End Of An Era: Kermit Ruffins, Owner Sidney’s Saloon In New Orleans Treme, Ends Late Night Barbecue Swinger Sets

Big news coming out of New Orleans. Kermit Ruffins has announced that he’d renewed his producer contract and would be coming out with an audible on the tenor of his legendary music shows in the Crescent City.

No more late night funk and soul parties.

Ruffins is giving himself a curfew.

I can hardly bear it. One of my great pleasures is to hit Vaughan’s for Kermit’s Thursday night residency around 8 or 9 pm, have a big plate of red beans and rice [prepared by Kermit] and then get ready to party til the wee hours with the Barbecue Swingers.

No more.

The party shall now grind to a halt at 10pm. You’ll still get a good, solid 3 hour concert from one of the best in the business but those magical nights when you were grinding on the dance floor with a stranger at 3am?

They’re over.

I get it. Kermit Ruffins is still a young guy at only 46 years, but he’s a family man and has multiple business interests in New Orleans. He owns Sidney’s Saloon up in the Treme, he bought Ernie K Doe’s Mother In Law lounge and is shepherding the legendary watering hole through the waters of liquor license renewal and if that weren’t enough,  he has now leased the space at Jazzy Bells up on Basin Street just north of Louis Armstrong Park.

Kermit is a legendary cook so it will be interesting to see what sort of food comes out of the former Jazzy Bell’s kitchen. Let’s hope he keeps the fried catfish special they trotted out from time to time as it was one of New Orleans finest.

This sea change in Ruffin’s life shall also affect other gigs around town though not at the Tuesday night residency at Bullets up on AP Tureaud as they always hosted Kermit early in the evening.

Here’s an old piece I wrote about that party.

I had a feeling when Kermit was playing a show that happened to land on the one year anniversary of Katrina a few years ago it could be something special.

I was in town on the tail end of a deep south road trip when I saw the listing in the Times-Picayune. Bullets Sports Bar on AP Tureaud was not on my radar even after years of drinking and eating my way across the city.

I called a friend of mine, a native New Orleanian and she commented that she’d heard of it but had never been.We loaded up on my bike and motored into the 7th Ward and proceeded to have the time of our lives.

Kermits’ show was the stuff of which legends are made. I don’t think he left any stone unturned touching on everybody from Danny Barker to Bobby Mitchell as he led the crowd through a handful of booze and sweat soaked sets.

Back then Bullets would put out a big kettle of free food in the tiny room in the back of the club[it’s a converted house].Nowadays the scene on Tuesdays has grown quite a bit.

Two big meat-filled sidewalk grills sit off to one side of the house; manned by a couple brothers who look like they’re serious about their cooking. A soul food trailer sits directly in front of the house with a full menu and a nice line of folks waiting patiently to dine.

Inside the small room it’s a straight house party. Everybody’s dancing and drinking. Hollering out of sheer joy is not uncommon. The between sets dj really gets the crowd going, mixing hip hop in with modern soul…then sounding off air raid sirens when he feels like folks aren’t partying hard enough.

Parking’s tight in the neighborhood so everybody climbs their rides up on the curb and parks in AP Tureaud’s grassy median. Another thing to love about New Orleans, if anybody even considered doing that here in Austin they’d be looking for a cab to the tow yard so they could pay a couple hundred bucks to retrieve their ride.

Since 2006 Kermit’s Tuesday night Bullet’s gig has figured large in my four or so  yearly New Orleans visits. It’s the essence of the city; good food, a boisterous crowd and one of New Orleans finest musicians at the peak of his powers-making joyful noise in the historic 7th Ward.

I wrote that article in the halcyon days of chowhound which are sadly long gone.

Look for Ruffin’s other gigs around town to end earlier as well. When you pick up your Gambit to chart out your week’s activities please take note of Kermit’s show times as they are all gradually changing. Not just at Vaughans.

It’s the end of an era for New Orleans late night party people.

Keith Spera over at the Time Pic broke this news.





About RL Reeves Jr

I'm a writer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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