Maybe there's hope that technology and good old-fashioned facetime (pun intended) can meet in the middle.

Just a few short decades ago, before Facebook and Twitter entered our vocabulary, there was live entertainment. As in person. As in you drove to a venue where a band played Swamp Pop covers and you jitterbugged with your sweetheart. It wasn’t just for the “old folks,” though Maw Maw and Paw Paw may have been there showing you how it’s done. It was the universal way to spend a Saturday night.

Times have changed since then and in more ways than one. Natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina and the Great Flood of 2016, have wreaked social and economic havoc on Ascension Parish and its surroundings areas. Gonzales has also seen an immense boom in population over the past five years and was recently ranked #8 on the fastest growing cities in Louisiana in 2018.

All that change – not to mention the rise of social media and instant-gratification technology – has impacted how people enjoy their down time. With a diverse local population spanning Millennials to Boomers, local entertainers have had to adapt to compete with YouTube, Netflix and other virtual entertainment options available with a simple swipe.

They say if you can’t beat them, you should join them, and musicians, bar owners and restaurateurs have begun integrating social media into their marketing efforts, going where their audience is – online – with clever memes, slick promo posters cropped to Facebook dimensions, and the newest teaser – live streaming videos. (For those uninitiated, live video streaming is easy, mobile-friendly, real-time broadcasting from popular apps like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.)

Park Place of Gonzales, a popular night spot with live music on Fridays and Saturdays, understands the impact of social media, and posts regularly on its Facebook page via its social media coordinator, Jennifer Cyrex. Jennifer pulls double duty (as many establishments do) as a bartender and has been helping with marketing for the past five years.

“Social media is a cheap, fast way to advertise,” Jennifer says. “The goal is to get people’s attention with funny memes and multiple posts as a reminder of upcoming shows. We try to be memorable and we try to stay on your Facebook feed as long as possible.”

The owners of Park Place, Jennifer says, are very focused on finding new, fresh bands from as far as Metairie and Lafayette, but it can be challenging to introduce new acts to a local crowd.

“It’s definitely harder to get people to go out anymore,” Jennifer says. “I find the quickest way to introduce new bands is to live stream one song. A lot of people watch those either live or on replay, and it builds awareness of the band. It’s not an instant fix, but the next time that band is playing, we’ll see more people show up.”

Less effort is needed to promote the more popular acts, Jennifer says, like the Sofa Kings, Foret Tradition and Hai Karate, but a live video for those acts can means hundreds of views…and inspiration enough for people to put down their iPhones and drive over to the venue to catch a second set.

Singer-songwriter Rhett Anthony Glindmeyer, who recently relocated back to Ascension Parish after a successful decade-long stint in Nashville, has also taken advantage of social media to promote his performances. Rhett regularly plays at venues around Ascension Parish as well as throughout Louisiana and in Nashville, Scottsdale and Las Vegas. He’s found a new audience – and a broader reach – through live streaming on Facebook.

“Audiences have definitely changed over the years and crowds can be fragmented,” Rhett says. “Live streaming has changed the way musicians are able to connect with people. It’s how we communicate today.”

Rhett has used social media for years, creating colorful posts on a weekly basis to promote his upcoming shows. He says he stumbled on live streaming from his colleague, David St. Romain, another popular local artist who was using Facebook Live to reach his fans.

“You don’t realize that as an artist, a friend, and a family member, you have really cultivated a crowd through your Facebook contacts,” Rhett says. “These videos can have 30+ people watching live from all over the country, and the replays can have thousands of views.”

Something Rhett has found amusing if not surprising is that he’s often discovered that the people watching his live streams are sitting a few feet away from him in the venue.

“You could argue that the digital revolution has made us a little more frugal and introverted,” he says. “But there’s an enjoyment to watching the comments as they come in and it’s turned into an interactive experience. People chat with each other, ask for song requests, and tag their friends to watch.”

Jennifer agrees with that “interactive” element, and says it has transcended music. At Park Place, she’s seen a resurgence of nostalgia returning to venues. “We’ve started doing board game night – like Uno and Jenga – and they have become very popular! We put lights out on the table, play music, serve drinks, and we find a very diverse crowd of older and younger people on those nights.”

Maybe there’s hope that technology and good old-fashioned facetime (pun intended) can meet in the middle.

Find them on Facebook: facebook.com/parkplaceofgonzales; facebook.com/rhett.glindmeyer.