Preservation Hall looked like an abandoned, derelict building from the outside: no windows, clapboard siding, rusted wrought-iron door. We were attending the New Year’s Eve party at this storied New Orleans Jazz Club. In the heart of the French Quarter, Preservation Hall has been entertaining whiskey swilling patrons since 1961. We were looking for a New Orleans-style New Year’s and this seemed perfect.
Once through the door, there is a long hallway with old wooden theater seats on one side, on the opposite side, an open doorway. We walked through it, into a dimly lit room with a few old posters hung crooked on the stained wooden-panel walls. There were a few tables up-front and a small drum kit and piano in the corner. So this is where the band plays? It looked more suited for homeless squatters.
The hallway spilled out into a traditional creole open-air courtyard, with huge palm trees and tropical foliage. Best of all, the open bar was located at the end of this garden oasis. However worst of all, there was a cold snap in New Orleans this week, the coldest in twenty years; lower thirties and raining. We had packed shorts and t-shirts; turns out it’s actually ten degrees warmer in Seattle; we got screwed.
The music started and we crowded into the small room, not twenty feet away from the band. It was an interesting crew on stage with two tubas, drum-set, piano, trombone and musicians joining in with all forms of instruments and rhythm. As you can imagine, they kicked ass. Everyone was moving, jiving, dancing; including the band. The tuba players were in constant motion, swinging their instruments around without missing a beat; blasting out bass notes you could hear in your chest. With a sazarac in hand and cigarette smoke in the air; we were definitely in New Orleans. It has a timeless feel; this exact scene has been played out in this dilapidated room for decades.
We ran outside to Jackson Square, just in time to see the fireworks explode over the Mississippi at the stoke of midnight. Celebrating with the friendly citizens of New Orleans, the damp weather was not dampening anyone’s mood. Afterwards, we headed back in to see the band’s final set, before a short walk to our hotel, dodging the inebriated revelers celebrating the arrival of 2014.