By William McCray Sutherlin
Baton Rouge is no stranger to great music.
Our city continues to both cultivate and attract top-notch talent to its various stages, and the Summer of 2014 is no different.
There are literally hundreds of great shows to check out this summer, at venues ranging from The Varsity, the River Center, and Manship Theatre, to Chelsea’s, Spanish Moon, and the Red Dragon Listening Room.
Here are four of our favorites.
George Porter Jr. @ Varsity on July 26
Best known for his work as a bassist and vocalist for The Meters, George Porter Jr. has become a must-see act in the South. As a progressive funk pioneer, he is constantly evolving his ever-growing sound into a booming, vivacious live performance. Although The Meters still play an occasional show or two, Art Neville and George Porter Jr. are both thriving with their own solo careers. Porter has been performing and recording with an impressive list of artists including Dr. John, Soul Rebels Brass Band, Paul McCartney, David Byrne, Jimmy Buffett, Warren Haynes, and many more. Not to mention his stint with world renowned acid jazz guitarist John Scofield and the Piety Street Band in 2008. Come July 26, funk will be alive and well at the Varsity Theatre.
Kevin Gates @ Varsity on August 28
Baton Rouge native, Kevin Gilyard, better known as Kevin Gates, will return to the Varsity Theatre later on this summer and you won’t want to miss this one. Gates got his start rapping with fellow Louisiana natives such as Lil Wayne and Webbie back in 2007, and has been blowing up ever since.
After signing with Atlantic Records in 2013, Gates continued to pick up steam, recording with artists such as Wiz Khalifa and Juicy J. Following the strong release of Stranger Than Fiction (#37 on the Billboard 200), Rolling Stone Magazine ranked his track “Wylin” at #40 on their 100 Best Songs of 2013, something no one seemed to argue with. After the highly anticipated release of By Any Means, this joyous homecoming should be one to remember.
Captain Green @ Chelsea’s on July 12
Hailing from Baton Rouge, space cadets Captain Green have been touring the Gulf South for the past few years. Members include Matt Bizot (alto sax, soprano sax, and flute), Darin Jones (tenor and baritone sax), David Melancon (trumpet), Ross Hoppe (keyboards), Robert Kling (bass), and Chris “Madd Katt” Lee on the drums.
This touring ensemble has pleased the ears of so many in years past, providing a unique blend of Electric Jazz, Funk, and Jam that they have coined “intergalactic space funk.”
These guys are somewhere in between Miles Davis, a brass band, and Frank Zappa. In fact, this past month they performed a tribute to Frank Zappa at the Varsity Theatre. This performance took months of preparation, and was filled with special guests and beautiful music.
Ty Simmons, a DIG contributor, had a chance to stop into the show:
“Zappa last played Baton Rouge at the LSU Assembly Center in 1977,” Simmons wrote, “but his spirit rocked the house last Friday night. Performing this time with ten band members, they sounded loud, and they sounded good.”
New Madrid @ Spanish Moon on July 15
This Athens based alternative rock group is made up of Phil McGill on guitar and lead vocals, Graham Powers (guitar/vocals), Ben Hackett (bass/vocals), and Alex Woolley (drums/vocals). Earlier this year, the quartet released its sophomore LP, Sunswimmer to positive reviews.
Blending harsh lyrics with breezy, smooth licks makes New Madrid an interesting listen. Their voices harmonize perfectly with their Mac Demarco-esque guitar work; allowing for a blissful, beachy track-list that is sure to keep the crowd swaying on July 15 at Spanish Moon.