On a chilly January Friday night, a sizable crowd has braved the weather to soak in the atmosphere at the new Chelsea’s Live. They form in pockets around the stage to watch local dream-pop band Riarosa and the accompanying acts. It’s only the second week open for the venue, but Chelsea’s has a packed house.
As the show starts, fans seem instantly at home, setting their coats and drinks along the edge of the stage. They dance shamelessly to the dreamy sound of Riarosa’s latest EP Pinkish. The color-changing strobe lights flicker from pink to teal, mimicking the album art. Off the side of the stage, the door to the green room is constantly opening and closing, with musicians filtering out to get drinks or support who’s performing.
Between songs, fans holler and clap while others move across the crowd to say hi to familiar faces they’ve spotted.
Regardless of the week they’ve had, everyone has convened at the same place for the same reason: to enjoy good music and meet up with old friends.
This is a place where music fans can have a family reunion every weekend. It’s the revival of the local music scene. It’s the descendant of a Baton Rouge staple. It’s Chelsea’s Live.
An old marquee sign from Chelsea’s Cafe glows over Nicholson Drive. It’s an ode to the original Chelsea’s Cafe, the famed Baton Rouge music venue that closed its doors in 2015. But now, the sign is lit up with a new name, marking a new home and a new era of Chelsea’s. And co-owner and talent buyer Aaron Scruggs promises the venue will bring the Capital City a rocking lineup of musical acts just like its predecessor did back in the day.
At Chelsea’s Live, you can expect to see a different show every weekend, from local indie bands like tonight’s Riarosa show to big country music acts, such as Charley Crockett. The venue will also play host to comedy shows, private events and parties.The venue is the brainchild of Scruggs, local attorney Grant Miller and Dave Remmetter, who owned the original Chelsea’s Cafe. Scruggs calls it his “lifelong achievement.” He has been managing the Louisiana band Givers for more than a decade and says being on the road with the band inspired him to create the ultimate venue that’s “built on putting artists first.”
“If you pay attention to all the little fine details when it comes to a music venue and try to make the artists happy, then you’ll make the fans happy,” he says. “If the artists come in and are immediately happy, then one thing leads to the next, and you can change the whole tour with one show.”
Some of those fine details include a lounge area, dining table and kitchen in the green room. There are also two smaller lounge areas inside where bands can relax and go over setlists before the show starts. There is even a washer and dryer and two bathrooms with showers, so that bands can feel refreshed while on a busy tour.
“It’s all about splurging a little so just one day makes them feel at home,” Scruggs says. “We don’t even give artists the chance to be mad. We never say ‘no’ and give them the best hospitality. We want to make them feel as comfortable as possible.”
Walking through the venue, it’s clear the fans are a priority, as well. With spacious bathrooms and plenty of room to move around, patrons can stay comfortable while enjoying the acts they love.
Genuine neon lights made by New Orleans’ own Big Sexy Neon can be found throughout the venue. Next to the green room is one in the shape of the iconic ‘C’ logo, while poison dart frog signs glow above the bathroom entrances. The high-tech sound system offers crisp, clear audio and is even calibrated to sound quieter around the bar so the bartenders can hear drink orders.
And for the loyal, longtime fans, small details from the original Chelsea’s are scattered throughout the space. Outside, eagle-eyed patrons will be able to spot the old name of Chelsea’s Cafe, cleverly placed on the spine of the neon sign. Upon entering, you’ll see an entire wall of posters from bands that graced the stage at Chelsea’s Cafe during its 28 years of business. Old artwork from the original Chelsea’s adorns the walls.
Scruggs says it’s his way of bringing a sense of nostalgia to all guests and paying homage to the original venue from which Chelsea’s Live gets its name.
Even though there are plenty of cool details to take in both old and new, Scruggs says his favorite part of the venue has nothing to do with the materialistic things. The most special thing about Chelsea’s Live is working with his business partners Remmetter and Miller.
Together, they hope to bring back the lively music scene Baton Rouge had in the 2010s that was lost during the pandemic.
“It’s great to have more venues in the area,” he says. “More competition creates more success for everyone. If everyone is going to the same venue all the time, then they get used to it or get spoiled by it. If you’re able to go from venue to venue to see different shows, then that’s how you build a scene.”
With a packed house almost every weekend, it’s clear the old Chelsea’s has been missed—and that the new venue is already building its own scene in the Capital City. Scruggs hopes this venue will stick around for some time.
“We want to be that anchor of culture in Baton Rouge,” he says. “Everything in here is built on culture. We’re always going to keep the standard and keep improving over
and over so that we can be here forever.”
THIS MONTH’S LINEUP
March 5: Latin Night
March 11: SOULFLY
March 12: Ty Segall with
March 13: P.J. Morton
March 17: American Aquarium
and Margo Cilker
March 18: Lucero
March 19: Charley Crockett
Find the full calendar at chelseaslive.com. Chelsea’s Live is at 1010 Nicholson Drive.
This article was originally published in the March 2022 issue of 225 magazine.