Despite the ongoing pandemic, the music has played on at Beauvoir Park in Baton Rouge, but not this weekend.
Frigid temperature have postponed two concerts — the Brassheart Brass Band on Friday and Minos the Saint on Saturday. Both bands will be rescheduled for March, when the slate of acts will also feature the Grammy-winning Lost Bayou Ramblers on March 12, Slow Motion Cowboy and The Pine Hill Haints on March 13, and Honey Island Swamp Band on March 19.
“We’ve run into some weather issues here of late, but that’s the nature of being an outdoor venue,” J. Hover said.
When weather becomes a threat, the decision about whether to postpone or go forward with a show is shared with the performers.
“If there’s rain in the forecast, people tend to stay home,” Hover said. “But we make a decision based on what the band thinks, what our sound guy thinks and what the radar looks like. We also try to give musicians a backup date. If we have to cancel, we can get them back on the books in a month or so.”
Hover began booking music events at Beauvoir Park in spring 2019. The mixed commercial-use property at the Perkins Road overpass includes an outdoor stage and lawn that can accommodate a few hundred concertgoers.
Beauvoir Park’s music series was well-established before the coronavirus pandemic closed performance arts venues last year. Although its largest event — a festival held concurrently with the “Wearin’ of the Green” parade — was canceled, music at the park resumed in June.
Knowing the advantage an outdoor space has over indoor venues, Hover and Beauvoir Park’s owner, Leslie R. Bratton Jr., restarted concerts there. Operating at limited capacity, they sell about 130 tickets per show, about a fourth of normal capacity. Temperature checks are made at the entrance and patrons are encouraged to spread out over the lawn.
“There’s a need for live music,” Hover said. “We’re on to something; we want to keep it going, but we’re still learning. We think 2021 could be a great year for us.”
Bill Davis, leader of the roots-rock band Dash Rip Rock, gave Beauvoir Park a good review after his recent show there. Davis noted that most of the patrons wore masks and were considerate of others regarding distancing during the pandemic.
“It’s a well-run outdoor venue with amazing folk art,” Davis said. “It’s all ages, so everyone can come rock out. Some longtime fans brought their kids. You can’t do that at a bar. And the lights, stage and production are top notch. It’s like a Manship Theatre in your backyard.”
While the pandemic lingered, indoor concert venues the Manship Theatre and MidCity Ballroom presented concerts at Beauvoir Park. Before it regularly featured music, Bratton rented, and continues to rent, the park's stage and lawn for weddings, graduations and birthday parties. The green space there now, however, was covered by debris for many years. After the site subsequently served as a gravel-topped parking area, Bratton, a professional landscaper, poured five loads of river silt on it and planted grass and trees. He also cleared and replanted the adjacent area alongside the railroad tracks.
“We recaptured the area little by little, transforming it from a garbage heap,” Bratton said.
The Beauvoir Park lawn backs up against the building that housed Chelsea’s Café until 2019. Bratton built the park’s stage from cypress logs and wood salvaged from Chelsea’s smokehouse area.
“I took some of the good-vibe essence that was part of Chelsea’s,” he said.
Hover, knowing how crippled the concert business is during the pandemic, is courting acts that normally would be out of his league. Prospective Beauvoir Park acts include Louisiana stars George Porter Jr. and Dumpstaphunk.
“Bands are hungry to get back on the road,” Hover said. “We can offer them a safe environment in which to dip their toes back into touring. And if musicians see what we’ve got going here, we think that they’ll want to come back. We’ve got great fans and great music.”
Hover is also dedicated to keeping the lineup eclectic.
“We don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves by booking blues or country week in and week out,” he said. “There’s a wealth of talent out there. We plan to continue to draw from New Orleans and there’s so much young Baton Rouge talent."