One of my favorite bars and live music venues in New Orleans is called the Maple Leaf. If you have ever been there, you know that it's one of those late night gin and music joints that rarely comes alive before 2am.
There are dozens of places like the Maple Leaf scattered around the Crescent City and they have been operating for decades and decades primarily catering to local musicians. That's where they congregated at the end of the night after playing different gigs all around town. They drank, talked music, swapped stories, and got up on stage and jammed together until sunrise.
There are two kinds of musicians... working and not-working. The majority of the working musicians in New Orleans with steady gigs often played sets at the different tourist traps in the French Quarter, while other musicians played gigs at joints Uptown for wealthy locals and Tulane students. All of these working musicians performed for a salary and very rarely did they have the opportunity to play their own music, instead playing mostly cover tunes and standard Jazz favorites. When the Saints Go Marching In didn't exactly satisfy the soul for the musicians (mostly black) who played the song night after night to a crowd of drunken tourists (mostly white). Luckily, those musicians had another outlet which kept them sane.
Sometimes creative people have to suck up their pride and sell a little bit of their talents to the art profiting mongers because they had bills to pay and families to support. The New Orleans musicians adapted to the reality of the situation. There was a demand for musicians, but they had very little if no say on the music they produced on a daily basis. Sure, they were deeply fortunate for the chance to play their instruments, let alone play for money. But those gigs? Just a day job.
However, the city's best musicians poured their souls out onstage during soused late night jam sessions in the dark and smokey clubs like the Maple Leaf. The best music that New Orleans had to offer and where the real magic happened in the wee hours as night bled into day. Some guys played two or three sets at different tourist traps around New Orleans. Even though they were bone dead tired after their sets, they rushed to the other side of town to the Maple Leaf where they pounded a few shots of whiskey, dragged a little reefer, and stepped on stage to speak their mind.
The musicians didn't want hordes of tourists pestering them to play material and compositions that where not theirs. They simply wanted to express themselves and allow the music to flow through them as it should... unfiltered and from the heart. The Maple Leaf and places like it were a refuge for musicians and the place that they looked forward to getting to at the end of the night.
This summer will be my fifth WSOP. Every year I have tried to do something different that I did not do the year before. Last summer, I incorporated Twitter into the mix. And this year? I hope to apply the Maple Leaf concept to the Tao of Poker. Simply put, I'm opening up the stage to some of my closest friends and colleagues. I'm excited that there will be several guest posters and contributors throughout the WSOP which I'm dubbing the... Tao of Poker All Stars.
These contributors all come from all walks of life and offer up unique perspectives on poker. They have been a part of the traditional poker media and because of circumstances beyond their control, they are not permitted to fully speak their mind. During the days, they will toe the company line and keep the wheels in the great poker machine running. However, there is one bastion of freedom and I do not use that word lightly. They will have unfettered access on the Tao of Poker to say the things that they cannot say during their day jobs.
They will tell us their stories. Unfiltered and raw and the way they should be allowed to express themselves.
Some of my friends are extremely talented scribes but have never been able to flourish due to the fluff-factor that drives the poker media. Their talents will not be wasted on sterile hand histories and chip counts, rather, they will tell you the straight dope on what's happening at the WSOP.
Since 2005, the Tao of Poker has always been the place on the web to get the inside scoop on the WSOP and take a peak behind the scenes. That tradition will continue in 2009 because I'm assembling some of the best writers in the industry.
So who's going to be part of the Tao of Poker All Stars? Here's a little clue...
The WSOP begins in three weeks. And in case you were dying to know, I will be writing exclusively for the Tao of Poker, along with several friends of course.
Click here for the 2009 WSOP Schedule.
Stay tuned for more info...
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