The venue: Saturn Bar
Location: Bywater (3067 Saint Claude)
Genres: Rock, blues, retro DJs
Crowd: Uber-hipsters, Bywater senior citizens, after-hours adventurers
Ambiance: Rowdy, grimy, loud
Deep in the mysterious Bywater galaxy, far past the familiar sights of Hi-Ho Lounge and Kajun’s, lies something wonderfully strange and inviting known as Saturn Bar. This celestial body has been spinning for over 40 years, accumulating an extensive collection of art debris in its orbit while some of the best local underground rock bands blast off in its intimate confines. Details are scant about what you’ll walk into on any given night at Saturn Bar, but the chances of leaving with one of those “only in New Orleans” stories may be higher than any other spot in the city.
Saturn Bar is really two bars: the front room and back room. In the front you got a no-frills bar with cold, cheap beer and colorful characters who have been drinking here for decades under the giant painting of Saturn on the ceiling. Step into the back and you’ll find one of the true gems of New Orleans live music. The back room regularly hosts the best underground rock, punk, and metal bands in the city (as well as the occasional touring band) as they bash out raucous anthems in the faces of the packed-in crowd. A spacious upper balcony gives the room a clubhouse feel and provides plenty of great spots to take in the show from above.
In addition to rock shows, the bar also plays host to eclectic DJ nights that spin rare surf and garage rock vinyl deep into the night. For anyone who complains about the death of “real” New Orleans, one step into Saturn Bar is all it takes to shut them right up.
The visuals that fill the bar add yet another layer to the room and make it distinclty unique. Despite the variety of decorations, which range from bizarre paintings to old neon signs, every piece feels carefully chosen. Former owner O’Neil Broyard spent most of his life creating this masterpiece of a watering hole, filling every available space with the quirky visuals that feel right at home with the modern Bywater aesthetic. Besides being a great spot to take in the show, the upper balcony serves as a sort of guerrilla art gallery with plenty of beautifully strange paintings lining the walls.
While the bar’s website has little more than the description “A New Orleans Bar,” their Facebook page can usually be relied on for show announcements. While details are scant about upcoming events, this Saturday (January 31) the monthly Mod Dance Party touches down, featuring old-school jams on the 1s and 2s til the early hours. Check the Facebook page regularly for more upcoming shows. The bar usually opens around 5:00 p.m. and keeps pouring until the last regular stumbles out.