Bands that have gotten their start in Baton Rouge know that one of the keys to being successful is adaptability. Many factors have changed the Baton Rouge music scene over the last few years, and the aspect that has affected it arguably the most is the city’s venues.
Some locations have closed their doors, and others are beginning to take their places. Finding a spot that supports musicians and discovering where they fit in is almost as important as playing the music.
Many bands that are still around and have been a part of the Baton Rouge music scene for a while got their starts at one of two venues, Northgate Tavern or Chelsea’s Café. Though their doors are no longer open, they largely affected local music during operation. Ross Hoppe of local funk band Captain Green said Chelsea’s was important to his start as a musician because of how the venue nurtured new bands.
“My hands down favorite will always be Chelsea’s because of the atmosphere,” Hoppe said. “I don’t think I ever played a bad show there and they really took care of the bands too.”
Another local band of musicians that individually got their start at Northgate and Chelsea’s is the Rag-A-Muffin Marching Band Orchestra. Members Brennan Breaux, Mike Crapanzano, Chris Bryant, Garrett Corripio, Josh Bourgeois, Taylor Stoma and Bob Kling all said that they remember playing and attending shows at both venues.
Though the members of Captain Green and Rag-A-Muffin Marching Band Orchestra have been playing music in Baton Rouge for several years, even bands that have formed more recently began playing in these venues and remember them fondly.
Alabaster Stag, another local funk and R&B band, formed in 2015. Vocalist Chloe Johnson said members had been working together through various projects for a while and decided to join forces. Through these other projects, they got the opportunity to play at Chelsea’s and Northgate.
“I spent a lot of time coming up in those venues,” Johnson said. “In the first band I played in, we were playing almost every weekend because there were so many places available. Now I feel like it’s just a little bit harder for newer musicians to be able to play.”
Though these venues may no longer be available, local acts like Captain Green, Rag-A-Muffin and Alabaster Stag have continued to local venues to showcase their music. A couple of places they enjoy playing at now are Spanish Moon, The Parlor and Lock and Key Whiskey Bar.
“I like the Parlor a lot,” said James West, Alabaster Stag’s guitarist. “They haven’t been open for too long, but what they’re trying to do over there is really cool and they’re willing to take chances. It’s got a nice vibe and a community feel. You feel like you’re playing a house show.”
Bassit Bob Kling, who is a member of both Rag-A-Muffin Marching Band Orchestra and Captain Green, said he enjoys playing at Lock and Key for the atmosphere.
“Lock and Key is a phenomenal place,” Kling said. “They’re more low key and do more jazz stuff, but it’s a lot of fun to play.”
Clarinet and Ukulele player Taylor Stoma said he’s noticing a trend of smaller, more intimate venues popping up in Baton Rouge. He said this is causing new and different people to come out and support music. Though the scene is changing, the scene itself is alive and well.
“With these new smaller listening rooms it draws different people,” Stoma said. “You have all of these different types of people coming out of the woodwork supporting a bunch of different genres. It’s really cool to see.”
Photo courtesy of Whitney Tucker.