The show must go on. Or at least that’s what many music venues hope.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, reopening guidelines that call for social distancing and limited capacities in public places still leave a question mark on audience-dependent music events.
In Phase 2 of reopening in Louisiana, nonessential public gatherings in a single room or space are limited to 250 people.
“Most artists are not able to generate enough dollars with a capacity of 250 people to make it worth their while to tour,” said Les Crooks, a regional general manager with ASM Global, the company that manages the Raising Cane’s River Center.
The River Center is following guidelines provided by state and local government, Crooks said, with the health and safety of the venue’s guests and employees a top priority.
“Raising Cane’s River Center continues to discuss rescheduling shows and booking new shows with promoters, in either in late 2020 or 2021,” Crooks added. “Most major artists have pushed touring into mid-to-late 2021, with hopes of more testing and a possible vaccine available by that time.”
The Texas Club had booked an indoor show with limited seating for Saturday, June 13, but was told Thursday by the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco the show could not proceed, said Mike Rogers, co-owner of the nearly 40-year-old venue.
“We’re just praying that phase 3 will allow us to have some live music,” Rogers said. “It’s seems crazy that Louisiana depends so much on music and entertainment and things of that nature, but we’re kind of being strangled.
"How do you book a national act six months out if you don’t know if you can be open?" he said. "These things, you just can’t snap your fingers and have them happen overnight.”
The Varsity, one of the city’s larger venues for live music, has several upcoming shows on its website, including Built To Spill on July 19. Requests for an interview were not answered.
Melanie Couvillon, executive director of the Manship Theatre hopes musical performances can return to the downtown Baton Rouge venue in July.
“People are ready to experience a music performance and share the excitement and sense of community that a live show provides,” Couvillon said.
Ideas at the Manship Theatre include a simultaneously in-person and web-streaming fall music series spotlighting local and regional performers.
“The goal is to support the music community,” said John Kaufman, the theater’s director of programming and marketing. “And to utilize our theater to its full production capacity, with lights, sound, giving people a bigger, better experience at the capacity we’re allowed to do.”
The Manship Theatre has pushed its fall programming into October.
“That’s not necessarily dictated by us,” Kaufman said. “It’s also dictated by what tours and other venues decide to do. The routes for tours crumble if it doesn’t make financial sense for those bands, theater groups and dance companies to be on the road. It’s a domino effect.”
“Every day we put together this puzzle,” Couvillon said, “hoping that we can get everything moving again in October. I think everyone understands that there will be changes. Great ideas come out of that.”
Fall concerts at the Manship Theatre currently begin Sept. 18 with the Red Dragon Songwriters Series’ presentation of LeRoux. The theater’s own 2020-2021 season begins Oct. 9 with the Allman Betts Band.
“We’re not opening willy-nilly,” Kaufman said. “We are doing it safely, in accordance with the CDC guidelines. We’re in constant communication with agents, managers, theater and dance companies. When this gets going again, we’re going to go full steam ahead, no matter what that looks like.”
L’Auberge Casino, another major music presenter, has cancelled its five scheduled concerts for July — Wayne Toups, Sara Evans, Candlebox, Ron White and Three Dog Night.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, L'Auberge said it was calling off the shows "in regulation with state guidelines and out of an abundance of caution for our guests."
The post added that full refunds can be obtained at point of purchase.
L'Auberge currently has two shows scheduled for August — Marc Broussard on Aug. 8 and Vicki Lawrence & Mama on Aug. 22.
Paul Juneau, manager at Drew & Willie’s Sports Bar, hasn’t set a date for restarting live music at the Denham Springs establishment. Juneau hopes to present full bands and touring acts Saturday nights as well as acoustic performances featuring local musicians. He also wants to bring a major national act to Drew & Willie’s by late July.
“Our venue is 5,000 square feet,” Juneau said. “Social distancing is not a problem. We have hand sanitizer and, if people want to wear their masks, they can. We’re still going to follow the guidelines. No live music until the governor says so.”
Following the March shutdown, downtown’s Basin Music Hall canceled several national acts, including the North Mississippi All-Stars, Cowboy Mouth, P.O.D. and Sir Mix-a-Lot. Even when public gathering restrictions are loosened, said Basin Music Hall co-owner Brian Ott, social distancing may still crimp his ability to produce shows.
“The problem is bands are expensive,” Ott said. “With a reduced capacity, you can’t really do them.”
Like concert venues in Baton Rouge, the Acadiana Center for the Arts in Lafayette is playing it by ear. An appearance by the Allman Betts Band, scheduled for Sept. 25, may be split into two performances at 50% capacity each, said Clayton Shelvin, the center’s performing arts director.
The ACA will announce its 2020-2021 season on July 21. Postponed until October, the season will feature fewer than the center’s usual 60 performances, in part because local performing arts organizations canceled their seasons.
“They’re unable to program right now,” Shelvin said. “It’s going to be a condensed season, but I think people are going to be excited about some of the tours we’ve lined up. But that’s only if performers are able to tour. I hope we’ll have a better understanding of what the fall may look like by next month.”
The ACA will exploit the Moncus Theater’s flexibility, Shelvin added.
“We can take the whole thing apart and create our own design for how people will sit,” he said.
Amid the uncertainty, the ACA intends to make eight-week-out decisions about whether or not events will proceed.
“If a show doesn’t happen in the fall, we’ll move it to next summer,” Shelvin said. “But we’re hoping not to cancel shows. For us, it’s important to keep planning and moving forward. We have amazing sponsors and people who count on us for the services we provide. The goal right now is to make sure we can do that safely and still make it possible."