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Live music returns to New Orleans this weekend, but not like you remember it

Even with the city allowing live entertainment indoors beginning this weekend, not every space will be able to welcome musicians back to the stage.

NEW ORLEANS — Live music was a welcomed sound along Frenchmen Street Wednesday, just hours after the city of New Orleans announced loosened restrictions on live entertainment, both outdoor and indoor.

“It feels good,” said New Orleans musician Ersel “Garfield” Bogan, III. “We definitely feel like it’s about that time.”

Bogan, who’s an original member of Stooges Brass Band, but currently a member of Sporty’s Brass Band, has been an out of work musician for more than a year now.

“We were the first ones put on the shelf and the last ones taken off,”  Bogan said.

For Bogan, the ability to return to live music is a high note, following a year where everything seemed to fall flat. Even with the city allowing live entertainment indoors beginning this weekend, not every space will be able to welcome musicians like Bogan back to the stage.

“Live music is back in some ways, but not in all ways and that would include clubs of my size,” said Jesse Paige, owner of Blue Nile on Frenchmen Street.

Paige says that’s because some guidelines for indoor live entertainment are still too restrictive and can be costly.

“One of the main things is that the air conditioning unit must be able to circulate air, take the air out of a place six times per hour,” Paige said.

Paige says the cost to install a system like that isn’t affordable for the space. There are also the issues of having a protective barrier between musicians and patrons, and six feet of distance between musicians on stage.  

“For an eight to ten-piece brass band, it’s impossible,” Paige said.

Then there’s the issue of alcohol sales still ending at 11 p.m. At the Blue Nile, that’s when most shows begin.

“That’s when we do the majority of our business, so that would be a challenge,” Paige said.

While some venues may find ways to reopen, Paige worries these will be the same challenges for the majority. For musicians like Bogan, he’s focusing on other performances.

“There’s still some kind of relief by us being able to play maybe weddings and stuff now or birthday parties,” Bogan said.

Paige isn’t giving up hope though, confident his monthly calendar will again look like it did last March when he was forced to close.  

“Once we all get vaccinated, I think we’ll be able to get back to normal so there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Paige said. 

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