Tourism Bounces Back After Katrina

The Big Easy exceeds pre-Katrina visitor spending after ten years of rebuilding and re-establishing the tourism industry and beyond. Over a decade has passed since the catastrophe hit the withered shores of South Louisiana, a territory already set below sea level, which was as deep as 12 feet as of 2000.

In 2004, New Orleans hit the record of 10.1 million visitors who spent a booming $2.9 billion. After Katrina, that number shrank down to 3.7 million visitors.Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 5.48.01 PM

The broken levees caused 80% of the city to be submerged underwater including the cities’ famous hotspots such as parts Bourbon Street.

The storm that ended in 1,833 deaths and $180 billion in damages didn’t stop the city from reemerging into one of the most loved cities we know today.

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The tourism industry counts for $5 billion of the economy each year and employees over 70,000 people including chefs, street performers and tour guides. However, New Orleans offers much more than the culture and food, it holds one of the world’s busiest port and one of the nation’s primary sources for crude oil.Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 5.55.48 PM

Even though years have passed, some people still don’t know how much the city has progressed.

LSU student Cecilia Vazquez studying International Studies says, “I think people think we are still flooded, [laughs] which is obviously not true. Our city is thriving again.”

The history of gradual, but successful comebacks of destroyed cities are plentiful. The Chicago fire of 1871 destroyed nearly the entire downtown of Chicago leaving 90,000 people homeless. City officials started rebuilding with fireproof materials before the blueprints were finished. Most of the city was reconstructed by the 1880s, which is relatively quickly for a city in the 19th Century.

The rebuilding of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and European cities, such as Hamburg, bombed during WWII is also notable because of the devastation that ensued and the lack of firm governmental protocols.

It’s proof that cities can rebuild and reconstruct even after periods of devastation and what seems like it will never be fixed.

Neighborhoods including St. Bernard Parish and the lower 9th Ward suffered the most, while icons such as the French Quarter and the Garden District didn’t see too much damage at all.

Today, there are many a abundance of music festivals that bring in record-breaking visitors and 600 more restaurants to choose from.

New Orleans native, Troy Johnson says, “Most of our city was basically demolished and we built it back up to something bigger and better.”

The Saints Super Bowl Win in 2009 might have had something to do with the sense of determination to overcome the aftermath.

Jason Anseman from Metairie said, “I was watching the [Saints] game with a buddy at a bar and people were crying. It was surreal.”

The city is about to celebrate its 300th anniversary in 2018 and plans to attract 13.7 million people. Breaking this milestone will surely get residents to surpass the Katrina-era with newfound hope and courage.

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Perks of Marriage Prep

More than 2 million couples married in the United States in 2014, according to the Center for Disease Control. In that same year, more than 800,000 couples divorced. The divorce rate among Roman Catholics is 28 percent. This rate is significantly lower than the divorce rate among any other religious group, including those with no religious affiliation.

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Statistics from Community in Mission

People view divorce differently, whether it was correcting a drunken night in Vegas, or the last resort for a failing relationship. Religious entities, however, often have their views on divorce written into code.

“Islamic law considers divorce among the worst actions that are still legal,” said Madhuri Yadlapati, a professor of Religious Studies at Louisiana State University.

Americans are generally more open to the idea of divorce, but it still is not a favorable outcome.

“Premarital counseling is the formalized way to determine if you have thought about how marriage would change your life and the relationship with the other person,” said Chantel Chauvin, a Sociology professor who specializes in marriage and family at LSU.

Without marriage preparation or premarital counseling, many couples never have these discussions prior to getting married.

Perhaps the low divorce rate among Catholics can be attributed to required marriage preparation. Any couple could partake in some type of marriage preparation, but it is a requirement for couples that wish to be married in the Catholic Church.

Dan Borné is a Deacon at St. Jean Vianney Catholic Church in the Diocese of Baton Rouge. When a couple inquires about getting married there, they receive a folder.

Inside, printed on blue paper, there is a checklist of 16 steps regarding marriage preparation. The process takes a minimum of six months. Some steps are simple and others intricate. The first is to make an appointment with the parish deacon or priest whom the couple wishes to oversee their marriage preparation process.

The folder also encases five pamphlets, two booklets, a newspaper, an envelope and six additional pieces of paper printed on various colors. These supplemental resources further explain each step on the blue paper.

Two of the steps are the most involved and effective. One is to attend a Catholic Engaged Encounter weekend. CEE allows couples to spend an entire weekend in a reflective atmosphere and gives them the time and opportunity to strengthen their own relationship as well as their relationship with God. The other is to get together with a sponsor couple and take a pre-marriage inventory such as Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding and Study or a similar option. FOCCUS is a personality inventory test designed to help couples learn more about themselves and their partner and discuss topics pertaining to a lifelong marriage.

“You can’t flunk these tests,” said Dan Borné. He explained that the purpose is to see if couples are mature enough to marry.

According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy there are many factors that can predict future marital satisfaction. The main three factors are individual traits, couple traits and personal and relationship contexts. These form what is called the marriage triangle. Tests like FOCCUS address all of these factors and there are multiple versions available for anyone to take.

“The more preparation that you can give a couple the more that a couple understands going in what is expected of them . . .,” said Dan Borné.

