Dig Baton Rouge

Weezer, Pepper headline LSU’s annual Groovin’ on the Grounds

By Emily Herrington

Wednesday, March 26 update:  Groovin’ on the Grounds will now be held Friday, March 28, beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the Baton Rouge River Center Arena in downtown Baton Rouge. This event is free and open to the public. Doors to Groovin’ on the Grounds will open at 7 p.m. in the northwest ground floor portal nearest the box office and northeast second floor portal entrances. The event was moved from the Parade Grounds due to anticipated inclement weather.

LSU’s Parade Ground will be transformed into an “island in the sun” as Weezer and Hawaiian-born Pepper headline Groovin’ on the Grounds this Friday. Weezer is behind radio hits such as “Say It Ain’t So,” “Buddy Holly” and “Beverly Hills.”

Groovin’ is free and open to the public, and the day is kicking off with an arts festival from 2 to 5 p.m. It’s hosted by LSU Student Government’s Students on Target and paid for through student fees and sponsorships.

Student band Deacon Jones is opening the concert around 6:45 p.m. after winning a Homecoming week Battle of the Bands competition. Winston Triolo, Deacon Jones’ singer and guitarist and an LSU advertising senior, said the band is looking forward to playing its biggest show yet.

Triolo describes Deacon Jones as gritty rock/Southern blues in the likes of The Black Keys, Kings of Leon and Fleetwood Mac. High energy and good songs performed by down-to-earth college kids is what Triolo said the Groovin’ crowd can expect.

“It’s definitely an honor opening for Weezer,” Triolo said. “We’re excited. In our minds, this is the best lineup Groovin’ on the Grounds has had since we’ve been here.”

Past Groovin’ on the Grounds artists have included Lupe Fiasco, Ludacris, One Republic and Shinedown. Student Government’s director of programming, Chelsey Gonzales, said Students on Target decided to spend the money a bit differently to snag a big-name headliner who everyone knows. There are usually three performers, plus the student winners of Battle of the Bands.

“Who doesn’t know at least one Weezer song?” Gonzales asked.

Deacon Jones isn’t the only one looking forward to getting on the Parade Ground’s stage. Bret Bollinger, Pepper’s lead singer and bassist, said the island rock trio is coming in town early to “cat around and eat some really good food.”

“[Louisiana]’s really fun, it’s its own thing, it’s got its own identity, and it lends well to what me and my brothers from Hawaii really like — and that’s having a good time,” Bollinger says.

Pepper formed in 1997 and has toured with acts including 311, Snoop Dogg, Slightly Stoopid and The Wailers. Bollinger says Pepper members are big fans of Weezer, and they’ve played together before.

“I actually wrote a song recently that I feel bad recording because I kinda want to show it to them,” Bollinger said. “I think it’s something that they might really dig. … I can’t believe how much it came out sounding like a song of theirs.”

Bollinger said Pepper’s set at Groovin’ will be one that’s interactive, fun and pushes the limits. Pepper takes lots of requests and considers the crowd a fourth member of the band.

“We’ll literally stop a show when we hear people screaming for a song and we’ll make sure we’re hearing it right, then just do it. We’re not tied to a setlist.”

In past years, Groovin’ on the Grounds had received criticism for its conflicting messages. Students on Target promoted a drug- and alcohol-free lifestyle, while the messages in songs from performers such as Ludacris didn’t quite coincide.

Gonzales said “it just didn’t seem like anyone really cared about the wellness message” and “it had served its purpose, and now it’s time for something else.”

That “something else” is a shift from a health and wellness focus to a celebration of the arts. “It’s an outlet for students to put their talents out there on a bigger scale,” Gonzales said.

There will be a central art piece from local and student artists being spray painted, performances from LSU students and the Tiger Tenors, and local artists painting during the festivities.

“I’d love to see people in Baton Rouge and the surrounding community come out and enjoy what we’re putting on for LSU and for everyone,” Gonzales said.

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