A sea of people rises from seat to feet under the setting sun. Hips sway with each blare of the trumpet. Fists pump with each kick, kick, kick of the drums. For a moment, the crowd pulses in unison to the electrifying sounds flowing from the speakers.
More than 2,500 people got up and jammed on Friday, April 20, at Live After 5 in downtown Baton Rouge. Local variety band Smooth rocked out with oldies and popular tunes, as listeners sang along in the North Boulevard Town Square. The event, which is produced by the Downtown Business Association, consists of shows from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Friday until June 1.
“Live After 5 is a free outdoor concert series that provides the opportunity for downtown Baton Rouge to become more of a destination, as opposed to just a quick visit,” said Kerry Ruiz, marketing and event coordinator for the DBA.
Each Friday, downtown is transformed into a mini Woodstock, as residents come together to start the weekend off with some good vibrations while bringing business to the area.
“We’ve got over 70 businesses that are members of the DBA,” Ruiz said. “And so we feel that it’s our mission to promote our membership by having this event. Our goal is to showcase all the new, great things that are downtown that a lot of people may not be aware of.”
Live After 5 provides a venue for visitors to enjoy a variety of bands, including rock and roll, blues, zydeco and Cajun. This spring’s lineup hosts bands from near and far, with acts from Lil’ Band O’ Gold, Stormy, Bag of Donuts, Pine Leaf Boys, Press 1 for English, One More Time Band, Brandon Giles and Island Fever.
“We try to get a little bit of everything,” Ruiz said. “Something for everybody’s taste, so they can come out and enjoy the type of music they want to hear.”
Fans can request to see their favorite acts light up the stage on Fridays, while bands can also submit their information on the Live After 5 website to get a chance at performing, Ruiz said.
“We try to look at the different bands that have submitted, and give as many local bands the opportunity to perform,” Ruiz said. “There’s so much talent here in Baton Rouge.”
In addition to a slew of musical acts, every Friday visitors can expect to find beverage trucks selling sodas and spirits, food trucks selling sno-balls and sandwiches, and a crowd of people from all over.
“One great thing about Live After 5 is the diversity – young and old, black and white, families, kids,” Ruiz said. “Everybody comes together and has a fun time.”
Since its first concert in 2000, Live After 5 continues to attract growing numbers of fans from Baton Rouge and surrounding areas.
“Back in the day, when it first started, there were maybe 50 to 100 people [who attended],” Ruiz said. “But now we average somewhere in the 2,500 to 3,000 range.”
The DBA created the event 12 years ago to help build the resurgence of downtown and promote attractions in the area.
“The DBA’s mission is to promote the growth and success of downtown Baton Rouge,” Ruiz said. “And they do that by having this concert that brings people from all over the parish and other parishes downtown. When it’s over, we encourage them to stay downtown and frequent the restaurants, and the hotels and the museums.”
The biggest change Live After 5 encountered since the first strum of guitar in 2000 is the recent addition of the North Boulevard Town Square, which provides a brand new stage and pedestrian-friendly zone for concertgoers to enjoy.
“At one point, the event would be in a different location each week,” Ruiz said. “We used a portable stage, and we would move it to different corners [of downtown]. We actually have a beautiful stage now, where we can put on a really good show.”
Ruiz believes the sense of community and the variety of talent attracts a crowd that continues to make its way downtown for the festival feeling each Friday.
“Obviously, we all love music and we love getting together with the community,” Ruiz said. “You can tell by the feedback we get through Facebook and our website.”
Baton Rouge resident Regina Boatner, who comes every Friday, said she enjoys the lively atmosphere Live After 5 creates.
“Its like one big picnic,” Boatner said. “I like to come out, and sit down, and drink, and have fun and listen to the music.”
Port Allen resident Janice Chiasson said she and her husband have come almost every Friday since Live After 5’s start.
“If it’s a beautiful day, I love to be outdoors, and the music is usually good so I just come out here and enjoy.”
Chiasson believes the concert series is an important aspect in promoting business to the downtown area.
“The restaurants and the businesses down here get a big boost every time this goes on because people leave and go eat somewhere or go to a bar,” Chiasson said.
As exciting musical acts continue to light up the stage each Friday, crowds of people make their way downtown to take in some Baton Rouge culture, while enjoying the company of both friends and strangers.
“My favorite part of Live After 5 is that one part during the concert, when I step back and look out at the crowd, and see everybody smiling and dancing together and having a good time,” Ruiz said.