But he and his wife, Lisette Borné, did not go through such an intensive regimen when they prepared to marry in the Catholic Church. They spent one day with about 15 other couples and a priest and their marriage preparation was complete. They are about to celebrate their 47th wedding anniversary, so things still worked out.

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Photo of Dan and Lisette Borné. Photo courtesy of Lisette Borné.

Lisette Borné scribbled down a quote she stumbled upon that she believes is true regarding marriage and divorce:

“If love fails, something was faulty at the beginning.”

Mentor couples are a powerful part of marriage preparation. Priests are vital, but they usually lack real life experience with marriage. At one point, Steve Buttry and his wife were trained to mentor couples in the Catholic Church’s marriage preparation process in Kansas City, Kan.

They would lead the couples in exercises covering topics similar, but not limited to extended family, religious background, natural family planning, child rearing, finances and sexuality.

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Steve Buttry and his wife, Mimi, on their wedding day. Photo courtesy of Steve Buttry.

While going through the multiple week process, tragedy struck one of the couples they were mentoring. The fiancée was killed in a car accident. This inspired Steve and his wife to add another topic to their exercises: death.

They asked the couples to complete the following sentences: “If I should die . . .” and “If you should die . . . .”

Death is a part of life and inevitably a part of many marriages. This is something that many people are often hesitant to discuss, which can be a common theme of marriage preparation. But discussing these sensitive topics can significantly strengthen a relationship.

“It makes you think about and talk about topics that are difficult to broach and may be uncomfortable to have,” said Chauvin.

There are over 60 church parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge. Marriage preparation differs throughout these parishes, but follows similar guidelines. For example, marriage preparation is a six-month process in every Baton Rouge Church Parish. Marriage preparation has also evolved.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of change and it’s still changing,” said Darryl Ducote, current Director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life for the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge.

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Photo of Darryl Ducote courtesy of Wanda Koch.

Ducote and his staff are currently redesigning the whole marriage preparation program for the Diocese. For example, they are looking to make the process longer than six months to further strengthen relationships before couples say their vows.

This has been one of Ducote’s main focuses since he took the position a year and a half ago. Prior to his current job, Ducote was a social worker that specialized in marriage and family therapy. Before that, he was an ordained priest for seven years.

For couples marrying outside of the Catholic Church, marriage preparation is not a common occurrence.

“They have to see the incentive and long-term value in it, and if not properly marketed or without tangible incentives, that can be difficult to show,” said Chauvin.

Marriage preparation also costs money. According to Chauvin, this could be a reason why many couples opt out. Partaking in marriage preparation through a church like St. Jean Vianney costs over $300.

Money aside, a couple willing to participate in marriage preparation is already off to a good start.

“Those that are most willing to do premarital counseling are those statistically less likely to divorce to begin with,” said Chauvin.

Gas tax isn’t alleviating the DOTD’s road repair backlog

The Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) is currently facing a $12 billion backlog on road repairs and the $1.7 billion revenue the department is expecting isn’t going to do much to elevate the problem.

This issue can be attributed to gas taxes and the amount of money

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DOTD Logo (Photo Credit: DOTD website)

they generate for the state. Gas taxes are taxes paid when purchases are made on gasoline. The gas tax was established in Louisiana in 1984. Most of DOTD’s funding comes from what these gas taxes and federal funds generate. However, compared to states like North Carolina, Louisiana’s state gas taxes are one of the lowest in the South. Louisianans only pay 20 cents per gallon, while people in North Carolina pay 38.15 cents. This does not include the federal gasoline tax which is 18.4 in both states.

The DOTD gets 16 cents out of every 20 cents the gas tax generates. The four other cents are dedicated to projects in the Transportation Infrastructure Model for Economic Development (TIMED) Program. The program was established in 1989 with a goal to invest in transportation projects to increase economic development. TIMED projects include the widening of US 90 from Morgan City to Houma, LA 15 and the Huey P. Long Bridge.

The gas tax has not increased since its inception. Inflation has made this an issue for the state and DOTD. According to a report done by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the tax is now only worth 7 cents per gallon because of inflation. This is causing funding issues for the DOTD. To make matters worse, the ASCE report explained that revenue from gas taxes continue to decline because of increase in fuel efficient vehicles. Paired with the $12 billion backlog, improvements don’t seem to be coming.

In fact, Louisiana’s roads and bridges received D ratings from the ASCE, which represents a crumbling infrastructure. The DOTD was

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Pump at Circle K on Burbank Drive

contacted for a comment on this rating but no response was received

“Louisiana road system is congested, in poor condition and inadequate
to meet the needs of a state competing to provide economic opportunities for business and citizens in the 21st century” the ASCE report stated.

Much like the ASCE report, traffic congestion is something that LSU student Paige Vaughn deemed an issue.

“Depending on what time you choose to drive, traffic in Baton Rouge can be horrible,” Vaughn said.

LSU student Justin Guillory shared the same opinion.

“Traffic in Baton Rouge area is very bad between the hours of 3 and 5 p.m., especially off the I-10 Bridge,” Guillory said.

Both students are from out of town. Guillory is from Lake Charles and Vaughn is from Livonia.

The ASCE report further explained that almost every deficiency can be directly blamed on “an inadequate and outdated funding model that forces transportation professionals to defer capacity, safety and maintenance projects.”

