Baton Rouge Blues Festival returns this weekend, with more stages, a beer garden and loads of live music

Paying homage to all things blues, the Baton Rouge Blues Festival is back and bigger than ever this weekend, April 19–21. 

Since establishing its roots on the campus of Southern University in 1981, the Baton Rouge Blues Festival has been the go-to blues destination on the bayou. Whether you are a longtime blues fan, freshly breaking into the genre or are just looking to celebrate the culture, the lineup at this downtown festival is sure to entertain. 

Courtesy Baton Rouge Blues Festival. Photo by Jordan Hefler

“Between Elvin Bishop & Charlie Musselwhite, Kenny Neal, Jackie Venson, Black Joe Lewis, Nikki Hill, Smokehouse Porter and Miss Mamie, it’s hard to even say who is a headliner. Everyone on our lineup is fantastic,” says Lauren Lambert-Tompkins, executive director of the Baton Rouge Blues Festival & Foundation.

The festival kicks off on Friday, April 19, with Grammy-nominated artist Kenny Neal on the Visit Baton Rouge Swamp Blues Main Stage at Galvez Plaza. The concert will double as this week’s Live After Five event. Additionally, the fest has partnered with Manship Theatre to present a ticketed encore performance on Friday evening, featuring Layla Musselwhite, daughter of fellow festival performer and blues legend Charlie Musselwhite. 

Throughout the weekend, blues fanatics can also revel in funk, soul and “Louisiana Reggae” sounds from Henry Turner Jr. & Flavor, R&B from THEBROSFRESH and many more genres and artists.  

“We have a very diverse audience to match our diverse lineup,” Lambert-Tompkins says.

Performances will be spread across multiple stages and listening areas downtown, including the Chris Whittington Family LA1 Stage outside Manship Theatre and the Front Porch Stage in North Boulevard Town Square. Lambert-Tompkins says the Blues Fest will also introduce a fourth stage this year: The Watermark Slim Harpo Stage at the intersection of Convention and Third streets, near the Watermark Hotel.

“The festival is growing and we are loving all the support we are receiving from area businesses and local partners,” she added.

In addition to the music, the Blues Fest will host a kid’s corner at the Old State Capitol, an artist and makers area, and food vendors. There will be three bars onsite, and, for the first time this year, the Urban South Beer Garden, which will face the Visit Baton Rouge Swamp Blues Stage. Click here for a map.

Courtesy Baton Rouge Blues Festival. Photo by Jordan Hefler

“(It’s) a great place to catch some shade and a cold drink,” Lambert-Tompkins says.

The Baton Rouge Blues Festival will be held April 19–21 in Downtown Baton Rouge. The event is free to attend. See the full lineup and find more information here.