The good folks at Ponderosa Stomp, otherwise known as the Mystic Knights of the Mau Mau, don’t stop at putting on a wonderful roots music festival each year, but they also sponsor occasional events throughout the year. This May, they arranged for Mississippi Hill Country blues artist R. L. Boyce to appear at the new Three Keys NOLA lounge at the Ace Hotel. Boyce is one of the last of his generation to play the Hill Country style a blues, a music with strong residual influence of West African music, and his performance was augmented by his daughter Sherena Boyce, a juke joint dancer who was a part of the scene at Junior Kimbrough’s old juke joint in Chulahoma, Mississippi. The standing-room-only crowd was thrilled.
New Orleans might be America’s music capital, but it’s not the place we think of much when it comes to blues. We revel in its differences as a city…its European style, its African tendencies, its Caribbean joy…and then we forget that it is still an American city, perhaps the quintessential one. So while we think of blues being music that came from other places, New Orleans has produced some great blues musicians, and perhaps one of the best current ones is Guitar Lightnin’ Lee, a musician whose style incorporates elements of Louisiana swamp pop and swamp blues as well as the traditional blues. When the Mystic Knights of the Mau Mau/Ponderosa Stomp folks decided to sponsor a blues event at the all-new Three Keys Lounge at the Ace Hotel New Orleans, they invited Guitar Lightnin’ Lee to be the opening act, and a worthy choice it was indeed. Lee’s selections ran the gamut from traditional blues to such swamp pop classics as “Mathilda”, and before his set was through, revellers had filled the dance floor to overflowing. I must add that the Three Keys Lounge is an awesome venue for music, and will be welcomed.
Somehow I had never heard of the Ace Hotels chain, much less that one was being opened in New Orleans, so when my friend said that her dad R. L. Boyce was being booked to play at the Three Keys Lounge at the Ace Hotel New Orleans, I was somewhat confused, having never heard of either spot, and as one who prides myself on knowing New Orleans like a native, that had me concerned. As it turned out, I could be excused, for the hotel had only been open for a month, but as part of her dad’s performance, we had a room there, which was absolutely awesome, with an old-school vibe and modernistic art at every turn. But perhaps the crown jewel of the place (at least in my mind) was Alto, a sleek, modernistic rooftop bar with a swimming pool. Although on the day we arrived, the pool and bar were restricted to hotel guests, that apparently is not always the case, and non-guests can occasionally pay a fee for pool access. The pool was big, fairly shallow, very cold, and full of people, but none of that was worrisome in any way, since the day was so hot. All the same, it should be noted that people tend to lounge in the pool rather than swim in it. Outside the water, guests can enjoy drinks and a limited bar menu. It was by far the most luxurious spot I’ve found in New Orleans, and a whole lot of fun.
Alto (atop the Ace Hotel New Orleans)
New Orleans, LA 70130
Open Daily 10 AM-9 PM