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Circle K on Burbank Drive

Although, both Vaughn and Guillory stated that road conditions have never caused car problems, other out of town students have had different experiences.

Nicholas Willbanks is one of these students. He drives a 2014 Mustang GT and has recently considered buying a new car because of the road conditions in the Baton Rouge area. He stated that he constantly encounters potholes and has even gotten flat tires because of them.

“When I hit potholes it feels like it’s doing structural damage to my car,” Willbanks said. “I now realize why people have trucks in the city, thanks to driving on Baton Rouge roads.”

Willbanks’s family lives in Texas and Virginia. He drives to both states a few times a year to visit family.

“Compared to Virginia and Texas roads, Louisiana roads are terrible,” Willbanks said. “The interstates and major highways in Louisiana are slightly better than the local roads, but there’s always some sort of construction project going.”

Similar to Vaughn and Guillory, Willbanks believes that traffic in Baton Rouge is an issue. He considers traffic light timing “a joke” and explained how he constantly sees traffic even during non-peak hours.

Any type of change done to the gas tax would be handled by the legislature. Although, Louisiana’s failing infrastructure is clear and organizations like Louisiana Good Roads and Transportation Association have called for an increase in the tax, the legislature has not made much progress.

“I think it’s ridiculous that no one is trying to increase the tax,” Willbanks said. “I don’t understand why they can’t increase it if it’s going to help fix the backlog.”

Attempts at contacting the legislature for comment went unanswered.

 

Changing the Faces of the Fashion Industry

Before the 1960’s models, fashion icons, and celebrities were curvy and closer to the size of average women of their time (Rehabs.com). After supermodel, Twiggy’s influence on the fashion industry in the 60s, thin was in. Models aimed for more of an androgynous, lanky, and tall appearance. During the 70s, a fashion show may contain one black model compared to the sea of white models (Rehabs.com). Today, for some lines, the lack of diversity hasn’t progressed much. Many never imagined they’d see the day where a person with down syndrome could be signed to a modeling agency and walk the runways of New York Fashion Week, but in 2015 that happened. The fashion industry is slowly but surely making strides in the acceptance of not-so-typical models on the runways, covers of magazines, and advertisements, but to what degree, with what reasoning, and how is this inclusion making people feel?

Plus size models are making more appearances in magazines, runways, clothing sites, catalogs, and social media platforms than ever before. They are embracing their sizes and curves and standing up and speaking out against body shaming. Ashley Graham, who wears a size 16 was the first plus size model to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She has been promoting the acceptance of plus size models since she first started modeling at age 12 (Daily Mail).

 

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Courtesy of Ashley Graham’s Instagram

 

“Plus size models relate to and reach a large target market,” Louisiana State University Textiles and Merchandising Professor, Deborah Welker said. “The average woman’s garment is a size 14, which is a large population in America. It is all about the bottom line: companies will make more money reaching this segment.”

Clothing brands such as Forever 21, American Eagle, and Lane Bryant have added plus size collections to their stores. New Orleans plus size model, Emily Sharpe says these brands and others are trying to appeal to everyday women. Today, curvy girls are glorified. Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, and Amber Rose have millions of followers on their Instagram accounts admiring and praising them for their hourglass figures.

 

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Courtesy of Kim Kardashian’s Instagram

While the majority of runways consist of models below the average women’s size, plus size models are making themselves both a topic of discussion and a commodity for fashion brands everywhere to consider.

 

Natural hair models after their increased on the runways of New York Fashion Week 2016. Within the last few years, African-American women have been letting go of hair straightening chemicals. While the fashion industry for the most part had embraced the “Natural Hair Movement” as well, certain brands were slow to catch on, such as Victoria’s Secret. Maria Borges was the first model with natural hair to walk the runway in the Victoria Secret Fashion Show in 2015.

 

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Courtesy of Maria Borge’s Instagram

The appearance of a natural model in the Victoria Secret Fashion Show was “inspirational,” said LSU student Joselyn Knowling.

 

“Now that I’m embracing the natural look (because I didn’t at first) I think it gives people that are natural [the idea that] ‘okay, my hair is amazing, it’s good enough to be shown on fashion runways, Vogue magazines and what not.’”

Seeing more natural hair models in the fashion industry because it gives her the feeling that society is becoming more accepting of women with natural hair, Knowling said. Professor Welker said that in using Borges in their show, she predicts that it was partly in response to giving their African-American consumers models that can relate more to them.

 

With fashion being a representation of the times, it should come as no surprise that models with natural hair are making more appearances. More African-American celebrities such as Solange, Zendaya, and Janelle Monae are also wearing their hair naturally on red carpet appearances, magazine covers, and live performances.

 

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Courtesy of Solange’s Instagram

 

“Mentally challenged people need more figures to look up to in the fashion industry,” LSU student Nicole Torres said. “It’ll give them more confidence and remind them that they can do anything they set their mind to.”

While natural hair models are becoming more mainstream, mentally and physically disabled models are barely making their way into the industry. For the second time, New York Fashion Week welcomed model Madeline Stuart to walk their runways. Stuart who has Down Syndrome walked for the first time in 2015 and again in 2016. Also this year, Beyoncé made model Jillian Mercado, born with muscular dystrophy the face of her “Formation” lyric themed online clothing collection. Torres, older sister to her autistic brother Sean, is elated that disabled models are starting to be included in the fashion industry. She said she has learned so much from having Sean as a brother. Not only has he taught her patience, but he has taught her to see the good in everything and be more like him by filtering out the negative.  

