One more post-New Orleans post.
Mrs. YHT and I made a big, long list of things we wanted to do while we were there. Record stores, Cafe Du Monde, po boys, muffalettas… but one of my biggest hopes for the trip was Preservation Hall. I didn’t know a ton about how shows there worked, and we almost didn’t get in, so I thought I’d share a few recommendations in case you’re in town and thinking of going. Which, if you are, you absolutely should. It was incredible.
- Cash only. Tickets are $15 most days, $20 on Friday and Saturday. Bring extra cash — the merch is excellent.
- Go early. Capacity is just 100, and while you can pay extra to reserve seats ahead of time, most people just show up and hope they’re among the first 100 in line. We were told to be there half and hour early and we barely made it in. There’s a street light that acts as an unofficial gauge of where you are in line. If you’re in front of it, you’re probably safe. If you’re just behind it, you’re probably going to spend a half-hour obsessing over the thought of not getting in. Or maybe I just have really bad FOMO.
- Really… go early. They do three 45-minute shows nightly — 8, 9, and 10 — so if you try for the early show and don’t get in, you’ll still have two shows to try for. This is a “Do as I say, not as I do” situation, because we waited until the last show on the last day we were in New Orleans. So yeah. Don’t do that.
- Beer! I grabbed a beer from a bar across the street to help assuage my FOMO, and it certainly made the rainy wait more pleasant. (Did I mention it was raining? It was raining.) To ensure a peaceful transition back into line — Mrs. YHT held our spot — I offered to grab a beer for the people behind us. They declined, maybe because they knew…
- There’s no bathroom. I asked where the bathroom was right after our tickets were torn, and I might as well have screamed “I’M NOT FROM AROUND HERE” at the top of my lungs. Fortunately there’s a piano bar a few doors down and they don’t seem to mind people stopping in quickly. Even if they did, it wouldn’t be tragic — you’d just have to grab a beer there too. Win-win. But then I guess you’d have to pee again. Drink, pee. Drink, pee. That’s life, innit?
- Turn off your phone. Preservation Hall is as strict about cell phone use as any venue I’ve been to. You don’t have to check it at the door, but you better not pull it out during the show. The band will — and actually did — stop the show to scold people who try to sneak a picture in, and the venue even had lookouts near the back who sprang into action the moment a screen could be seen.
- Soak it in. Not being able to take pictures or video really makes you open up your brain’s aperture and collect memories organically. In that sense, they’re really giving you a gift beyond music — the opportunity to center yourself in what’s happening as it happens. That’s the irony of Preservation Hall, I think: By doggedly maintaining this old-fashioned, technology-free atmosphere, they’re forcing you to come to terms with the impermanence of musical performances. Notes ring out, then they’re gone, and you move on. The thing that’s stuck with me most — aside from the joy that overwhelmed me when they started playing “Christmastime Is Here” — is the lighting. This amazing, golden glow that dimly lit the front of the room and left the rest of the hall totally dark. Part of me wishes I had a picture, but I love the image I have in my mind’s eye so much. And I know having an actual photo to refer back to would erase that mental image. They may be onto something with this whole no phones thing…