For the sixth episode of Sonic Highways, the Foo’s headed down south to the city of New Orleans. A city known for its music roots and from the the destruction that ripped it apart during Hurricane Katrina. The city is built upon preservation – both of its heritage, history and of its music. With veterans and founding fathers of the Jazz music scene such as Fat’s Domino, Louis Armstrong and Little Richard.
From the devastation of Katrina – it gave the city a new lease of life. A celebration of life. New Orleans is like no other city in the US. It’s a city that is literally alive with music. Whether that’s from the rhythm of the paddle wheels, ‘Jazz Funerals’, the annual Mardi Gras or marching bands performing once a week through the streets – the city is seduced by jazz. By rock and roll. By music.
The band were instantly drawn to this atmosphere – even though they had little to no prior knowledge of the Jazz scene or the New Orleans music scene in general. Instead of recording in a studio, they decided to pick a similar set up to that of when they recorded in Austin – by using a local music venue – Preservation Hall. Established in 1961 to ‘preserve, perpetuate and protect traditional New Orleans Jazz’, Preservation Hall has become a mecca for music in the French Quarter. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band provide the city of New Orleans with the traditional Jazz sound that it cherishes, that has been passed down from generation to generation. Preservation Hall holds concerts every night, showcasing and preserving the traditional sound. Which was the perfect environment for Foo Fighters to record in.
The city of New Orleans was also the perfect location for the band’s love affair with music. One of the highlights of the episode being Grohl disappearing every twenty seconds with the band knowing exactly where he’d wandered off to…the local bar. Socializing and mixing it up with the locals and basking in the scene of a community that is head over heels in love with music. A community that are always ready to introduce their sound to new ears, bringing the band along in one of their massive parades down the street one afternoon. And one of the Jazz Band’s members – Joe Lastie – inviting the band to visit his Aunt’s house for a jam session. As Grohl states in the episode, if every city had a marching band every week, the world would be a much happier place.
As always, the episode ended with the reveal of the song written for the city. New Orleans’ love letter is in the form of the song ‘In The Clear‘, performed not only by Foo Fighters (donning some tailored suits for the occasion), but also the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. A song with overtones linking back to the rhythm of New Orleans through paddle wheels and the perseverance the city has as a collective, it oozes musical brilliance – which is extremely fitting towards the city itself.
Words by Sophie McEvoy.