Tipitina’s has been the heartbeat of the New Orleans music scene since 1977. Now after being squeezed dry COVID, Tipitina’s needs a quarter to keep America’s best juke joint jumping.
The statement “America has three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland” has taken a new meaning in the backdrop of the pandemic. New York still has pull and prestige the old money and power. Those billionaires were never really worried about suffering a life with a different, broken soundtrack. San Francisco has the ideas and new money to match the glitz and the glamour of Los Angeles or New York. Tech money and liberal arts idea factories kept the beat going; having even more time to creatively shape our world and their bank accounts throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. The blue-collar Cleveland’s of the world are hurting economically but perhaps no city’s soundtrack sounds sadder than the blue-note stage that is New Orleans.
That’s because there are no well-lubricated audiences being drenched with the sounds coming from the stage at TIpitina’s.
New York and San Francisco have some of the most polished and refined venues in the world. Cleveland has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. New Orleans has what is perhaps the most popular open-stage juke joint in the world. Tipitina’s was opened in 1977 by The Fabulous Fo’teen so Professor Longhair would have a stage well into his twilight years. Longhair’s song “Tipitina,” was the inspiration, but now the venue is more known than the tune. That’s fine by the original founders and today’s fans, just so long as the show can go on. However, Tipitina’s future is in real peril. Having survived Katrina, an ever-changing musical climate, ownership changes, and briefly closing in 1984, Tip’s now needs help to keep providing soulful sounds to a stressed-out nation.
New Orleans-based band Galactic bought the venue in 2018. They hope to be stewards of the musical history of the world by maintaining Tipitina’s as one of the most authentic stages in the world. Robert Mercurio, the owner of Tipitina’s and member of the band Galactic, is on record about the motivations behind buying the legendary venue, saying, “In late 2018, our band took a huge leap of faith to purchase Tipitina’s. It was not because we wanted to own a venue, it was because we had a chance to save our favorite one in the world. But now we could really use some help to keep saving this national treasure. So in true New Orleans fashion, we decided to throw a hell of a party to celebrate this musical institution.”
A shortlist of past performers at this historic venue includes locals Dr. John, the Neville Brothers, The Meters, Cowboy Mouth, the Radiators, Galactic, Better Than Ezra, and Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews. Tipitina’s also brings in names like Wilco, Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, Lenny Kravitz, Bonnie Raitt, James Brown, Widespread Panic, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tim McGraw, Goo Goo Dolls, Parliament Funkadelic, Robert Cray, Patti Smith, Willie Nelson, Buddy Guy, Dresden Dolls, and Medeski, Martin & Wood. Tipitina’s captured history with live recordings by Professor Longhair, Tuts Washington, Dr. John, the Neville Brothers, Anders Osborne, Kermit Ruffins, Galactic, Kim Carson, Wet Willie, and Flow Tribe. The list could end if the doors close for good.
There is at least one more show though, to help end 2020 on a high note and keep Tipitina’s on key to have a successful 2021. The SAVE TIP’S ONE TIME ONLY ENCORE BROADCAST will air this weekend. There will be performances by Irma Thomas, Ziggy Marley, Ani DiFranco, Billy Gibbons, and an exclusive Professor Longhair piece.
Tipitina’s released a statement explaining, ”So many of you have asked for another ride through our storied history that we’ve decided to run it back and added in some newly discovered treasures. We have set the Save Tip’s finale for this Saturday because it is Professor Longhair’s birthday! To celebrate this momentous occasion, we will include an additional performance by the master himself from the early days at Tipitina’s. In addition to more Fess, the Save Tip’s Encore will also feature unseen videos of the “Soul Queen of New Orleans” Irma Thomas, legendary rocker Ani Di Franco and more! Other incredible performances that will be highlighted include the legendary Fats Domino, Willie Nelson, Dr. John, Jimmy Buffett, Widespread Panic, Wilco, Billy Strings, Jon Batiste & Stay Human feat. Trombone Shorty, Dinosaur Jr., The Radiators feat. Gregg Allman, Michael Franti & Spearhead, The Revivalists, Les Claypool’s Flying Frog Brigade, Preservation Hall Jazz Band Feat. Allen Toussaint, and many, many more!”
Tipitina’s has also added more “Backstage” artist hang segments featuring “firsthand stories from the legends who know Tipitina’s best.”
The Save Tips event will give fans a chance to do more than dance away the second to last weekend of 2020. Anyone donating is eligible to win prizes including rare, vintage hand-pulled silkscreen posters of Stevie Wonder and Ella Fitzgerald from Jazzfest 1978 signed and numbered by legendary photographer Michael P. Smith. Photographer Danny Clinch has donated a signed portrait of Dr. John as the Nite Tripper. And then there is the chance to win, in all caps for a reason, PASSES FOR LIFE TO THE CIVIC NOLA.
Text “SAVETIPS” to 24356 to help and for more information. Any donations are appreciated and will go directly to keeping the doors open, the employees paid, and the musicians happy. Some of the proceeds from the end of year events will go to the Second Harvest program. This free broadcast will hit a hot mic on Saturday, December 19th, 8PM EST at Fandiem.com/SaveTips. Perhaps even join the Tipitina’s Record Club, a service that provides decades of archival music, reissues, and new releases. Members can get exclusive, specially curated, limited edition vinyl records delivered bi-monthly for as low as $30 per release.
SO ask yourself a few questions? What’s your biggest regret of the pandemic? Burger King? Fine. What’s the one thing you wish to do once it is safe to do so? On this site, there are three answers. Hoop with friends, see a movie, and hear a great set at the local stage. So ask yourself: what better way to tip out of 2020 than with a record and a watch party that helps build momentum for a successful 2021 for Tipitina’s?
The lyrics from Professor Longhair answer it best.
Come on baby, we’re going balling
We’re gonna have ourselves a good time
We gonna hoola tralla walla malla dalla
Drink some mellow wine
Drop a quarter or dime in the live band juke box that is Tipitina’s. The world will sound better for it.