 

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Courtesy of Nicole Torres

 

Founder and CEO of Fashion Week Lake Charles, Julie Branden said it took too long for NYFW to include models with disabilities.

“We talk about diversity, but there is still lack of diversity in the fashion industry,” Branden said.

Diversity throughout the fashion industry is appreciated by many and some feel that the progression of the inclusion of diverse models is happening too slow. By including models of different ethnicities, abilities, shades, and sizes the designers and fashion organizations get the chance to appeal to a broader audience and encourage different types of people to get involved in the industry. With the small amount of diversity shown in the fashion industry and the modeling industry, young girls and aspiring models won’t have many figures to idolize. When more designers decide to take the step and choose the bigger models, the girls with kinky hair, or the woman with muscular dystrophy over the traditional stick-thin Twiggys—it will be then that significant progress will be made.

Art Education in EBR Parish and How Volunteers are Making an Impact

Graduation rates and testing scores have been on a steady rise for the past decade in Louisiana schools. Despite drastic changes in education in the past year, students are still improving test scores and nearly 60% of Louisiana public school students went straight from graduation to college in 2014, according to nola.com.

One piece of the holistic education puzzle is not advancing like the others, though. The percentage of schools in the US that employ full-time arts specialists to teach music has decreased over the past decade, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The number of arts specialists employed full-time to teach visual arts, such as drawing and painting, has inched its way from 55% to 63% in the past decade according to the U.S. Department of Education. Though this combination of national and local statistics seem to be comparing apples and oranges, a closer look at the budget brings the issues closer to home. Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 1.16.24 PM.png

You won’t find visual and performing arts funding easily in the General Fund Budget by the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board. Funding for art in EBR public schools is integrated into the financial summary through other items such as contract services, according to EBR Parish School Board Fine Arts Director Wayne Talbot. Funding is integrated in such a way that it is seemingly impossible to determine the amount of funding because “it’s so detailed and linear because of the way the finance department does everything,” Talbot said.

 

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page 76 of the EBR 2015-2016 General Fund Budget

 

Musical art programs receive clear funding in the general budget. During the 2014-2015 school year music programs, materials and supplies for the music department and repairs and maintenance for music supplies received more than $350,000 in funding.

Visual art programs such as the EBR Arts Partnership Program and professional development for full-time visual art teachers are included in funding for contract services. The EBR Arts Partnership Program has partnered with the Manship Theater to, “send teaching artists into the schools,” Talbot said. The program also hosts an after-school orchestra and choral music program and integrates performances with learning. A contract was made with the Manship Theater in which the East Baton Rouge School Board paid $80,000 for supplies, artists and administration fees, and performance tickets. The contract was included in the general budget for the 2015-2016 school year and was approved.

Generally, the way funding allocated for visual arts is spent is determined at the school level, Talbot said. Leaders of the individual school communities receive funding from the school system but determine amongst themselves the amount of time and money spent on arts education, according to Talbot. Louisiana is among 25 states that require credits in the arts for graduation. However, there is no assessment of student learning in the arts, which is a requirement in 17 states. Further, the state does not specify arts education as a requirement for schools to be accredited nor does it require art instruction to be offered at the high school level.

Arts integration is a crucial part of the curriculum at Baton Rouge Center for Visual and Performing Arts, an elementary school with some of the highest test scores in the parish. Integrating visual arts, such as drawing and painting, and performing arts, such as music and theater, are key for in-depth understanding according to BRCVPA principal Candice Hartley. Many schools receive grants from various organizations to fund art programs in schools, Talbot said. However, the concern lies in schools with low test scores, who may be focused on raising test scores more than art education. One Baton Rouge high school student took matters into her own hands to make sure that students attending failing or low-income schools have a place, time and the resources to create art.

University Laboratory School senior Erin Phelps recognized the importance of art in her own academic success and started an after school art program, Art Night, in collaboration with Live2Serve. Live2Serve is a Christian organization that reaches out into impoverished areas of Baton Rouge and ministers to families by providing sports and outreach programs. Live2Serve is integrated into the community and provides a safe haven for neighborhood kids.

While trying to determine a community service project for her senior year, Phelps was inspired by a low-budget arts program she volunteered at during a mission trip to Guatemala.

Phelps decided she wanted to, “bring art to people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to create art,” she said. Phelps enlisted the help of her friend Meyer Willson to host a benefit concert to raise funds for her project. Phelps depended solely on donations and local musicians’ willingness to volunteer. “I called these people,” Phelps said, “and just had to tell them ‘look I can’t pay you.” Local musicians and businesses were eager to help and donate. The benefit raised over $1,000 to jump-start the program, which is more than Phelps imagined possible, she said.11866502_10204477132631887_4559716375730436176_n.jpg

Each Monday night Phelps and Willson hosted an Art Night for any students that wanted to come. Phelps admitted that the first Monday of the program she was nervous that no students would show up for it. To her surprise, students from age 4-15 came and continued coming each Monday. Phelps made it a point not to have a curriculum for the Art Night program. She explained that the purpose was to encourage students to, “explore art and give them a space to just create,” Phelps said.

