Don’t let the barren, silent-looking room pictured above fool you — New Orleans’ Preservation Hall is anything but. On a muggy February night, I had quickly snapped this photo before putting my phone away (no photography or use of phones is permitted during performances). Soon after, a band of stately musicians took the stage, while the audience (including my partner and myself) hooted and hollered in anticipation of the melodic merriment to come.
I consider myself a devoted fan of music, and I’ve traveled near and far to see some of my favorite musical artists perform live. But in all my years of attending concerts, I had never experienced something quite like this.
Preservation Hall is small; performances are held in a room that only holds about 100 people. As a result, the entire experience is intimate. (There are a few rows of wooden benches and floor cushions for 40 people, and the remaining visitors must stand in the back.)
But it’s more than just a physical closeness: As the sweet sounds of jazz filled the air — including New Orleans classics “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It,” both by Louis Armstrong — the room came alive. Suddenly, none of us were among strangers. Instead, we shared the esprit de corps of old friends, appreciating the tapping of drums, the dancing of piano keys, the vibrations of saxophones and more. We erupted in boisterous fanfare when the trumpeter set down his instrument to reveal himself as a talented baritone blessed with a velvety-smooth voice, and then we cheered again each time another musician got his own turn in the spotlight.
By the bittersweet end of the show, I felt connected to New Orleans. Jazz is the lifeblood that flows through the veins of this historical city, after all, and Preservation Hall has served to perpetuate and preserve traditional New Orleans jazz since the 1960s. Simply put, there is no New Orleans without jazz — and there's no better place to soak it in than at Preservation Hall.
Located in the French Quarter, the venue offers 45-minute shows nightly at 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10 p.m., with the exception of special events and certain holidays. All ages are welcome. General admission is $20 per person and cash only. If guests plan to buy general admission tickets at the door, lines typically begin forming about one-hour before each show. For those who prefer to skip the line and enjoy front-row seating, advance tickets can be purchased online for $40 to $50.