Neutral Ground

The Neutral Ground Coffeehouse has been a permament establishment of New Orleans for over 30 years. It\'s largest attraction is live music, mostly acoustic, every night by new and veteran musicians. Many national and local names such as Lucinda Williams, Anders Osborne and the Indigo Girls, and Allen Ginsburg.\r\n\r\nMelancon bought the Neutral Ground to save it from disappearing. However, years before he owned it, he played at the Neutral Ground once a month before beoming a full-time musicianship. \"I first came here because I wanted to play music,\" he said. \"I was teaching first grade and I\'d gotten out of a PTA meeting early, so I snuck over. There was no one here but the girl behind the counter and a guy at the coffee bar. I asked if I could play a song or two. They didn\'t leave, which was a good sign. Then the week I retired I got a regular weekly gig for Friday and Saturday nights at the Pontchartrain Hotel, where I\'ve played every week since then. I needed the Neutral Ground for a social life.\"\r\n\r\nNow Melancon has a full schedule playing during the day with a group called Young Audiences where he performs for children at different places around southeast Louisiana, and performing in the evening at the Pontchartrain. Otherwise, the Neutral Ground is his primary focus. \r\n\r\n\"Originally this place was called The Penny Post and it was on Maple Street. It was started by a woman named Gretchen -- infamously, just Gretchen was her name,\" Melancon says. \"It stayed open for about a year, then burned down. She suggested it reopen as a co-op, where people were members and ran the place together as part of the membership.\" The shop re-opened as she wanted on Danneel Street at the former site of the Red Lion bar. \r\n\r\n\"The coffeehouse\'s current name is taken from Melancon\'s album \'Off the Neutral Ground\'. I got my start there in college, like so many other people did. I started running the music committee and the open mike nights after a while. I wasn\'t at the meeting when they first named it, but my first album, \'Off the Neutral Ground,\' had come out and it was nice that they used it for the name.\" \r\n\r\nEven though he loses money every month, Melancon loves the coffeehouse. \"It\'s all been a labor of love. People think it\'s a nonprofit, but it\'s just run like one.\"\r\n\r\n

Citation

Gabrielle Blankenship Walker, “Neutral Ground,” Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, accessed August 20, 2019, http://hurricanearchive.org/items/show/36230.