Louisiana fishermen do more than earn a living through their work: They fuel a vital part of our state’s culinary heritage, and they contribute to the cultural landscape that has made Louisiana such a rewarding place to live.

It’s been heart-wrenching to see so many fishing families idled by the BP oil disaster during these long months, and those who want to lend a hand have an interesting and easy opportunity to do so this week. 

Tipitina’s has assembled an incredible array of musicians for a night of distinctive New Orleans sounds this Thursday, July 1. Revenues from ticket sales will be used to help fishermen and their families along the Gulf and to support wildlife protection and wetlands restoration work in the area.

Performers lined up for this Gulf Coast Benefit include the jazz-funk-jam ensemble Galactic and contemporary rockers Rotary Downs, funk keyboardist John Gros, Ivan Neville of the famous New Orleans music family, hoodoo guitarist Coco Robicheaux, the Joe Krown Trio, with Walter “Wolfman” Washington and Russell Batiste and the We Are One Brass Band and Young Fellaz Brass Band. Tickets cost $15, and the event begins at 9 p.m.

The show is part of a national event with performances scheduled at more than 50 venues across the country. All of these events benefit the Gulf Restoration Network, which provides assistance to the people, wildlife and wetlands of the Gulf region as well as advocacy work throughout the entire Gulf Coast.

Casey Phillips, talent buyer for Tipitina’s, is one of the national Gulf Coast Benefit event’s organizers, but it seems appropriate that the Uptown music venue will host this beneficent evening for other reasons.

During the past few years, Tipitina’s has parlayed its legendary reputation into something much more significant than just good times and good tunes. Through its Tipitina’s Foundation, the club is now behind several innovative programs helping seed the future of Louisiana’s musical heritage. 

For instance, since 2002 the foundation has run its Tipitina’s Music Office Co-Ops, which provide fully equipped offices for local musicians to handle the business and marketing aspects of their careers. Through expansions, these Music Office Co-Ops now operate in New Orleans, Shreveport, Baton Rouge, Alexandria and Lafayette.

The foundation has also run its highly successful Instruments a Comin’ program, which is aimed at keeping more school kids in New Orleans engaged with music by providing them with new instruments. Now in its ninth year, the program put some $2.2 million worth of instruments into the hands of more than 2,200 students representing 60 local schools.

Another avenue to pass down our musical heritage is Tipitina’s Sunday Music Workshop Series. These are onstage workshops, offered free for students each Sunday from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., and led by different music professionals from around town. Students bring their instruments to learn, and the public is welcome to attend and listen in.

For music-lovers, however, the most immediately tangible benefit the foundation provides is its ongoing Foundation Free Fridays. Each Friday night, Tipitina’s hosts a different local band and waives the cover charge. It’s a way to increase awareness of the foundation’s other work while enticing people to come out for a night of music and giving performers a healthy audience.

This week’s Foundation Free Fridays event features the lovely retro-country crooner Gal Holiday with the Honky Tonk Revue, plus Country Fried. Check out the schedule of future Fridays booked this summer, which is loaded with impressive acts. 

501 Napoleon Ave., New Orleans, 504/899-4206