After Hurricane Katrina tore a Category 5-size hole in the lives of hundreds of thousands of New Orleanians on Aug. 29, 2005, families were displaced all over the country. Many sought refuge in the Scenic City.
Those transplants represent a tangible link between the Crescent and Scenic cities, but the connections to New Orleans are more numerous than might be expected for a city 500 miles removed from the French Quarter.
For one thing, the taste of the Big Easy is everywhere, from Southern Star's fried shrimp po'boy to Cajun restaurants, such as N'Awlins Big Easy Bistro, Meo Mio's Cajun Restaurant and Blue Orleans.
The musical connection is even stronger.
Every year, there are several New Orleans acts scheduled as part of annual series and festivals such as Nightfall, Riverbend and Riverfront Nights.
Just in case that cavalcade has somehow passed you by unnoticed, here's a refresher of New Orleans artists who have played here in the recent past:
• Nightfall: The Dudes (2002), Anders Osborne & Big Chief Monk Boudreaux (2003), Andi Hoffman & B-Goes (2004), Susan Cowsill (2006), Bonerama (2008), Big Sam's Funky Nation (2010) and Mia Borders (2011).
• Riverfront Nights: Papa Mali (2009) and Dirty Dozen Brass Band (2010).
• Riverbend: Dirty Dozen Brass Band (2003), Wolfman Washington (2006), Trombone Shorty/Galactic (2008) and Dumpstaphunk/Soul Rebels Brass Band/Kenny Neal (2010).
Clearly, Chattanooga has a long-standing musical love affair with New Orleans that is very much in full flame.
And don't worry that the thrill is starting to fade. This year, the Crescent City is even better represented than normal.
Tonight's Nightfall headliner, for instance, is New Orleans-based Honey Island Swamp Band, who combine elements of blues, rock and Western swing for a distinctive, swampy sound some describe as "Americana on the bayou."
On July 6, Miller Plaza will host another Big Easy group: Dirty Bourbon River Show. The Show will bring a slightly different take on the New Orleans sound, one that reminds me of a twisted Gypsy circus run by Tom Waits.
At Riverbend, Meo Mio's is sponsoring Cajun Spirits, an entire stage devoted to blues and zydeco bands. There, fans can nosh on Creole dishes and drink the only mixed drinks available at the festival -- hence the "spirits" part of the title -- while listening to New Orleans artists such as Lil' Malcolm and the Houserockers and Billy Luso & The Restless Natives.
On Aug. 4, Papa Grows Funk will kick off this year's Riverfront Nights series with a bold, funky sound that should be immediately familiar to fans of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
It seems like 2012 is shaping up to be even more Cajun-spiced than normal. Given how naturally Big Easy artists translate the city's effervescent musical spirit into enthusiastic live performances, my response to that is: "Laissez les bons temps rouler" (Let the good times roll).
Contact Casey Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @Phillips CTFP.