The 2015 Bayou Round Up
In the past couple of years, I’ve gotten to the point to where I don’t much enjoy car shows. Every event is the same old song and dance from my sole perspective sitting under a popup tent in vendor row. I sell some t-shirts, a few stickers, and maybe stamp some tags. I do get the pleasure of catching up with some friends that I don’t get to see often and if I’m lucky, I might get half an hour or so to walk around and take photos of the cars that do something for me. But at the end of the day, I usually look back at the event as just another day at work.
And so, I wasn’t much looking forward to the Bayou Round Up… We had some family obligations this weekend and I had planned on skipping the show to take in a friend’s wedding, a couple of little league baseball games, and maybe watch some football as well. Think about that for a moment. I was gonna put on a monkey suit and go to a wedding rather than to a car show. Willingly. And with a smile on my face.
Then, a couple of weeks ago my wife sat me down and told me that I needed to go to the show – not to avoid a wedding, but to support my pals. And so, Keith and I loaded up his truck and headed to Louisiana ready for a weekend under a pop up tent armed only with a few beers to make it bearable. As typical, we got to the venue pretty early, set up our tent, sat down in our chairs, and watched the show come alive around us. At this point, everything was pretty much status quo for me. Same ole shit.
At around 9am and before the general admission gates opened, Steve Coonan dropped by the booth and asked if I had been “inside” yet. To be honest, I knew there was an indoor perspective to the show but I hadn’t given it a lot of thought. “It’s pretty cool,” he said. “You might want to go in there and take some shots before it gets packed with people.” And so I did…
Even at almost 40 years old, I amaze myself by not just how pessimistic I can be, but also by just how damned stupid I can be as well. Walking into the Blackham Coliseum was a lot like walking into some kind of deep southern religious experience. It was as if the clouds parted, the angels sang, and god himself spoke down to me.
“Ryan,” he said. “Pull your head out son.”
The Blackham Coliseum was built in 1949 to be an event center for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Though the 1950’s, the coliseum hosted both basketball tournaments and live stock shows. By the 1960’s, however, the school had built a bigger venue for it’s athletics department and the Blackham became a popular venue for pop concerts. The Supremes, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, and many others sold out concerts there.
As it stands, it’s fairly obvious that the Blackham doesn’t get as much use as she used to. However, she’s still gorgeous and incredibly well preserved. Someone has loved her even if they didn’t necessarily have the budget to restore her. And in her current state, she made what might be the best venue I’ve ever seen for an “indoor” car show.
The old and well used concrete floor. The open rafters. The blotchy lighting. The graceful age of it all. It was just an amazing back drop for a really nicely edited set of 40 cars that were selected to be featured. I spent about an hour walking around with my camera and taking photos. I smiled the entire time…
And you know what? I had enough fun to propel a smile throughout most of the day and into the evening. Lafayette is really a pretty great little town full of amazing food, neat old clubs, and interesting culture. Steve, Will, and Brian did a fantastic job finding a host town that kind of emulates the early Austin atmosphere, but also adds something new and fresh. And I think that’s the biggest thing I took away from this trip. The Bayou Round Up is a car show, but like the Lone Star Round Up there was just something different about it. Something that made it just a little off beat from your standard car show.
Next year? Screw the booth. Screw work. Screw responsibility. I’m bringing a car and I’m gonna do a long smoky burnout down Congress Street and right into the Blackburn.