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Get a taste of the New Orleans sound at d.b.a

Members of the Rebirth Brass Band, which won a Grammy this year.
Members of the Rebirth Brass Band, which won a Grammy this year. (BRITTNEY DAY)

NEW ORLEANS — After reveling in the bacchanalia of the famed Bourbon Street the night before, we were looking for a different cultural side of the city, if you will. Outside the French Quarter, in the slightly hipper neighborhood of Marigny, we stumbled across just what we were after.

For those in the know and wandering tourists alike, there’s d.b.a., which hosts live music seven nights a week. Most of the musicians are local, and supporting them is the venue’s primary goal. Bigger bands such as Florence and the Machine and Soul Asylum have played here, too, as has the legendary Stevie Wonder.

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On this night, we caught Grammy Award-winners (and New Orleans-based) Rebirth Brass Band, whose bold, brassy sound ricocheted around every eager, sweaty patron in the place. The dance floor was packed, swelling and throbbing with each bleet and blow of the trumpets, trombones, tubas, and drums. At one point, even dancing solo was impossible. Any attempt was better made by weaving and flowing with what felt like a mob of bobbing heads and tapping feet.

When it arrived here in 2000 by way of New York, where the original is located, d.b.a. — which stands for “doing business as” — helped put Frenchmen Street on the map. The venue is in a building that dates to the 1880s and which previously housed a theater and at one point a bike shop. Divided into two rooms, d.b.a. has a well-stocked bar on each side. The music room, where the stage is located, is lined with cypress wood, which some performers say helps create a warmer sound.

On hand-lettered chalkboard menus above the bar are listed scores of whiskey, bourbon, tequila, and other drink options. More than 20 draft beers are on rotation, the majority of them craft brews. No Coors or Budweiser here, folks.

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It’s a neighborhood gem, but don’t be intimidated when a crowd walks in and they all seem to know the bartender and the band. The locals seem more than happy to share.

d.b.a. 618 Frenchmen St., 504-942-3731, dbabars.com. Music nightly, admission free to $20, depending on the featured performers.


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