Live music is coming back to Baton Rouge

For musical performers of any stripe, touring has not been an easy option lately. The COVID-19 pandemic decimated many opportunities to perform but bands are finally getting back on the road, and Baton Rouge will be getting its share of the music. 

The Lowdown Drifters, a country folk-rock band from Stanwood, Washington, will perform at Red Stick Social on Thursday as part of a national tour. 

Though venues across the country are starting to shed capacity and mask restrictions, the pandemic still has some bands wanting to test the waters a little before diving into a national tour. The Pink Stones, a country-rock band from Athens, Georgia, will play in Baton Rouge on June 23 at a soon-to-be-announced venue. It’s part of a brief tour of only two shows in Louisiana—Baton Rouge, then New Orleans—followed by three in Texas.

“We’re definitely really eager and excited,” says Hunter Pinkston, lead singer and songwriter for the band. “(We) feel pretty lucky to get to go back out there again.”

The Raising Cane’s River Center, one of the largest performance facilities in the city, has been in constant contact with booking agents from all over the country to get touring acts back into the arena. 

Les Crooks, regional manager and interim general manager for the River Center, says the venue started looking into touring acts when Gov. John Bel Edwards announced in April that indoor public gatherings could be held at 75% capacity with social distancing and 100% capacity with masks required. Since then, Crooks says the bookings have been rolling in. And though many of those gigs have yet to be announced, he says patrons of the venue can expect a pretty full roster in the coming months and beyond. 

It’s shaping up to be a pretty good year from a touring perspective, Crooks says. 

The Basin Music Hall in downtown Baton Rouge—which opened in October 2019, closed in March 2020, and just recently reopened in May—has been getting its fair share of calls from agents trying to get touring bands on its stage. 

“I’m getting calls from all kinds of agents I’ve never even talked to before about trying to send stuff our way,” says Brian Ott, who co-owns The Basin with Jeremy Fenn. 

Ott says many of the acts they’ve been booking are hitting The Basin en route to larger venues, but he says to even get those calls is something of a godsend for a venue that so narrowly survived the peak of the pandemic. 

Aside from the return of touring acts to local venues, the rekindling of traditions like the Live After Five concert series—scheduled to kick off in August—marks a serious milestone in the local music scene’s path to getting back on its feet after a long, painful slumber. 

This story was first published by 225 magazine. Subscribe to the free 225 Daily e-newsletter to keep up with Baton Rouge food and events.