Returning from a pandemic hiatus, the recurring Bandeaux events have become a ‘mecca’ for artists to watch

Backstage at The Bandeaux, the rafters shake with thumping bass. Between hits, you can hear the buzzing chatter of an electrified, wall-to-wall crowd.

Slouched on a caramel-leather sofa, Baker rapper Quadry gargles water in preparation to take the stage, taking a moment to reflect on what this recurring art showcase signifies.   

“It’s very encouraging to everybody who’s an artist and who’s in the Baton Rouge rap community,” he says. “It’s showing, like, if we can show up for ourselves and have good artists do good sets, and the crowd loves it, we don’t really need the outside validation.”

Overseeing the happenings somewhere on the other side of the stage is Patrick Harrington, better known as Bandeaux Pat. He organizes events in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, including the weekly Taceaux Tuesdays at Culture Reggae Club on Oklahoma Street and, recently reinstated after an almost three-year hiatus, The Bandeaux.

Patrick Harrington, founder of The Bandeaux

During this bimonthly showcase of local art and music, the stage is populated by both burgeoning and platinum-plaque rappers, and the floor and gravel lot outside by artists and clothing brands.

At tonight’s mid-April Chelsea’s Live show a roughly 20-foot plywood canvas is slowly being transformed into a graffiti mural by Baton Rouge artist Zero2. DJs like Harrington himself and his brother Dave, also called DJ Love Yourself, present turntable stylings.

MARJON performing at the event

Characteristically spare of diction and, at the moment, preoccupied with the manifold moving parts of the event, Harrington keeps succinct his thoughts on The Bandeaux’s revival.

“It feels good,” he says. “It’s just different; there’s really nothing out here like this.”

Harrington is most proud of the space the event gives artists to diverge from the traditional Baton Rouge sound that dominated the scene a few years ago.

“At first, you knew a Baton Rouge artist just by the beat and what they talk about,” he says. “But then, I feel like once I started (The Bandeaux), it just opened up the gates.”

But it took a few mutations to bring The Bandeaux to its current form.

In 2013, Harrington was organizing weekly ’90s nights and DJ parties at the North Gate Tavern, a bar that used to occupy the building to the left of Insomnia Cookies on East Chimes Street. After a few events, he enlisted the help of friend and collaborator Ricky Andretti, a local art enthusiast and organizer.

Together, the two created Joker Art Night (later called Paint Out the Bandeaux), combining Pat’s DJ parties with an artistic twist. They scrounged up already-painted artworks and invited local artists to paint over them.

When the Tavern closed its doors in late 2014, the event relaunched in the fall of 2015 at Spanish Moon.

“Once I brought it to the Moon,” Harrington recalls, “that’s when it really started taking off.”

With a larger stage and venue—and more parking, notoriously scarce in the North Gates area—came larger crowds.

But after the Spanish Moon closed down, things seemed bleak for the rap extravaganza. Harrington managed to wrangle a few one-off shows at the Varsity Theatre, but then the pandemic struck.

So when events started trickling back, and then Chelsea’s popped up on Nicholson with its sparkling new space, it felt like the miracle Harrington had waited for.

Looking back on those early days, Harrington says he never anticipated the event would take off as it has.

“If we can show up for ourselves and have good artists do good sets, and the crowd loves it, we don’t really need the outside validation.”
—Quadry, a Baker rapper who performed at a recent Bandeaux event. Photo by Carlos Sanchez / Courtesy The Bandeaux

“All I knew was, I just wanted to do something different, ’cause I got tired of going to clubs and (seeing) the same thing,” he says. “I just told myself I was not stopping.”

Now, he can fully appreciate the effect his events have had on the rap scene in Baton Rouge, whether it be in the cheers of the crowd, the energy of the performers or interaction with up-and-comers trying to get on the roster.

One of those performers is rapper Michael Armstead, a longtime friend of Harrington’s and a staple performer at The Bandeaux. He says he once performed at the event seven months in a row back at Spanish Moon.

“A lot of artists don’t get the chance to perform, especially in the demographic of hip-hop in this city, they don’t really get that chance. So I think this is the perfect place,” he says of the event. “And then you get to hone your skills and practice to see what works and what doesn’t in front of a nice-sized crowd, which, once again, artists don’t get in this city.”

It’s a close echo to Quadry’s sentiments, and it seemed to be shared by everyone I spoke to at the event.

They all say The Bandeaux is a breeding ground for—and showcase of—rap talent in Baton Rouge. A “mecca,” in Armstead’s words.Wherever The Bandeaux may be, it’s the place to be—if you don’t mind a slight ring in the ears. Find event updates on Instagram at @bandeauxpat2.

This article was originally published in the June 2022 issue of 225 magazine.