Almost every weekend of my freshman year of high school, my dad reluctantly drove me to a thrift shop to watch young, local artists play. The thrift shop is Here Today, Gone Tomorrow in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, or HTGT as we called the venue. Although Here Today, Gone Tomorrow is a large property, our venue was a small room in the right corner of the U-shaped building. It was no bigger than two standard dorm rooms with stairs leading up to a balcony for extra standing room. It was dusty, dirty, and unfinished—and absolutely magical. Our measly room was made comfortable by old couches in the balcony, various stickers and marker artwork on the walls and, most importantly, old lamps of all shapes and sizes with colorful light bulbs illuminating our faces as we watched our friends play.
Every time my dad drove me to HTGT for a show, there were ten or twelve kids, probably no older than seventeen, smoking cigarettes and bumming around in the parking lot. My dad would roll his eyes and question why he was letting me participate in this social scene. He must have seen that going to these shows was important to me, so despite the grungy look of the crowd, he let me go. As I walked up to the venue door I was always greeted by familiar faces. Most of the time a couple of close friends from high school were there and some of them were in bands that performed regularly. However, a lot of times I was there surrounded by people I did not know, but became acquaintances with just by going to shows every weekend. Despite the look of the crowd and the venue, HTGT was a safe space and it brought together youth from many high schools in Baton Rouge. That was part of the magic.
Walking up to the venue there was always a different kid working the door. The cover was never more than $9 and a large, black X was always drawn obnoxiously on our hands before we entered the room. In the back of the venue there was a small counter with a small refrigerator where you could get a can of green tea for fifty cents or a glass bottle of root beer for a dollar. If you walked up the stairs to the balcony you would probably find a couple of people lounging on the couches and others standing around waiting for the music to start. Eventually you would hear someone on the mic say that the band was ready and everyone, in unison, would stop everything to grab a spot on the balcony and watch the show.
Right before the guitarist strummed their first chord, there was always a sweet silence of anticipation. When band would start, the music would run through the speakers at an extremely loud volume, and everyone became entranced. Every band that played at HTGT was the best band in the world for their thirty-minute set. There is something so special about listening to your peers plays music. Whether you were there to see The Chambers shred “Bottoms of My Feet,” or hear Nice Dog cover “I Shot the Sheriff,” for a split second you were their biggest fans. Occasionally touring bands would pass through to play a set, but you could always count on You Know Who or Della to make an appearance. These ridiculously young bands shaped the local music scene of Baton Rouge.
When I turned 16, my dad stopped driving me to HTGT and I started to drive myself. Around the same time I gained this freedom, HTGT was struggling to stay open. There was gossip throughout our scene that HTGT could not afford to keep hosting shows at the rate they had been. No matter the real reason for HTGT’s struggle, the shows became scarce and eventually HTGT shut down. There were a few attempts to revive the venue, but ultimately the era of our shoddy venue was over. It was heartbreaking. The place that had defined so many weekends of our youth was gone. Even though HTGT was no longer open, the local bands kept playing music all around Baton Rouge. There were shows at Baton Rouge Magnet High School and Atomic Pop Shop, a local record store and as we all got older, bands would play at a local bar, Spanish Moon, and even the legendary local venue, The Varsity.
Today, many of the bands and musicians that got their start at HTGT still play at these local venues all around Baton Rouge. In fact, Nice Dog has played a significant amount of shows over the past few months and continues to dominant the local scene. HTGT was, without a doubt, a quintessential place for a large group of Baton Rouge youth. Since the closing of the venue, the main thrift shop has stayed open and our small room has been transformed a couple of times for different purposes, but many of the permanent marker signatures we wrote on the wood of the balcony still remain, forever immortalizing our presence in that space.
Recently I made plans with a friend to go to Here Today, Gone Tomorrow to thrift shop. When making those plans, however, I never spoke the acronym “HTGT.” In my mind, HTGT is not the thrift store that remains today. HTGT is and will always be the DIY music venue that significantly shaped my early teenage years. Many memories were made in the small, dirty room with its many colorful lamps.
ERIN PHELPS | Feeling Nostalgic | KXSU Assistant Program Director