I grew up an hour from New Orleans, and I started going out in the city with friends when I was in high school. We usually stuck with Bourbon Street, mostly because we knew where it was, and in the 1980s, it was easy to drink there underage. But there were other places in the Quarter whose names carried with them auras of the forbidden, places that would have made our parents worry if they knew we were there. One was The Crystal, a dark, goth bar that played The Cure and Morrissey. It is now the rather cheerful Spitfire Bar. The other was the Dungeon. We heard all sorts of sordid things about this place. There were live sex acts, including a whole room devoted to S&M. There were skeletons, chains, Satanic rites. It didn’t even open until midnight. You can imagine where our suburban minds went. When I finally went to the Dungeon, I had to admit that while it didn’t match up with my adolescent fantasies, it was, and still is, a pretty fucking cool bar.
You enter down a long, narrow side alley, leaving vulgar Bourbon Street for something a little darker. The music can really define the evening at the Dungeon. Sometimes it’s more old-school (Lynyrd Skynyrd) but most nights/mornings, it lives up to its reputation as a metal bar with Judas Priest and Iron Maiden in heavy rotation. The atmosphere feels like a really well-done haunted house. The decor has not changed since I came here in college: black walls, chains, skeletons. There is an area for some S&M, though I’ve never seen any activity. Signs throughout the club proclaim NO VIDEO/NO PHOTOS, so presumably there’s some occasional action that no one wants recorded.
These days the Dungeon seems more like a place to chill and listen to something besides the typical Bourbon Street mix of Journey and Jimmy Buffett. If you can score seating in the cage at the end of the bar, do so. It’s easy for the bartender to keep an eye on you and keep your drinks refilled, and hell, when else are you going to drink in a cage?
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