National and regional touring bands are traveling to Baton Rouge as live music returns this summer

For musical performers of any stripe, touring has not been an easy option for a long time. The COVID-19 pandemic decimated many of those opportunities. But bands are finally getting back on the road, and Baton Rouge will be getting its share of the music. 

The Lowdown Drifters, a country folk-rock band from Stanwood, Washington, will be coming to Baton Rouge to perform at Red Stick Social on June 3 as part of a national tour. Following that performance, the group will be heading to Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Idaho and finally Colorado. 

“We had always heard great things about the (Baton Rouge) music scene, about the people,” says Ryan Klein, the band’s guitarist and cofounder with John Cannon. “We’d had a plan to be in Baton Rouge a year ago, but obviously plans changed for everyone, so we’re very thankful to get to make it back this year.”

This will be the band’s first full-scale tour since the onset of the pandemic. Save for a few small regional tours in neighboring states like Idaho and Montana and a one-off fly-out show in Green Hall, Texas, the group has been largely stationary. 

Klein says the band wanted to wait to launch a tour of this scale until they could be confident that the people attending their shows could do so safely.

“The last thing we want to do,” he says, “is to have a concert where people don’t feel comfortable either coming or being able to enjoy themselves.”

Though venues across the country are starting to shed their capacity and masking restrictions, the pandemic still has some bands wanting to test the waters a little before diving into a national tour. The Pink Stones, a country-rock band from Athens, Georgia, will be playing in Baton Rouge on June 23 at a soon-to-be-announced venue. It’s part of a brief tour of only two shows in Louisiana—Baton Rouge, then New Orleans—followed by three in Texas.

“We’re definitely really eager and excited,” says Hunter Pinkston, lead singer and songwriter for the band. “(We) feel pretty lucky to get to go back out there again.”

And things are starting to look up for local venues, as well.

The Raising Cane’s River Center, one of the largest performance facilities in the city, has been in constant contact with booking agents from all over the country to get touring acts back into the arena. 

Les Crooks, regional manager and interim general manager for the River Center, says they started looking into touring acts when John Bel Edwards announced in April that indoor public gatherings could be held at 75% capacity with social distancing and 100% capacity with masks required. Since then, Crooks says the bookings have been rolling in. And though many of those gigs have yet to be announced, he says patrons of the venue can expect a pretty full roster in the coming months and beyond. 

“2021 is shaping up to be a pretty good year from a touring perspective,” Crooks says. 

The Basin Music Hall in downtown Baton Rouge—which opened in October 2019, closed in March 2020, and just recently reopened in May 2021—has been getting its fair share of calls looking to get touring bands on its stage. 

“I’m getting calls from all kinds of agents I’ve never even talked to before about trying to send stuff our way,” says Brian Ott, who co-owns The Basin with Jeremy Fenn. 

Ott says many of the acts they’ve been booking are hitting The Basin en route to larger venues, but he says to even get those calls is something of a God-send for a venue that so narrowly survived the peak of the pandemic. 

Aside from the return of touring acts to local venues, the rekindling of traditions like the Live After Five concert series—scheduled to kick off in August—marks a serious milestone in the local music scene’s path to getting back on its feet after a long, painful slumber. 

Concertgoers in Baton Rouge finally have a lot to look forward to.

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