We’ve been suffering from severe tango deprivation syndrome ever since the levees breached on the aftermath of hurricane Katrina and much of the tango community we had worked so hard to support was washed away by the floods that destroyed much of invisible New Orleans.
To the bright eyes of the visitors that have gradually returned in record numbers things look a lot better than they were. For the long time residents and residents in exile, there is an awareness about things that ain’t there no more, as well as a keen appreciation for institutions that link the present to a nostalgic past.
Our TDS gets ameliorated ever so often when people come to do bed and tango with us. We have an incredible beautiful home with a guest area that sooth the senses, a private dance parlor, and a location that’s just a hop and a skip away from glam Magazine Street, legendary New Orleans culinary temple Commander’s Palace, and the streetcar named St. Charles.
Whether our visitors are our house guests or just in town wanting to tango, we look forward to Friday nights because it includes an early dance session at an Uptown restaurant hosted by the Argentine Tango Club of Greater New Orleans, a late fried chicken dinner at Fiorella’s in the French Quarter, and a stroll to The Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street in the Marigny.
All sorts of funky roots music can be heard there on a nightly basis. At least two bands perform each night – the first starting around 6 p.m. and the second about 9:30 p.m. Music ranging from blues to trad jazz to Latin and various permutations make the Cat a current favorite hang for many on the Frenchmen Street scene. On Fridays, we listen and dance to the Jazz Vipers. The venue is one of the few remaining places where you can hear jazz that sounds the way it was intended to be heard, on acoustic instruments in a small venue with super dirty floors.
Tonight, we had been looking forward to another fabulous Friday. First, newly married Tim and April from Maryland completed their week long sessions of private lessons and had their first real live tango dancing experience at Nirvana. Next, we joined Maria and Russell, fresh from their successful participation on the Tales of the Cocktail Conference and Exhibits, at Fiorella’s for fried chicken, fries and mashed potatoes. Finally we made our way to the Spotted Cat and almost had what it amounts to a serious case of the sadness. The side walk was deserted, and the music, well, it sounded Bourbon Street, amps and electronics included. As we stood there, we realized that The Spotted Cat ain’t there no more.
The sign at the door read Jimbeaux’s which is Jimbo’s in pig French, and the floors had been painted. The band stand was on the opposite side of the entrance and the bar was out of Abita Amber. It appears that as of April 30th the lease ran out and the landlord, Jimbeaux, decided to have a go at running the bar himself just in time for Jazzfest. The place got shut down during Jazzfest for numerous infractions about a day or two after it opened.
We first were introduced to the Spotted Cat by our friend Sabina whose sax playing husband Joe sat in many times with the Jazz Vipers. Gradually we became to appreciate the place as one of the most reliable live music joints on Frenchmen Street. We had to hang around for a while to grab one of those few seats by the window, while inching in for some space among the crowd of enthusiastic fabulous jitter-buggers.
The last time we were at the Spotted Cat was in March when Aaron and Rose visited from San Antonio. That night something especial happened to us. Half way through their set, the Jazz Vipers charged with their rendition of William Christopher Handy’s Saint Louis Blues. Before we realized it, we were on the small dance floor putting on one of the most inspired tango performances ever seeing at the Spotted Cat.
The memory of that unexpected last time at the Spotted Cat lingers on as the notes of Saint Louis Blues fill in the emptiness of a New Orleans institution that ain’t there no more.
The Jazz Vipers – St. Louis Blues