Grant Street Dancehall re-opens its doors this weekend with a four-day blowout of prime live music.
June 28, 2006
Dave Maraist looks like he’s seen better days, or at least more sleep. Grant Street Dancehall’s director of PR and talent, fueled only by half of an Olde Tyme Grocery shrimp po-boy on a recent Thursday afternoon, is the ringmaster in a circus of construction.
“The contractors are putting in 10-hour days,” says Maraist, “and for the rest of us, it’s a lot, from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed.”
A dozen workers — electricians, plumbers, carpenters — dart around the club, pulling wires and cutting wood. Two men are building the bar’s liquor cabinets, and two others are installing the new padded backdrop that spans the length of the 40-foot stage and reaches up to the rafters. The bathrooms have been completely rebuilt. Two 12-ton air conditioning units have been reconditioned and are blowing cold air onto the stage, and another 10-ton unit air conditioning will be installed in two days. The first-rate sound equipment is en route from Loud Technologies in Washington and will be on site within three days. The massive covered porch stretching across the outside of the building is complete. The purchase price and renovations are estimated at $600,000, and every inch of the club, all of its notorious unused nooks, have been remodeled to maximize its space.
When Grant Street reopens its doors Thursday, it’ll feel like a step back in time to the club’s original opening night on the same holiday back in 1980. Red Beans & Rice Revue opens up the evening, followed by Sonny Landreth with special guests C.J. Chenier, Steve Conn and Mel Melton. Friday night, rock ’n’ roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis takes the stage. Saturday night offers the Southern eccentricities of pianist Bobby Lounge, and The Fabulous Boogie Kings and G.G. Shinn wrap up the weekend on Sunday night.
There was a conscious effort to book Louisiana-centric bands for the opening weekend. “We wanted to center it around Louisiana music and giving back to the community and the local musicians they’ve supported through the years,” says Maraist. “That’s how I wanted to come out with the opening weekend, but I don’t think that’s indicative of exactly what this place is going to be like. I would like to bring in bluegrass, rock, jazz, blues, — a lot of different music — and just have it be really good entertainment across the board no matter what the genre is.”
The new owners hope lightning strikes twice in the same location that hosted musical legends like Ray Charles, Maceo Parker and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Through its Web site, www.grantstreetdancehall.com, the club is selling tickets for its re-opening weekend and other upcoming shows — Jimmie Vaughan, Lil’ Band O’ Gold, Eric Johnson, Doyle Bramhall, Bob Schneider, and Sons of William.
As a bonus for opening night, the Air Conditioned Lounge, an 1,800-square-foot room hidden from the public view behind the stage, will be open for business, long before its original anticipated opening by year’s end. There are three other California clubs with the same name, owned by Wide Eyes Entertainment, Maraist’s partners in Grant Street. The other clubs are self-contained, not a part of a larger venue like Grant Street. Air Conditioned will be open six days a week and feature live music and smaller shows throughout the week.
The lounge is just another feature to further the club’s musical mission. “To me,” Maraist says, “Grant Street has always been the place that hipped Lafayette to new music, whether it was Medeski, Martin & Wood or Los Lobos. No matter what the genre of music, there have been times in the history of Grant Street when you knew you could just show up and you would see a good show no matter what type of music.”
For now, the only sound is buzzing saws, and Maraist is surrounded by floating sawdust and the smell of freshly cut wood. With all that’s left to do, will Maraist and his crew make the looming deadline for the grand re-opening? “Absolutely,” he says.
For tickets, call (800) 594-8499 or visit www.grantstreetdancehall.com. For more info, call 237-8513.