11935084_10204563065100145_2474214770796796402_n1.jpgThe art night program was only expected to last for the Fall semester of 2015, but the success of the program drew in other volunteers and is still offered by Live2Serve on Mondays from 6:15-8:15 pm. For more information on Live2Serve click here.

 

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Erin Phelps and her friend D’Shayla with Meyer Willson at Art Night

 

 

 

 

Making it From Louisiana in an Internet-dominated Music Industry

An industry that once found its talent using talent scouts, produced its product through competing record labels and determined its success through physical album sales is now suffering at the hands of the internet and popular streaming sites.

The music industry now survives on a system where a count of digital streams holds more ground than the sale of a record.

The following graph, created with data found through the Nielsen SoundScan system, made to track points of sale, shows how physical CD sales have declined and digital sales have increased over a five-year period.

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Photo Courtesy of thewallstreetjournal.com

Internet search bars are replacing talent scouts. The day a full-sized touch-screen keyboard application for smartphones became available for free in the iTunes store, it sealed the fate that physical instruments are no longer necessary to create music. Owning a smartphone with a camera and internet access is now enough to film a music video and upload it to Youtube for the world to see.

In 2011, a song about the day Friday  exemplified the true power of owning a Youtube account when it reached over 90 billion views simply because the internet took to its content and pushed it to go viral.

In a world where anyone can upload a video of them singing to social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, what does it take to stand out and make it in the music industry from a state like Louisiana?

Jake Gremillion, a junior at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, is an aspiring DJ based out of his hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana.

Gremillion started his music career during his senior year of high school when he volunteered his guitar skills to help out his church group for a performance. From there, his interest in playing the guitar resurfaced from his first lessons at the age of 10.

Gremillion said he started playing acoustic sets regularly at a local bar for 3-4 hours a night.

“After a year of that, I decided I wanted to try DJing. I jumped into it, bought equipment and spent a whole bunch of money,” Gremillion said.

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Photo by Austin Richard (Instagram @live.fast.fly.highmedia)

From word of mouth and connections through the downtown Lafayette bar scene, Gremillion’s DJ career took off. He now has residency at two Lafayette bars, Marley’s Sports Bar and The Office Bar.

“I get to play what I like to play. I’ve really developed my own style,” Gremillion said.

Although Gremillion has had success in playing covers that he mixes on the spot, he said his main goal is to make it in the music industry as a DJ that creates his own mixes.

Instead of working with an established producer, Gremillion said he will purchase the producing software, and instead of working closely with a team on a record label, he anticipates he’ll listen to the feedback from his friends and fellow musicians he works with on a normal basis.

“You can do it all on your laptop really nowadays,” Gremillion said in regards to producing and recording your own music.

In regards to the streaming sites that are taking over record sales, Gremillion created a Soundcloud account that he will eventually upload his original mixes to, which will be a huge bonus to his growing fan base.

Taylor Reed, a sophomore child and family studies major at Louisiana State University, who has known Gremillion since his acoustic days, praised his performance as a DJ.

“He was very good about getting the crowd involved and mixing up  the sound so that it wasn’t all the same genre,” Reed said.

Regardless of the positive feedback Gremillion continues to receive, he still cites some difficulties he faces as a rising DJ from the South.

“I think as it pertains to Louisiana, in the South, people are often times set in their ways. It’s hard to bring a new sound,” Gremillion said.

With an upcoming, under-the-wraps, project in California this summer and a growing fan base at shows and online, Gremillion is on the right track to dominating the music industry through the use of technology.

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Photo By Austin Richard (Instagram @live.fast.fly.highmedia)

For Gremillion’s DJ career, the big move in the music industry that’s relies heavier on technology is beneficial, but for bands of other genres, there are other challenges to making it big.

 

Every Memorial Day weekend since 2010, Baton Rouge has hosted the Bayou Country Superfest in Tiger Stadium, which showcases national and local country music talents.

One band that will not be performing at Bayou Country Superfest, but that has ties to Tiger Stadium, is the Cayden Bergeron Band.

Walter Johannes Johnson III, a senior mechanical engineer major at Louisiana State University and the drummer in the Cayden Bergeron Band, remembers the band forming in mid-January.

“It all started with Cayden, our lead singer,” Johnson said.

Johnson once played the drums for a heavy metal band, but when Bergeron asked him to help out and play the Cajòn at a few acoustic shows alongside him, it turned into something more permanent.

After playing a show at the Bandit in Baton Rouge with duet-performance Maddie Monroe and Peter Mates, Bergeron and Johnson ended up joining with Mates to collaborate. With the addition of two more people, the Cayden Bergeron band formed.

Mates, a sophomore coastal-environmental science major, said the band already has played shows at the Bandit, Fred’s In Tigerland, Bogie’s Bar and Caliente Mexican Craving Restaurant since forming as a band.

According to Johnson, The Cayden Bergeron Band is mostly a cover band that plays country and classic rock, but sometimes they will throw a few pop songs into the mix.

“We try to keep the set list as modern as possible,” Johnson said.

As it stands, the band has a few original songs that Bergeron wrote, but they mostly opt out of playing them. Original music is something Johnson said will come to be more prominent when they reach their goal of playing larger venues like the Texas Club in Baton Rouge.

So far, a lot of the venues the Cayden Bergeron band played came from a simple conversation with the venue owners. Johnson said it was helpful that all of the band members are a part of a fraternity because the managers saw that they would be able to bring in a crowd.

It also helps that the band promotes their shows. Johnson said they’ll usually hand out fliers to the many sorority houses on LSUs campus or post to their social media accounts when they have an upcoming gig.

Mates also said he will simply take to his Snapchat account to post a photo they day of a performance with information of a show he’s playing that night.

Through the use of social media and networking with managers, the Cayden Bergeron Band proves their beginning success. When asked about what steps are necessary to overcome their challenges of reaching a larger audience base, Johnson cited important advice for beginning artists.

“The biggest challenge is a large enough audience to create a ripple or a presence in the industry,” Johnson said.

Mates, however, did not seem to have much concern for the bands continuing success, something he attributes to the Baton Rouge bar scene.

“Baton Rouge is such a perfect place to start because the bar scene is so prevalent and they’re going to have a crowd,” Mates said.

Since the band is something that fell in to place and is mostly something they do for fun – they don’t even have a regular practice schedule – the concerns do not seem high about breaking into the music industry.

However with two back-to-back shows booked Thursday night for Cinco De Mayo, it’s obvious they are already in high demand in the Baton Rouge area.

As a country band and classic rock cover band in Louisiana, the Cayden Bergeron band appears to have no problem using traditional means of networking mixed with relevant practices of social media use to get their name out there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Successful Craft

Craft beers are becoming an increasingly popular trend with people who are in their lower to mid twenties, bartender Emily Ashford said.

Most bars sell craft beers, however, not all are able to really succeed in doing so. So why are some bars successful where others fail? What makes a bar successful in selling craft beers?

Gregg Butler is the manager of Mahony’s, which is a local bar on the edge of LSU’s campus. He said the main reason for the bar’s success of selling craft beers is because of the bar’s location.

“We’re right next to a college,” Butler said. “We have more of a younger crowd that is open minded and willing to try new things.”

“There are a lot of new breweries in Louisiana that are brewing new beers like IPAs or Stouts,” Butler said. “So college kids, or people of around that age group, want to order these beers to say they tried something new.”

Mike O’Neal is the owner of Big Mike’s Sports Bar and Grill in Denham Springs. He also said that craft beer drinkers are more common out of a trend rather than particular taste preferences.

“Kids in this generation just want to try new things and be different,” O’Neal said. “If a brewery comes out with a chocolate peanut butter flavored beer, that beer will sell no matter how it tastes because people want to try something different.

Danny Blouin and Phil Estelle are both regulars at Big Mike’s Sports Bar and Grill. They both said they only drink domestic beer because that’s what they have always drank.

“I drink Miller Lite because it’s what I have always drank,” Blouin said. “In college we couldn’t afford most beer and Miller Lite was what we could get our hands on.”

“It just depends on what kind of customers a bar attracts,” Estelle said. “If a bar can attract a good amount of people from a younger crowd, then it will have more success in selling craft beers as opposed to a bar that attracts only an older crowd.”

“It tends to be the younger crowds that tend to order more craft beers,” Croft said. “They tend to order the most recently released beers, because they want to be up to date with what beers are popular.”

Butler said that it also thrives when people from out of town visit his bar because they are looking to try a beer that is brewed locally.

“People want to say they visited Baton Rouge and had a beer that was brewed in that location,” Butler said. “I do the same thing when I go out of state or locations I’m not familiar with.”

Butler also said his bar’s success in selling craft beers is largely because of the bartenders that work there. He said that having bartenders that are knowledgeable about the craft beers helps to cater to people’s beer pallets, which helps when people want to try beers that taste similar to what they like.

Allison Tichenor is a bartender at Mahony’s, and said her knowledge of how the beers taste gives her an advantage when recommending new beer to customers.

“If someone who likes hoppy beers asks for a beer recommendation, I would refer them to an IPA, or another form of pale ale,” Tichenor said. “That really gives us an advantage when trying to advertise new beers.”

Austin Croft is a bartender at Capital City Grill in down town Baton Rouge. He also agreed that a knowledgeable bartender directly correlates with a bar’s ability to successfully sell craft beers because price is a deciding factor for most.

“People aren’t going to be willing to pay five dollars for a beer they’ve never had before,” Croft said. “A bartender that knows how the beer tastes and has the ability to compare it to other beers the customers are accustom to will have success in selling them a craft beer.”

Croft also added that a good bartender should be able to do more than compare similar beer tastes. He said a good bartender should also be able to refer the right beer to complement the customer’s meal.

“Certain beers go better with different meals, because like wine, they can help to bring out the food’s flavor” Croft said. “A good bartender or waiter should not recommend the same beer to a person who orders a hamburger as the person who may have ordered grilled fish.”

“The ability to compare beer tastes to recommend a customer similar beers as well as the ability to choose the right beer for each meal is what separates a good bartender from the mediocre ones,” Croft said. “It also brings success to that bar or restaurant.”

“It also comes down to the type of people you’re selling beer to,” Brice Gaudet, bartender at LSU Champions Club said. “We don’t sell craft beers as well as domestics at the Club.”

Gaudet said that the customers he deals with are usually of a much older crowd and mainly order domestic beer if they aren’t ordering liquor.

