Tim Robbins apparently became such a fan of New Orleans and the HBO show about it, Treme, while he was in NOLA shooting the Green Lantern that he just called up Treme’s David Simon and asked if he could direct an episode.
Timed to that episode airing Sunday, the New Orleans Times Picayune ran a great feature about Robbins — it was mainly about how Robbins sank into the city and explored the parts most tourists don’t see.
There’s a lot about the story I love, including an anecdote of Robbins being in a club at 5 a.m. with the band still going strong, so I’ll just share one snippet that rang true for me:
“What you find is this great accessibility,” he said. “You’ve got world-class musicians giving their all in clubs where there is either no cover charge or it’s $5. Seriously, the most I paid at the door there was $10, and that was in the French Quarter. That does not exist in major cities. In New York or Los Angeles, you’ve got to have some money to go out and hear music. You’ve got to be in an elite class to experience theater. A night out at a music club will cost you $200 or $300 in New York or Los Angeles or Chicago.”
The result, he said, is that young musicians in New Orleans aren’t “being priced out of the cultural experience.”
“You have people in their mid-20s playing roots music, blues and jazz on Frenchmen or Royal, unearthing old Ma Rainey songs nobody’s ever heard of, not catering to the tourists by playing ‘The Saints,’” he said. “They’re actually becoming their own musicologists, playing those songs because they love those songs, not because they’re hits.”
John and I have gone to a couple of shows where the cover was $25, but they’ve been rare and we’ve mainly done it because we were seeing acts we knew we liked. Mostly we’ve paid nothing or next to nothing to soak in amazing music — and as a result, I think we’re more likely to try new things,. The worst thing that will happen is I’ll listen to a few songs and go to a different club if it’s not working for me.
I’d been trying to figure out why the music scene felt so different in NOLA. It’s not like there aren’t dozens of places to hear music back home every night in New York. But more often, I think of NYC music as an event — with tickets and investment. Here, it’s everywhere.