Grant Street Dancehall returns to its live music roots with a full month of shows in May.
The building is over 100 years old. Built of brick and cypress wood. After getting its start as a fruit warehouse, the building eventually became a live music venue. Grant Street Dancehall officially came into being on July 4, 1980. On that night, the King of Zydeco Clifton Chenier and the Red Beans & Rice Revue played the club. Over the ensuing years, Grant Street Dancehall quickly became the preeminent live music venue in town.
The club found a place in peoples’ hearts. Even its flaws — such as the intense heat in the building during summertime shows — became part of its charm, harking back to the barn dance days of old. Since Grant Street first opened its doors, the stage has been graced by many a legend. The list is long and includes Ray Charles, B. B. King, Muddy Waters, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jerry Lee Lewis.
The club changed hands numerous times over the decades, with each owner doing his best to keep the live music coming. Around 2007, live music in downtown Lafayette took a back seat to the burgeoning, and sometimes more lucrative, nightclub scene. In effort to keep the bills paid, Grant Street — as well as many other downtown clubs — began catering to the club crowd, hosting well-attended hip-hop themed nights and similar club events.
Cut to 2010. With a resurgence in enthusiasm for live music in Acadiana, a growing contingent of musicians, promoters and fans began making a concerted effort to get live music back into Grant Street Dancehall on a consistent basis. Over the past few months, local musician Drew Landry quietly started booking a number of touring rock and roots shows into Grant Street — Jason Isbell (Drive-by Truckers), Son Volt, etc. — in the hopes that people would turn up. With the news that Grant Street is returning to its roots as a live music club, people have gradually come back for shows at the club.
“There’s no hip hop anymore at Grant Street,” says Landry. “It’s been gone for three months now with no plans to bring it back.” After a two-year period where the club’s primary source of revenue came from the hip-hop Saturday nights, there is now a return to the roots with every weekend in May booked for live music. “This month we’ll see if Lafayette music fans really want to support bigger live music shows,” says Landry. “Lafayette’s a good stopover between Houston and New Orleans for touring bands. And we’re going to bring them in and see what happens.”
Unquestionably, the most high-profile of these upcoming shows will be the appearance of folk singer and guitarist Richie Havens, on May 6, at Grant Street. No one who has ever seen footage of the 1969 Woodstock festival can ever forget the site and sound of the sweat-drenched Havens, soulfully playing his way through a three-hour opening set that included the improvised song “Freedom,” which somehow magically captured the all-idealistic hopes of the 1960s.
Other killer shows slated for May include the dark and twisty death pop of Dax Riggs and the old-time string band Old Crow Medicine Show, which veers from bluegrass to Americana to alt-country. There is no shame in attempting to recapture the old glory days of Grant Street Dancehall. The owners and staff are passionate about continuing the legacy of this establishment, so if you’re a music fan and would like to participate, you’d be well-advised to turn up at any of the following shows being held throughout the month of May at Grant Street Dancehall.
April 30 - Roebucks, Gin & Tonics, Howdies
May 1 - Dax Riggs, Julian Primeaux and his Royal Rowdy Co.
May 2 - The Old Crow Medicine Show
May 6 - Richie Havens w/ Kenneth Richard & friends
May 8 - Family Tree Fundraiser: Cedric Watson, The Canes, Drew Landry, and many more
May 14 - KNEK night
May 15 - Roddie Romero
May 22 - March of Dimes Fundraiser
May 29 - Scott H. Biram, The Freetown Hound
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