Local musicians keep the music rolling with virtual shows and studio time during the pandemic

Before COVID-19, Baton Rouge’s music scene was thriving. Local music groups like country band Parish County Line and cover band The Anteeks opened up for large events at stadiums, local bars, casinos and other venues along the coast. Baton Rouge DJs such as Charles Eugene, also known as DJ CMix, had a booked schedule filled with weddings, concerts, LSU events and birthday parties. But when the pandemic hit, all in-person gigs stopped.

DJ CMix in the studio. Photo by Sean Gasser.

For some artists, new social gathering rules were a blow to their financial well-being. Before the pandemic, Parish County Line predicted 2020 would be it’s best year yet. They had a lineup of out-of-state shows and local festivals, weddings and concerts that were postponed or canceled.

But in the midst of the uncertainty, it also gave local bands time to focus on their craft, connect with other artists and experiment creatively. The Anteeks held bi-weekly livestreamed concerts on Facebook from singer and guitarist Joey Holaway’s living room so the band could continue sharing music with its fans.

One new band even got inspired to debut its first project in the midst of the pandemic: Baton Rouge rock group The Shape Collectors released its first single “Julia” in August. Before the pandemic, songwriter Alex Cook says the five members were working gigs with their other bands. After most venues closed, the group of friends and music colleagues started collaborating virtually and pieced together music from home.

For other music artists, the pandemic hindered their ability to play and forced them to make up for lost income in other ways. And now with the state transitioning into Phase Three, it’s still too early to say when Baton Rouge bars and music venues will start hosting live concerts again.

Despite the unexpected obstacles, local music artists have kept the music playing through virtual events, songwriting and new music releases. 225 talked with four local artists to find out how Baton Rouge musicians are pivoting during a pandemic.

Since social gatherings were limited, The Anteeks began performing virtually with livestreamed concerts. Photo courtesy the Anteeks.

How has COVID-19 affected your music business?

Casey McKenzie of Parish County Line: “We lost about 58 shows since COVID-19. It was projected to be our biggest year.”

Alex Cook of The Shape Collectors: “COVID took the wind out of our sails. It kind of put everything on hold. We had talked about a collaborative project about a year ago. But now, since our bands are not busy anymore, this was the perfect time for us to dig in and work on this project in earnest.”

What have you done to adjust to social gathering restrictions?

DJ CMix: “I tapped into producing. I can’t perform, but it has opened up the opportunity for new ventures. I’m networking more and connecting with artists I never thought I would. It also allows people to play on an equal playing field.”

Joey Holaway of The Anteeks: “We’ve gotten really good at setting up livestreams and playing from my living room.”

What did your career look like before COVID-19?

DJ CMix: “I had six to seven shows planned out (concert wise) and on top of that I had weddings. It was going to be an amazing next few months. But then COVID just kind of shut all of that down.”

Parish County Line: “March 13 was the last show we’ve done. January and February were slammed. We were probably doing 14 shows a month. In January, we played for LSU’s national championship party outside Tiger Stadium. We played at Bacchus in New Orleans with Laine Hardy in front of almost 13,000 people, and we had no idea what was coming next.”

The Anteeks: “We play about 130 to 150 gigs a year, [130] would probably be on the low end.”

The Shape Collectors released its first single during the pandemic. Courtesy Alex Cook.

Are you still working on music projects during the pandemic?

DJ CMix: “I have an album coming out this year. I’m curating something that’s going to be uplifting and will have that high-energy feel for when clubs open back up. By the time we can go out again, I want to be able to perform it. It’s a combination of local artists from Louisiana and other producers and DJs.”

Parish County Line: “We have done some writing, and we try to practice a couple times a month. There’s been a couple of bars that open up to us privately to practice so that’s been nice.”

What are your plans for the future?

The Anteeks: “We will stay together, ride it out and will play when we can safely. I want to play music again without a doubt, but I won’t do it until it’s safe.”

The Shape Collectors: “The more all of us have worked on our music, the more excited we are about it. In the future, we may look at creating live shows. For now, we’re going to focus on producing these songs and making videos for it.”

This article was originally published in the October 2020 issue of 225 Magazine.