NOLA at Night: Second Line Parade in the French Quarter

from the Artsology series The Arts Adventurer

After a busy day exploring New Orleans, I took a break to rest in my hotel room in the late afternoon. As I noticed it getting dark outside, I had this great view of the sun setting from my 8th floor room at The Hotel Modern. I figured it was time to hit the streets again, and go look for some dinner and see what the city had to offer at night.

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View of the sun setting over New Orleans from The Hotel Modern near Lee Circle

I did a lot of walking while I was in New Orleans, as I figured it was the best way to actually see the city, especially for a guy who likes to notice little details around him as he's exploring. Here's some architectural details (below left) from the Whitney Bank building on the corner of Camp and Poydras Streets. This is considered "beaux arts-style architecture," which means that it's a form of Neoclassicism, combining classical architecture from ancient Greece and Rome with Renaissance ideas. This particular building is part of the National Register of Historic Places.

Continuing on Camp Street, I crossed Poydras and was heading into the French Quarter. As I reached Royal Street near Conti, I saw these rental bikes (below right) all lit up with colorful lights ... I never saw anyone rent one or ride one around, but the display was festive.

View of classical sculptural elements on a building on Camp Street in New Orleans

Bicycles with festive lights for rent on Royal Street in New Orleans

Next thing I knew, however, I heard a commotion with the sound of brass horns coming my way. The group had a police escort, riding on motorcycles ahead in order clear the street for the oncoming parade. I had heard about "Second Line" jazz parades, and had read something in a magazine about a group meeting someplace Sunday at noon to follow a formally scheduled parade, but this was a pleasant surprise to have accidentally happened upon one as I was walking around. I decided to follow them for a block or two, recording as I was walking alongside them, but didn't fall into the "second line."

To better explain the name, the "main line" or "first line" is the main section of the parade, or the members of the actual club with the parading permit as well as the brass band. The general public who decide to parade behind the band and enjoy the music are called the "second line." The participants who twirl a parasol or handkerchief in the air are following a long standing tradition for the second line dancers.

The parades are not always tied to any specific event or holiday, but rather they are generally performed for their own sake and to have fun. You can't help but have your spirits lifted when you see this type of crowd (and music) go by.

As I mentioned at the top of the page, I did start out this evening in quest of some dinner, and I found a tasty meal at 801 Royal, where I sat down to a fine meal of alligator sausage with a side of pasta. As you can see in the picture below left, there just so happened to be a framed photograph of an alligator - on his back, next to a martini glass, with the caption "See you later, Alligator" - which was hanging on the wall over my table. And if you're picking up an orange-reddish hue in those photos, it's because of this bright and bombastic light over the bar (below right), which is an original glass piece by artist Dale Chilhuly.

A mix of architecture, jazz, alligator and art ... I'd say that's a pretty good way to spend an evening.

A meal of alligator sausage at 801 Royal in New Orleans

Dale Chihuly glass light fixture at 801 Royal in New Orleans

Chapter 1: Exploring New Orleans

Chapter 2: The Modern Hotel

This is Chapter 3: Second Line in NOLA

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