Starting ‘Em Early: Happy Hour Music Sets

Things were really adding up to a satisfying night during a recent Tuesday visit to BMC, the music club at the corner of Esplanade and Decatur. There was a fun band on stage, Spillway, and there was a cold drink in my hand. But the kicker was on my watch. By the time Spillway took a set break, it was still just 7 p.m.

When I left a little while later, the Old U.S. Mint across the street was aglow with the warm remnants of an early summer evening, and the streets were busy with people heading off for dinner.

Spillway’s regular Tuesday gig at BMC begins at 6 p.m., and to me it perfectly illustrated the appeal of getting an early start. It was just so easy. These gigs are like the anytime bottle of wine you don’t hesitate to open, something that can be just a part of your lifestyle in this music-rich city rather than some special event or big blowout requiring advance planning.

These gigs start early, end early and typically have no cover charge, and these days there are a lot more of them at local clubs.

By "early" I mean live music that begins before 8 p.m., and a survey of club listings shows a variety of acts cranking things up around happy hour time. Many of the examples I found are clustered downtown, and along Frenchmen Street these days the music scene is revved up by late afternoon.

I’m not listing brunches here, since that’s quite different than turning up at a club for an early start to the night. But if you know of other regular shows starting before 8 p.m. at local clubs, by all means, leave the details in a comment below.

The Apple Barrel
609 Frenchmen St., (504) 949-9399
The tiny but tireless Apple Barrel kicks off in the afternoon, with a 4 p.m. start for blues acts.

Blue Nile
532 Frenchmen St., (504) 948-2583
Washboard Chaz has been getting things going with his blues trio on Saturdays at 7 p.m., while music begins at 7:30 p.m. here on Sundays.

1331 Decatur St., (504) 599-7770
Bands are underway at 6 p.m. on most nights. There’s pizza by the slice in back when you get hungry.

Bullets Sports Bar
2441 A.P. Tureaud St., (504) 948-4003
Kermit Ruffins entertains the crowd at this down-home Gentilly neighborhood joint beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays.

Checkpoint Charlie’s
501 Esplanade Ave., (504) 281-4847
This storied, 24-hour dive starts its music at 4 p.m. on Fridays and 7 p.m. on Saturdays.

Davenport Lounge
The Ritz-Carlton, 921 Canal St., (504) 524-1331
Thursday is the early set for trumpeter Jeremy Davenport, when he takes the stage at his namesake lounge at 5:30 p.m.

618 Frenchmen St., (504) 942-3731
The Palmetto Bug Stompers have long anchored the 6 p.m. set on Sunday nights here, while on Friday the music starts at 6:30 p.m. with a roster of first-rate local acts.

Kerry Irish Pub
331 Decatur St., (504) 286-5862
There’s music nightly at this Decatur Street pub, and on Fridays and Saturdays, the double bill begins at 5 p.m.. This weekend, catch Celtic roots rocker Danny Burns on Friday and the string band Speed the Mule on Saturday.

508 Frenchmen St., (504) 371-5544
Music starts inside this large, rambling music hall at 6 p.m. from Monday through Wednesday and at 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

Mojitos Rum Bar & Grill
437 Esplanade Ave., (504) 252-4800
A new Latin/Caribbean restaurant hosting bands in its picturesque patio from 6 p.m. most nights, from 4 p.m. on Fridays and from brunch time on Saturdays and Sundays.

The Spotted Cat
623 Frenchmen St., (504) 337-3273
The Spotted Cat fires the starting gun for Frenchmen Street music clubs, with old-timey jazz and blues bands strumming at 4 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. on weekends.

The Three Muses
536 Frenchmen St., (504) 252-4801
A small spot serving eclectic small plates and hosting jazz combos, blues trios and roots performers from Wednesday through Sunday from 7 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. on.

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