The Travel Dispatch

A Disastrous Tourist Affair at the Blue Note in NYC

This post was born 20 Nov, 2014 9 Comments
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I Told You So.

The most gratifying word combination in the Oxford-English dictionary. Do I like saying them? Yes (let’s face it, who doesn’t love being right) and no (because if I’ve said them, it probably means I was coerced into doing something I knew would totally suck in the first place).

Well, I was able to say them this past weekend and of all the people in all the cities in all the world – I got to say them right to my father’s face.

Tourist Mike

My dad is the spawn of my not completely sane grandmother (made famous in the “bird incident”), so his actions should really come as no surprise to me by now. He’s only been to New York City once before and is the type of tourist that books a hotel in the middle of Times Square (an area I avoid like the detrimental plague it is) and yells out lame dad jokes like “Oh shit! That’s my ex-girlfriend Karen up there. I told her she didn’t need to expose herself like this anymore” when he see models on the large screens.

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My dad’s ex-girlfriend, Karen.

Being a tourist with a daughter who has lived in New York for 4 years, you would think he would follow my lead in regards to planning jaunts throughout the city but him and his girlfriend came prepared with a 3-day-visit bucket list  – See Ryan Adams at Carnegie Hall, go to a broadway show, eat a shit ton of food, and go to the Blue Note to hear some great jazz.

I was onboard with 3 of the 4, but the Blue Note? Not so much. I tried my hand at ever-so-subtly hinting my view on the subject by asking my dad if he was completely sold on that particular venue for jazz or if he was open to the right other suggestions. With a smile, he innocently replied, “Not at all. We can go anywhere you want sweetie.” That turned out to be a boldfaced lie.

What Do I Have Against the Blue Note?

Nothing per se. It’s the type of establishment you visit to see a particular musician or band playing that you’re already a fan of. But if you’re just wandering around the West Village looking for a hole in the wall spot with great live jazz performed by upcoming bands – go someplace else.

Which is exactly what I told my dad and his girlfriend over an impossibly yummy meal at Arturo’s nearby. Since it was already 10pm by the time we finished eating our weight in pizza, the jazz band I had originally wanted them to see at Arthur’s Tavern had ended their set which is how I came to very reluctantly agree to stop by the Blue Note to ‘check it out’ (I know – I should have known better).

Tragically the growing line outside didn’t deter us and it was the fastest I had ever made my way to the front (go figure). Hope rose when the bouncer told us it’d be $85 for a table or $55 for standing room. Afterall, my dad would never pay $55 just to stand and watch a band he had never even heard of. Or so I thought.

That started the epic sidewalk argument where they shot off 10 rounds of “Money doesn’t matter – we’re on vacation” while I countered back with 18 choruses of “I know a much better place. Let’s go to Smalls.” After one temper tantrum stomp off by yours truly, I still somehow ended up rather unhappily in the Blue Note sitting at the farthest corner of the bar sulking into my hot mug of Irish Coffee.

Performer at the Blue Note in the West Village
My terrible photography skills from the corner bar.

You Gotta Fight for Your Right to be Smug

When my dad made a comment about the $9 (expensive even by New York standards) beers, I selfishly thought ‘haha that’s what you get for not listening to my ‘tourist-trap’ warnings’. When he jokingly asked the bartender, “Can I get a whiskey and ginger ale – but only if it’s at least $25”, I had to laugh and put my bad mood on the back burner. I mean it’s not like the performer was going to suck or anything. Though it’s not my favorite and wasn’t what it once was, the Blue Note is still a famous jazz institution for a reason.

But then things took a bit of a weird turn when we asked our bartender what he thought of the performer and he hesitated. You could hear crickets while we awaited his answer and after a lengthy pause he slowly said, “If you’re into this type of music, he’s amazing. Kind of like a Brazilian Michael Jackson.” Somehow though, this did not sound promising.

We apprehensively watched him saunter onto the stage with his acoustic guitar along with 2 other guys holding instruments I’ve never seen before. They started to play and two things became very certain – he was no Michael Jackson. And this was definitely not jazz.

Blue Note nyc
Nope. No jazz here.

Suddenly he opened his mouth and out came words that none of us could understand. It took us awhile before we realized he was singing in Portuguese. Then we heard something else. Something that most certainly could not be called music. An ensuing rift followed as we disputed over whether the noise was the agonizing wail of a coyote in heat or if it was a pack of constipated dogs. Seriously – who were these guys?

About 6 songs into the set without one word of English spoken, it quickly became a sloppy sing-along drinking game version of Name That Tune. We swayed and drank and sang loudly enough to be given dirty looks from 90% of the bar and at one point I was sure we were going to be asked to leave. But the bartender thought we were more entertaining than the actual entertainment so he kept plying us with more drinks while struggling to hold back a full blown smile.

Just when we thought we couldn’t laugh any harder, the performer brought a fellow artist on stage to dance some sort of style I couldn’t recognize. Let’s just say it looked like a mix between tap, stomp, and white-girl-at-a-party moves.

My dad just shook his head laughing and said,”I can’t believe we paid double for this what we paid for Ryan Adams tickets at Carnegie Hall.” To which I heard his girlfriend reply, “Just look at Kristen over there all smug”. Why yes – I damn well was feeling smug because I damn well told you so.

So they left New York without ever seeing any live jazz. However, none of us could complain because now we had a better story to tell than ‘hey remember that time we went and saw a great jazz band.’ Instead, we can all say ‘remember that time we paid almost $300 to see a guy perform in all Portuguese with a screaming coyote sounding instrument and a spastic ‘dancer’.’

All in all. We had a pretty fantastic night (but I was still right!).

Dad and I at the Blue Note in NYC
Me all smug and righteous with my dad.

Have you ever had a ‘told you so’ moment with a visitor or while traveling? Let me know below!

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Why Suffer From FOMO When You Don’t Have To?

Taking on the classic “round-the-world” route, the next Travel Dispatch journey kicks off Nov 15 as I travel east to west, looping the globe over a period of 12 months with $25,000. Now’s your chance to get in on it from the very beginning!

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9 Comments on "A Disastrous Tourist Affair at the Blue Note in NYC"

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Thanks for the tip on where not to go for Jazz in NY 🙂 This one was an expensive lesson learned, but at least you didn’t lose sense of humour 🙂

Stuart Gustafson

Great blog — keep up faking it until you’re making it!!!

Well Traveled Mile

Great site on what to do/what not to do while in NY, bookmarked!

Harvey (H-Bomb's Worldwide Karaoke)

Funny story. Maybe next time your father will listen to your advice about where not to go in New York . . .


well…never been to NY but i’ll print your post and keep in mind for my dream trip to USA!!

Sumit Surai

At least you guys had a lot of fun