With the end of the year drawing nigh, it's time to run down the annual attendance recap for Raleigh's city-owned Time-Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek. And here's how the Triangle's largest concert venue did this year, show by show:
Widespread Panic (April 25-26) -- 14,636
Kanye West (May 9) -- 9,759
Tim McGraw (May 17) -- 16,550
James Taylor (May 28) -- 9,077
Jimmy Buffett (June 7) -- 20,043
R.E.M. (June 10) -- 9,507
Toby Keith (June 21) -- 15,793
Dave Matthews Band (July 2) -- 13,918
Tom Petty (July 12) -- 19,732
Brad Paisley (July 19) -- 17,471
311/Snoop Dogg (July 23) -- 8,350
Projekt Revolution (July 25) -- 9,367
Maroon 5/Counting Crows (July 29) -- 11,878
Jonas Brothers/Avril Lavigne (July 30) -- 19,335
Rascal Flatts (Aug. 2) -- 20,002
Journey (Aug. 10) -- 18,423
Jack Johnson (Aug. 12) -- 20,497
Kenny Chesney (Aug. 22-23) -- 37,841
John Mayer (Aug. 27) -- 9,912
Brooks & Dunn/ZZ Top (Sept. 6) -- 16,793
Third Day/Switchfoot (Sept. 19) -- 5,647
Mary J. Blige (Sept. 21) -- 3,793
Allman Brothers (Oct. 3) -- 8,536
Martina McBride (Oct. 4) -- 11,661
First, the good news: At 26 shows and a total attendance of more than 348,000, business this season was up significantly over 2007, the venue's worst year ever. The number of shows didn't go up by all that much, from 22 to 26 shows. But 2008's total attendance is up more than 100,000 from last year (234,000), and it also beats 2006 (323,000).
Overall, 15 of 26 shows drew crowds bigger than 10,000, including all eight country shows. Led by Kenny Chesney and Brad Paisley, country music is still Walnut Creek's strong suit. Those eight shows drew 136,000 people -- almost 40 percent of the venue's total attendance for the season.
Now for the bad news: After a dust-up last year over the lack of acts of color at Walnut Creek, there was more hip-hop/R&B this year. Unfortunately, it underperformed. Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg (co-billed with 311) and even Kanye West all drew less than half-full houses, although West came close to cracking 10,000. But given how high West's profile was this year, it's puzzling he didn't draw better.
Also, continuing the trend of recent years, the mainstream rock-concert business depends far too heavily on older, long-established acts. Except for the Jonas Brothers and Jack Johnson, the vast majority of Walnut Creek's biggest rock shows were with long-in-the-tooth acts that have been around a decade or more -- Jimmy Buffett, Dave Matthews Band, Journey, Tom Petty.
With the economy contracting and the record industry struggling, that's an issue that will only get worse over time.