“Most people who come in the Champions Club order domestics because that is what they grew up drinking and that is what they’re used to,” Gaudet said. “They generally aren’t interested in trying new beer that tastes nothing like what they are used to.”

“We also cater to a college student’s budget by offering drink specials for craft beers,” Butler said. “For example, Wednesday nights are Abita nights and we sell each Abita for $2 each.”

Butler also said presenting the customers with a challenge as well as a reward to that challenge helps to sell a lot of craft beers.

Mahony’s has a challenge called the “Around the World Challenge,” in which customers who have tried all 140 of the available beers have their name inscribed on a plaque, which is hung on the wall in the bar, Butler said. He said this is their most successful way of selling craft beers, especially ones that no one has ever heard of before.

Devin Dugas is a craft beer enthusiast. He enjoys trying new beers and collecting the different bottles. He said he and his roommates are very proud of their collection, which is over 250 bottles strong.

“Me and my roommates take advantage of drink specials at bars like Mahony’s and Chimes,” Dugas said. “I love to try new craft beers, but I’m a college student living on a budget, so I’m limited to what beers I can afford.”

“I also like the around the world challenge at Mahony’s,” Dugas said. “It gives me the opportunity to try beer that I otherwise would have never heard of and really helps to expand our bottle collection.”

“We have really good relationships with distributors and breweries,” Jessica Kessler, bartender at The Chimes said. “We just want people to come try the local beers.”

“We also have a thing called Chimes Beer University, which can be found at our website ChimesBeerU.com,” Kessler said. “The website teaches people a lot about the different types of beer so they can learn about the beer while drinking it.”

Kessler said their website makes the bar very successful in selling craft beers.

So what makes a bar successful at selling craft beers? According to various different bar sources, it takes some marketing and advertising. It takes being able to cater to the right crowd as well as providing some sort of incentive as to why a customer should choose craft over domestic.

Bars like Mahony’s, Big Mike’s Sports Bar and Grill and The Chimes are all successful in selling craft beers.

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Jessica Kessler at The Chimes, in front of their large selection of craft beers.

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Devin Dugas proudly standing in front of his impressive craft bottle collection.

 

 

A recent survey consisting of 31 people showed that roughly 71 percent of people are open to ordering a craft beer over a domestic. The survey also showed that most people believe having knowledgeable bartenders, a large selection and good drink specials are all important for a bar to be successful. However, most people said that having knowledgeable bartenders is the most important variable.

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These graphs from the survey prove that people are open to trying craft beers over domestic, however most believe it requires a knowledgeable bartender for them to be convinced.

 

A Taste of BR’s Food Culture

When other Americans, ones who have never or only briefly been to Louisiana, think of this state, they say Mardi Gras, jazz, Cajun food, crawfish, alligators, swamps, hot sauce, Popeye’s Chicken, Hurricane Katrina, poboys, daiquiris, drive thru liquor stores, gumbo, jambalaya, and the infamous Britney Spears. Those are just some of the things non-Louisiana residents said on Reddit’s AskAnAmerican poll, “Other Americans, what do you think of when you hear the word ‘Louisiana?’”

“And the Creole food that I love and don’t get enough of at all,” said a Reddit user from Boston while agreeing with another user’s answer of swamps and alligators.

Nobody ever has any bad things to say about Louisiana, especially the food. It is so unique in itself compared to the rest of the world’s cuisine. Louisiana food is unlike any other. And in the capitol city of Baton Rouge, there is a lot of culture and history that many do not know about.

There is a fascinating story behind the term “Poboy.” It was coined in 1929 on the streets of New Orleans during a 4-month union strike against the streetcar, now some call them trolleys, company. Because of the strike, the company hired a non-union conductor to get the streetcars driving again. The pro union crowd was so infuriated by this, they lit the streetcar on fire.

The Martin Brothers owned a New Orleans restaurant at that time, but they were former streetcar conductors. In an effort to support their old colleagues, they contacted a local bread baker, to make a special loaf of bread that was long and narrow. The brothers sliced the new loaves down the middle to stuff it with fried potatoes and roast beef gravy, without the meat. These “poor boy” sandwiches were free at their restaurant for the ones on strike against the streetcar company. Workers at this restaurant would joke, “Oh here comes another poor boy.” The sandwich then was naturally shortened with Louisiana dialect to “Poboy.”

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Kimberly Harper *Photo Courtesy: Country Roads

 

That is just one of the captivating stories Kimberly Harper tells on her Baton Rouge food tour, called C’est Si Bon, meaning “it’s so good.”

The tour starts off at a local Baton Rouge restaurant that’s been here since 1968, Poor Boy Lloyd’s with a taste of a deliciously messy hot roast beef poboy. The next stop was Capitol City Grill where the group had a fried green tomato covered in hollandaise sauce, topped with Louisiana lump crabmeat. Stroubes Chophouse was the third stop with a hot cup of duck and Andouille gumbo. Next was Restaurant IPO, which stands for Initial Public Offering, where duck poppers and Bon Temp shrimp were served. The last stop was dessert, of course, at Hotel Indigo’s King Bar & Bistro; some homemade vanilla ice cream with bananas and a bananas foster sauce was the perfect ending to the night.

