Live music was set to return prior to COVID spike, so now what? 

It’s hard to imagine south Louisiana void of live music. But that’s become the “new norm” as of late. Many festivals and concert events haven’t taken place since 2019, and some more than two years ago.

Coronavirus restrictions and lockdowns first put the kibosh on the region’s signature festivals and live performances in March 2020. It wasn’t until late this spring—when COVID-19 vaccines became widely available and capacity restrictions in turn began loosening—that concert halls cautiously reopened their doors and event organizers looked optimistically toward the fall festival season.

The Downtown Business Association of Baton Rouge was looking forward to staging its signature free music series, Live After Five, during 12 consecutive Friday evening outdoor concerts from Aug. 20 to Nov. 5. 

“We have a lot of talented people in this industry in Baton Rouge who are (ready) to get back to work,” managing director Lauren Lambert-Tompkins said at the time. “They’re all screaming ‘hallelujah.’ And not just them, but also all the gig workers who make things run.”

There was so much activity happening, with a slate of festivals and concerts scheduled in Baton Rouge, that the September cover story for 225 magazine was originally planned as a celebration of the music industry’s return. 

And if things had continued in a positive direction, the magazine’s cover story would have been a preview of all the great festivals and events in store for the fall. But by late July, the highly contagious delta variant was widely circulating across Louisiana, and the state was making national headlines as it continuously broke records for case levels. 

Billboards advertising businesses and events around town were replaced with signs tracking COVID-19 hospitalizations among unvaccinated and vaccinated patients. Only time will tell if fall events can stage another comeback this year. 

Read the full cover story from the latest edition of 225 magazine, which focuses on the local music industry, and how it is surviving the drawn-out pandemic.