Henry Turner Jr.’s Listening Room has moved from its original North Street location to the Belle of Baton Rouge Casino atrium.
Turner, leader of the local funk/reggae/blues band Henry Turner Jr. and Flavor, sees the move as a great opportunity for the Listening Room and local musical talent. Open Thursday nights, just like the original Listening Room, the new location will present some national talent, too, with the focus always being original music.
The Henry Turner Jr. Listening Room grand opening is 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 29, in the Belle of Baton Rouge atrium’s Bar 102. Performers include Miss Mamie and Smokehouse Porter, New York blues artist Brewster Moonface and Henry Turner Jr. and Flavor. The show is free.
The first Henry Turner Jr.’s Listening Room opened in 2014 to fill a gap left by the 2003 closing of Tabby’s Blues Box and Heritage Hall. For more than a generation, the late Tabby Thomas operated the Blues Box, a venue open to local and aspiring blues musicians. Turner broadened Thomas’ concept to include nearly all genres of music.
Turner’s original Listening Room was an intimate space that accommodated about 75 people and didn’t serve alcohol. The larger new space in the Belle of Baton Rouge atrium will serve food and alcohol.
The Listening Room’s previous location at 2733 North St., Turner said, “was reminiscent of the old Tabby’s Blues Box on North Boulevard. It had a good, old club feel to it.”
With no liquor license, too, the previous space was an all-ages venue.
“It had the ability to take on everybody who was interested in performing,” Turner said. “But our location was kind of in the hood, to the point where only coolest of the cool wanted to come there. People were like, ‘I don’t know. I’ll wait and see.’ ”
Despite the location, people and performers did come, including national touring acts and “American Idol” and “X Factor” contestants.
While the new Listening Room space loses some things, Turner says it can offer other advantages to musicians and the community. That’s especially true because the location is downtown.
“A lot of people really want to get exposure downtown,” Turner said. “The Belle is a great opportunity for that.”
Turner most of all wants to create an original music scene in Baton Rouge.
“We have a budding film market, even with the caps that have been put on film tax incentive,” he said. “Small and medium-sized independent film companies are still coming to Baton Rouge. All of them are in search of some Louisiana music in one form or another.
“So we’re looking at the Listening Room as not just another party spot. Of course, Louisiana music invokes a good party, but more than that, we’d like to see some economic development happening.”
Turner’s agreement with the Belle runs to the end of the year. Whether or not the Listening Room stays depends upon attendance.
“It’s all based on performance,” Turner said. “We believe that Baton Rouge music can produce. We know it can, because we saw that with the old Listening Room.”