 

“Louisiana Indians introduced filé powder which is ground sassafras leaves used as a thickener; meanwhile, the word ‘gumbo’ itself is an African word for okra. Spanish settlers intermingled with Cajuns, thus came jambalaya similar to a spicy paella – a Spanish dish – and may derive from this influence. German settlers introduced the art of making sausage, and from this developed locally crafted Andouille sausage.” This is how Harper tells her food tour groups how gumbo and jambalaya came about in Louisiana.

Bananas foster was a dish created in 1951 at Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans for Richard Foster, a friend of Brennan. New Orleans was the major port for bananas. The chefs were challenged by Brennan to create a dish using bananas for Mr. Foster. At the time, the chefs did not know how popular bananas foster would become. Now, Brennan’s Restaurant buys 35,000 pounds of bananas each year for the sauce alone, said Harper.

Harper graduated from a college in Arkansas, but she was born and raised in Baton Rouge. When she visited home from college, her parents hosted a big crawfish boil. Harper’s friends in Arkansas begged to go home with her for the next crawfish boil. This made her realize how much she loves Louisiana and the love and history behind the food culture here. People who grow up in Louisiana will always have that appreciation for the traditions here that revolve around food.

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Chef Troy Deano *Photo courtesy: DIG Baton Rouge

Troy Deano, chef at Blend BR, discovered his passion for Louisiana food in the kitchens of his family. Growing up in St. Bernard Parish, a town on the outskirts of New Orleans people like to call “Da Parish,” he has always had an interest in cooking, especially dishes unique to Louisiana. At Blend, he strives to cook from purely local ingredients, but that is not always the case.

“I’m a from scratch person, I don’t like buying stuff. If I could kill the pig myself, I would,” said Deano. Most cooks like to follow a recipe to ensure a good meal, not Chef Deano. He experiments in the kitchen probably more than he should, but normally comes out with a dish to die for. Serving an average of 30 people a night, Blend offers dishes like crawfish beignets, duck flatbread, and shrimp and grits.

Deano gets his vegetables from Covey Rise Farms in Husser, LA. Pork and sometimes duck from Chappapeela Farms in Amite City, LA. And wild hog, lamb, and burger meat from Two Run Farms in Vaughan, Mississippi, just a short drive from New Orleans. Deano said people from these farms typically deliver his food on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He spends around $1,500 a week buying about 200 pounds of food.

“I am big minded, but small budgeted,” said Deano. Blend has a small kitchen, but Deano never fails to fill up his customers’ bellies.

Seafood is a different story, Deano said. He will usually buy seafood from New Orleans Fish House, but they are not always an option. Seafood from Thailand, China, and those types of places are way cheaper to buy from, because of how they produce. Deano said these big international seafood companies use slavery to manufacture their products. Crawfish are always from Louisiana, and are retrieved in a natural, good to the world way. Seafood is easily accessible according to Deano. In the world we live in now, anything can be shipped to you in a matter of hours. Deano said he could call a company in Hawaii and have something shipped to him the next day.

There is a good bit of people who will say that Baton Rouge is trying to be like New Orleans with the amount of restaurants. Deano said he thinks Baton Rouge does not compete against New Orleans enough. Baton Rouge is not as open minded as we should be about food, he said. Instead of trying to win over New Orleans, Baton Rouge should compare itself to big cities like Houston and New York, who have been continually growing in their food industries.

“Compete with yourself and be the best you can be with your own identity,” said Deano.

Some of the food in Baton Rouge will forever be changing to the trendy thing to eat at the moment, like the sushi craze right now. As will the rest of the world, but BR will never lose those special restaurants that keep its Louisiana food culture alive and thriving.

 

Summer Sixteen Tour Announcement

Early Monday morning, Canadian rapper Drake announced his joint tour with rapper Future in advance of his upcoming album Views From the Six. He announced the tour schedule through his social media pages accompanied by tour flyers.

The tour will begin July 20 in Austin, TX and will end on September 17 in Vancouver, Canada. Tickets for the Summer Sixteen Tour can be purchased through Ticketmaster starting Thursday, April 28.

“I’m excited for the tour and I can’t wait until it comes here to New Orleans,”Drake and Future fan, Barry Kinsey said. “I hope its the livest thing I’ve ever been to.”

Along with Drake and Future, artists Roy Woods, DVSN, and other special guests will make stage appearances during the tour.

Drake and Future fans are nothing short of excited for the pair’s next collaboration.

LSU student Josh Thornton said, “I can’t wait for this tour, from videos and performances I’ve seen of Drake he looks like a great performer.”

The Summer Sixteen Tour is not Drake and Future’s first collaboration. In 2013 Drake went on a North American tour titled, “Would You Like a Tour?” that featured Future.

The two also joined forces for their surprise September 2015 mixtape, What a Time to Be Alive. According to Billboard, the mixtape had the third largest week for an album in 2015 by units sold.

Movie Podcaster, Chad Metz said, “I’m not a huge fan of Drake but from his recent hits, I’m sure he’ll put on a good show.”

In addition to revealing his joint tour dates, Drake revealed his album cover which featured him sitting atop the famous Toronto landmark, the CN Tower. The Toronto native showed gratitude to the city that raised him in the following twitter post.

Views From the Six will be available exclusively on Apple Music Friday, April 29.