Photo by Josh Coen
In Lafayette, a wide open window on a new wave of artists.
I wanted to find the right metaphor for the shutters. The stage and side wall of the sheet metal building are covered with a grid of old storm shutters nailed up to lend the primitive space a homey artful air. I wanted to say that shutters let the light in and keep the less opportune elements at bay, for that according to manager Bernard Pierce, is what this Lafayette alternative venue—the Feed & Seed—is all about.
“The Feed & Seed is part community center, part clubhouse, part event center and preservation project. First of all, I was attracted to the building because it’s a beautiful old shack,” says Pierce over a beer and a bowl of jambalaya from Pat’s restaurant in downtown Lafayette. He was in the middle of setting up an event for that evening, a bicycle scavenger hunt that started at the Feed and Seed, winding around town back to the venue where Emily Neustrom and the Collard Greens were slated to play.
“My friend Andy Cornett and I had always talked about collaborating and purchasing it and did so in 2005,” Pierce continues. Cornett was the owner of Lucky Cat Records and the manager, producer, bassist and harmonica player for Henry Gray and the Cats. Cornett was a lynchpin figure to a number of area blues artists, always working to keep the music he loved and played alive. Cornett passed away in February of 2012, leaving Pierce to continue their shared vision at the Feed & Seed. I couldn’t help but think about how we shutter one chapter of our lives before opening a new one.
Pierce has his own legacy. He’s a founding member of Lafayette band Frigg-a-Go-Go, performs as the avant-garde act One Man Machine, managed the popular Metropolis nightclub and the offbeat club the Rinky Dink, as well as an underground club called the Pussycat on the site of the Feed & Seed. “That was just a private studio. My wife at the time was a painter and I’m a visual artist and a musician. We had parties and the parties grew into events. We thought, ‘This could work as a public facility.’”
Just like peeking through shutters, one can get a sense of the direction in which Pierce and in some ways, Lafayette as a whole, are evolving. A flurry of volunteers handles tasks while Pierce’s two sons cavort around the space. A DJ is checking the sound from his laptop; the bike club volunteers are starting to pour in just like the breeze blowing through the loading bay doors at the back of the venue. It’s busy, but a sweet kind of busy.
The club sits just across the train tracks from the back of Grant Street Dancehall, not so much a contrast but a counterpoint. They are similar; large open spaces in different stages of renovation. Grant Street is where the sanctioned, revered Lafayette musical culture plays out. It’s the big room in town. Places like the Feed and Seed serve as incubators for the next wave of artists who will eventually play that big stage across the way.
I leave Pierce and his army of volunteers to their preparations—to roam around downtown Lafayette. I popped into to the venerable downtown location of Don’s Seafood to get a rye Old Fashioned from their equally venerable bartender Mr. Cliff. Seated around me are people all talking about their projects—the bar they run, and the event they are hosting. One patron insists they check out a particular band playing on one of the parks dotting the downtown area.
The city was teeming with people. Music was everywhere, pouring out of every doorway. Every restaurant was at capacity. I’d done a book signing that afternoon at the Barnes & Noble and nearly sold out of stock. Lafayette puts its money where its mouth is when it comes to culture.
I wove my way back to the Feed & Seed just as the mandolin player for the Collard Greens was tuning up in a spotlit section of the low stage, those shutters aglow like a theatre set. The shutters aren’t metaphors. Culture is not a metaphor. That moment at the Feed and Seed was just a build up of ideas converging. I quit trying to make something bigger out of it and got another bowl of jambalaya.
By then, Emily Neustrom and her full string band had arrived, consisting of acoustic and electric guitar, upright bass, mandolin and a guy playing shaker sticks in lieu of a drum kit.
The bicyclists were arriving from their scavenger hunt and Neustrom’s infectious twang cuts through the congenial din, laying into classical country and folk numbers as the room started to fill. It felt like you were part of something because, well, you are. When the windows are wide open like that, we are all part of the same breeze.
Details. Details. Details.
The Feed & Seed
106 North Grant Street