Downtown Rising dreams big

Rezende, left, with DDA CEO Anita Begnaud, one Downtown Rising's partners. Photo by Christiaan Mader

Recently, Downtown Lafayette has seen the makings of a revival. Hip eateries have sprouted, Waitr put down roots with a new HQ, and there’s residential development on the horizon. Locals are calling it momentum. Promoter and Downtown advocate Gus Rezende calls it Downtown Rising, and he’s launching a new concert series to celebrate it.

Rezende’s Social Entertainment, an events and hospitality management company he began as a boutique party promoter a decade ago, will host Downtown Rising, a ticketed concert event from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday at Parc International. The inaugural, all-ages show will feature performances from The Revivalists, Sweet Crude and DJ Digital. General admission tickets are $27 and can be purchased here. VIP tickets priced $50 and up are also available.

“[Downtown Rising] is the culmination of everything,” Rezende says of the concert’s place in Social Entertainment’s repertoire, which includes favorites like Plate Lunchapalooza, Bubbles and Brunch and the Acadiana Po-Boy Festival. “Our goal was to create a great experience that isn’t outrageously expensive. We wanted to introduce something that could be transformational for the city.”

Disclosure: Gus Rezende serves on The Current’s nonprofit board.

Rezende started Social Entertainment in the mid 2000s after immigrating from Brazil, working contractually on events for businesses and nonprofit organizations. The one-man operation has grown into a full-blown hospitality/events company, hosting community-based parties across Louisiana.

Once the party started, Rezende says he couldn’t stop creating new events.   

“I had already had a few events under my belt,” he says, describing Social Entertainment’s early years. “I wondered if I could turn hosting and creating these events into a real business. I decided to make a full-time commitment to it, and so far, so good.”

Social Entertainment’s hospitality management arm runs Lafayette restaurants like Downtown’s Central Pizza & Bar and four locations of Tropical Smoothie Café as well as bars like Dix Daiquiris. That combination of businesses is used to complement Social Entertainment’s events.

“Social has evolved into a company where businesses and nonprofits come to us when they need an event solution,” he says. “And I’m not talking about renting chairs and tables.”

Downtown Rising, however, represents a new opportunity for Rezende, Social Entertainment and the Downtown area.

With this year’s Downtown Rising, the goal is “to bring all these Downtown organizations together,” he says, mentioning partnerships with the Downtown Development Authority and the Blue Monday Mission. The latter is a nonprofit that provides life care services for aging musicians in the community. A portion of proceeds from Thursday’s Downtown Rising will benefit Blue Monday.

The concert was scheduled intentionally so as to not compete with Festival International or Downtown Alive!, Rezende says. The time slot was specifically chosen to help bring attendees to Downtown restaurants for an early dinner. That a band named The Revivalists is playing a concert promoting Downtown Lafayette’s renaissance was also as intentional as it was Rezende’s career coming full circle.

“Kind of fitting name, right?” he says with a chuckle. “It’s unbelievable, but when I first starting booking music, I booked The Revivalists at Grant Street Dance Hall on a Wednesday night. Now, they’re a big, national act that’s doing really well.”

As far as the future of Downtown Rising is concerned, Rezende doesn’t want this to be a one-off show. Instead, he says he wants “an event people make part of their annual calendar.”

“I want people to look forward to the end of May next year and think, ‘Who is going to be playing Downtown Rising?’ That’s the idea,” Rezende says. “Is it going to turn into that? I don’t know.

“If this is successful, Downtown Rising will be back next year. But for me to say that it is a success is going to take a few years. I need a solid three years to make sure this event can be a complement to Festival International and Downtown Alive!. And I hope Downtown keeps rising.”

Though he won’t commit to calling Downtown Rising an annual festival yet, in an ideal world, by early next spring, Rezende would be announcing his dream musical guest.

“If I could get one person, it would be Willie Nelson,” Rezende says. “He’s the first name I think of because it would be such a cool experience to have him in Parc International. I think he’s a long shot, but that would be the dream.

“Maybe next year.”

Details on Downtown Rising

Downtown Rising presents The Revivalists with special guests Sweet Crude and DJ Digital at Parc International in Downtown Lafayette. Gates to the concert open at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 30. General admission tickets are $27. All ages. Rain or shine. No re-entry. Lawn chairs not allowed. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit