Aside from the Baton Rouge Blues Festival, the Red Stick doesn’t have any mainstream, large-scale music festivals to hang its hat on. Bloom Music & Arts Festival is aiming to change that.
Now in its sophomore year, Bloom has expanded its scope. Organizers have enlisted more established talent while maintaining an emphasis on the local talent that spawned the festival in 2017. Its goal, says festival organizer Jarvis Antwine II, is to become for Baton Rouge what South by Southwest is for Austin, Texas.
“A lot of millennials are moving to Austin, which wasn’t the case before,” Antwine says. “Millennials leave Baton Rouge because there isn’t anything to offer culturally. We like new experiences. Bloom is the foundation of what we have planned for the community.”
This year’s biggest draw is none other than the Queen of Bounce herself, Big Freedia. Hailing from New Orleans, her influence on pop culture has been pervasive in recent years — even if you haven’t listened to her music, you’ve probably felt her impact. Most notably, her voice has been featured on mega-hits like Beyoncé’s “Formation” and Drake’s “Nice for What.”
While Big Freedia is inarguably a huge talent for the fledgling festival, Antwine’s quest to turn Baton Rouge into a “music capital” does not stop with her. Artists he hopes to book for future Bloom festivals include Chance the Rapper, Erykah Badu and Alabama Shakes.
Recruiting such top-tier talent could turn Bloom into a gargantuan platform for local underground artists. Local hip-hop artist and Bloom performer Joshua Henderson, who performs under his stage name _Thesmoothcat, believes the festival could have a massive impact on the careers of Baton Rouge performers.
“With a festival like this, with Big Freedia on the bill, there’s going to be a huge, diverse crowd,” Henderson says. “A lot of people who wouldn’t see some of these artists perform are going to see them. It’s going to give a lot of these artists good exposure. It’s going to give Baton Rouge acts a chance.”
Attendees of this year’s festival can expect a diverse 40-artist lineup, over a dozen art vendors and a handful of food vendors. Looking forward, though, Bloom organizers plan to expand its brand beyond the current festival with stages throughout downtown Baton Rouge and monthly concerts like Live After Five.
“In the next five or 10 years, I see Bloom taking the downtown Baton Rouge area to another level,” Antwine says. “Bloom was built to bloom Baton Rouge not only artistically, culturally and musically, but also economically.”
Bloom Music & Arts Festival will take place on the downtown levee grounds across from the Raising Cane’s River Center on Saturday, Oct. 6, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tickets cost $10 pre-sale or $15 at the gate. Patrons of all ages are welcome. Visit www.bloomfestbr.com for more information and to secure your passes.