among the most popular!! Music is in the air in every part of the French Quarter it seems!
If you're like me, you've heard about Preservation Hall but not really sure what it's all about. Attending a Preservation Hall performance is the quintessential music experience in New Orleans. We waited 2 hours + to be one of the first 15 people or so admitted to get a place on one of the few benches in this "tiny" room. The rest of the crowd had to stand or find a place on the floor to hear and see this performance. The line to get in stretched down the block on the evening we attended----that's how popular Preservation Hall is!!
Tickets: Online reserved seats run $35 - $50 per adult general admission seats are $15 - $20 (2016 Prices).
See Part I for more information!
Jazz musicians and the famous strolling jazz funerals of New Orleans have been depicted in countless movies like James Bond, but there is nothing like experiencing this music firsthand! Preservation Hall is THE VENUE of Jazz legends and we were lucky enough to attend an evening performance.
In 1961, Allan and Sandre Jaffe founded "Preservation Hall" to serve as a sanctuary for New Orleans musicians where they could play/perform and preserve this unique form of American Jazz. The Preservation Hall is not some huge and glitzy concert hall. On the contrary, it's mostly a rather nondiscript, little old building with a rundown interior, tucked into the middle of a block on St. Peter Street.
[UPDATE 2016: Performances are held nightly usually at 6, 8, 9,and 10pm. Tickets for reserved seats should be purchased online in advance as they go quickly. Expect prices to range from $35 - $50 (2016 prices). However general admission tickets can still be purchased at the door -- first come, first served. General admission tickets run $15 - $20.]
Admission at this time were $8.00 (2005 prices). BE PREPARED TO HAVE THE EXACT CHANGE!! NO RESERVATIONS ARE ACCEPTED. ALL SEATS ARE ON A FIRST COME, FIRST SERVE BASIS.You may not even notice the non-descript building, but the music will draw you in. Believe me, it is worth the wait to get in!!
Preservation Hall is one of New Orleans' most famous attractions but it is also a very hard one to categorize. It is only open from 8pm to 11pm when a very superb collection of jazz musicians perform an excellent set of popular jazz three times a night. This of course means I should consider listing the Preservation Hall as a nightlife spot however it is one where you cannot get any drinks or food. In fact you can only sit in on one of the sets and the seating means plunking your backside down a wooden bench for 45 minutes. Yes that is right, the show is just 45 minutes long and that is for the cost of $16 a head. This may be a bit too much for many people especially those indifferent to jazz. That is why I am tempted to refer to the Preservation Hall as a tourist trap because for many it will be. The building itself is purposefully left in a derelict state. There are no signs outside. The interior is dank and dark. The band just sits on old dining room chairs. You cannot take pictures of the band while they are performing however as you might notice I was able to take pictures of the "stage" before they performed. I suggest if you are willing to cough up the $16 for the show you can decide yourself if this a must-see or a tourist trap. I will simply warn you that the Preservation Hall is not for everybody.
Admission to Preservation Hall is first come-first seated. No advance tickets, no reserved seating. There are six wooden benches, and a series of pillows on the floor. If you are not one of the lucky first through the door, you are sitting on the floor, leaning against a wall, or standing for the entire time. The building is about 150 years old - there is no air conditioning. Giant fans do their best to swirl around the hot, sticky July air. The room is dark, the walls decorated with dark paintings of musicians and New Orleans - there is a sign behind the bandstand that reads "Requests: Traditional - $2; All Others - $5; Saints - $10".
Sometime after 8pm (New Orleans time, if you will), six men of slightly advanced age take the stage. From the very first song, you know that you are in the presence of genuine Jazz masters. From "What a Wonderful World", to "Tiger Rag", to "St. James Infirmary" - each piece was a hit with audience, which was comprised of young and old, resident and tourist, black and white. The crowd this night was appreciative and enthusiastic - several requests were made, and the band got standing ovations after each set. There are three sets per night, each about 45 minutes, with a 15 minute break in-between. It was so much fun- we "chair danced", and moved, and shimmied, and clapped, and had a wonderful time! At the end of the night, as the bandleader himself stated, "Now you can say you've been to New Orleans". It's taken me 13 years, but I can finally make that statement myself.
If you go: Admission $10, line starts around 7:15 pm, doors open at 7:45 pm, show starts at 8:00 pm (all times are "ish"). Bathrooms are next door at Pat O'Brien's. Bottled water and souvenirs for sale in the carriageway.
Preservation Hall is the reason New Orleans exists today. It is authentic, historical, raw, and unmatched. I did not feel as close to New Orleans as I did while sitting on the small bench listening to the Paulin Brothers Brass Band play on old, unmatched kitchen chairs. No microphones. No sound machines. Just instruments and talent.
It is very low key. Even getting tickets is not possible. Before the show people line up outside the doors. If you show up at 7:45 good luck getting in. If, by some miracle, you do you will most likely have no view. However, I would show up at 7:30 or earlier and have CASH in your hand. In fact, make sure to have ONES so that you can pay your $8 without the lady having to dig into the money basket to make change for you.
Be prepared to stand. Unless you get there first and there are cushions on the floor up front right before two benches. It's not the most comfortable atmosphere but the music will soon give you an outer body experience and you won't care anymore.
ALSO, there is NO air conditioning. So if you have health problems and go in the middle of July...please be careful. I wouldn't get all fancy to come here. No one cares what you look like here anyways.
I had wanted to hear the Preservation Hall Jazz Band for years and years, so when I finally got to do so in 2001, it was almost like a pilgrimage for me.
Preservation Hall is just a dusty little warehouse room around the corner from Bourbon Street, smelling faintly of mildew, with grime-encrusted windows and scuffed wood floors. It's dark inside, the walls are covered with pegboard, and there's a big electric fan whirring in the corner. There are three rows of wooden benches and more along the walls, but other than that, it's standing room only.
We had a half an hour wait, but it was so worth it. There were six musicians, all black men, ranging in age from 30's to 70's and wearing white shirts and ties in the heat: trumpet, trombone, clarinet, bass, piano, and drums. Heavenly music -- the dingy surroundings fall away when you hear it.
The thing that impressed me most was the honesty of their music. There were no amplifiers, no microphones, no fancy costumes or stage sets or strobe lights, just the musicians, their instruments, and unadorned New Orleans jazz. A sign on the wall noted that standard requests were $2, non-standards $5, Saints $10. :)
Preservation Hall is this little run down room in the french quarter. it was built as a house/residence in the heart of New Orleans' French Quarter in 1750 and over the years has been a tavern and is now a music hall. It is NOT a bar and is appropriate for the whole family. The admission was $5 and it was the best 5 bucks I spent in N.O. Abot 100 people shuffle into this hall at 8:30 and the preservation hall band is a bunch of these old guys who look like they have been playing Jazz since the beginning of time. There were no microphones...the guys just came in a played. Every night there is a different "headliner".They ROCKED! You CANNOT MISS THIS! It is one of the best things to do in New Orleans! Remember to tip the musicians before you leave (at 5 bucks a head, they couldnt be making much)