The Downtown Raleigh Amphitheater hasn't exactly been adventurous in its bookings this year, but here's an inarguably cool show: Vampire Weekend, the chart-topping indie-rock band from New York City, on Oct. 17. There's even a solid opening-act bonus on the bill, Beach House. The "official" ticket on-sale commences at 10 a.m. Friday at the usual spots.
So Paramore played the Downtown Raleigh Amphitheater on Friday night, which was opening night of the Honda Civic Tour. The T-shirts for sale listed the tour's cities and venues. And for some reason, the Raleigh date's venue was identified as "Road Runner Wireless Amphitheater" -- even though the DRA remains without a title sponsor after the recent Bud Light fiasco.
"That never had anything to do with us," Raleigh Convention Center director Roger Krupa said when asked about the name on the shirt. But he did add that he's "close" to closing a deal for a title sponsor for the venue. Stay tuned...
ADDENDUM (7/27/10): Here's some followup.
SECOND ADENDUM (8/25/10): And some more followup.
Paramore played Raleigh Friday night. Click on through to see the review, and also check out this photo gallery of shots from the show.
The word from Live Nation about Friday's postponed concert:
The Gov't Mule concert scheduled to take place at the Raleigh Amphitheater on July 16 has been rescheduled for Monday, July 26.
Tickets purchased for the July 16 concert will be honored night of show on July 26.
The original concert, this past Friday, needed to be halted 3 songs into Gov’t Mule’s show due to severe weather. Jackie Greene who opened the show and was able to perform his entire set before the storm hit, has prior commitments and will not be performing on July 26.
Tickets for the July 26 concert are on sale now at LiveNation.com, the box office at Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion, the Progress Energy Center Box Office, Ticketmaster or charge by phone 800-745-3000.
For more information go to www.livenation.com.
The word from Live Nation about Friday night's scheduled concert at downtown Raleigh's very-much-uncovered concert venue (and right about now, I'm thinking that some folks are wishing they'd gone ahead and popped for covering the seating area):
Due to weather, tonight’s Gov't Mule concert at Raleigh Amphitheater has been postponed. The rescheduled date will be announced early next week. Tickets for tonight’s performance will be honored at the rescheduled date.
If you try to call Roger Krupa this week and he doesn't answer his phone, it's probably because he's tied up trying to sell a name. That would be sponsorship rights to the new Downtown Raleigh Amphitheater, which was to have been known as the Bud Light Amphitheater until the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission turned down the proposal last week. The deal would have earned the city $1.5 million over the next five years; but now it's back to the drawing board.
"Plan B's are in effect," says Krupa, who oversees the amphitheater as director of the Raleigh Convention Center. "I've been talking to four interested parties, and the range of interest has been wide and varied as to the availability of cash. But I don't think we're gonna have to fire-sale this. I'm hoping I can pull this off in the next couple of weeks."
In the meantime, the amphitheater will continue operations without a sponsor's name and the $300,000 it would have added to this year's bottom line -- money that, Krupa admits, "sure would have made life a lot easier." Among other things, that money would have facilitated some sort of free-concert series to replace the Raleigh Downtown Live shows that used to happen at Moore Square.
"The thing about that is, free events are not free," Krupa says. "They're expensive. They cost the city between $10,000 and $20,000 an hour to put on. And in lean budget years, it's hard for me to get that unless I have sponsors."
ADDENDUM (6/7/10): And here's a review of the first ticketed show there, Backstreet Boys.
By David Menconi
RALEIGH -- Following years of talk and a few frantic months of construction, downtown's new Raleigh Amphitheater opened to the public Friday afternoon. It was just barely ready to go by the appointed hour.
"Of course we're not ready," assistant Raleigh Convention Center director Doug Grissom joked a few minutes before the gates opened shortly after 5 p.m. "But we're opening anyway. The temporary things we've got will work until Monday."
Friday's debut was a low-key event, a free open-house preview that felt more like a cookout than a concert. Doug Van de Zande was among the first attendees inside, and he made a beeline for the beer stand.
"I got the first beer," he said happily.
The 5,500-capacity amphitheater represents Raleigh's latest attempt to boost downtown with an urban alternative to Cary's bucolic Booth Amphitheatre, and a more intimate setting than 20,000-capacity Walnut Creek. Friday's opening had seven local acts on the bill, beginning with gravel-voiced solo folk-blues player Th' Bullfrog Willard McGhee and ending with venerable alternative-pop band The Connells. The show revealed a venue that's still a work in progress with some kinks to work out.
Right up until the moment the gates opened, workers were bustling about setting up chairs and sweeping sawdust from the newly built (as in, that day) decks adjoining the bathroom trailers. The trailers and huge dirt pile behind the stage give the space a temporary feel that won't abate until there are more permanent structures on the site.
On the positive side, the venue already boasts a pretty solid sound setup. Even acoustic music carried all the way to the back of the venue, with nuances clearly audible. The amphitheater sits in a block bounded by Cabarrus, Lenoir, Dawson and McDowell streets, but traffic noise wasn't overly distracting except for the occasional passing train or ambulance siren.
"I like it so far," said Jonathan Lee as he listened to the twangy rock band Small Ponds play. "It sounds good. It's just weird to have something like this right in the middle of town, you know?"
Even when the uptempo guitar-pop band Sleep Control played, the volume was in the family-friendly range. Small children ran around playing on the grassy hillside at the back of the venue.
If the amphitheater's sound is in good shape, however, there are some issues with sightlines. The best view in the house is actually looking out from the stage, which gives a perfect view of the convention center's shimmer wall and the city skyline.
But viewed from the seats, the enormous stage feels out of scale to the surroundings. The roof is so high that it dwarfs the performers and makes them seem tiny. Also, tents over the soundboard and VIP area cut off the view from a lot of the fixed seats at the rear of the venue.
"Yeah, that's a problem," said Raleigh Convention Center director Roger Krupa. "We'll have to do something about that. But it still turned out all right."
The first ticketed show at the Raleigh Amphitheater happens Sunday. It's the Backstreet Boys, one of 12 shows on the scheduled booked by Live Nation. There will probably be another three to six more Live Nation shows there in 2010, along with live theater, a bluegrass festival and possibly ballet.
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Here we go: This weekend brings the public debut of downtown Raleigh's spiffy new outdoor concert venue, starting with tonight's freebie shakedown-cruise preview featuring some very fine local acts. Then Sunday brings the first show there that you'll have to pay for, the Backstreet Boys. For logistical details on the venue, see the story here.
Meantime, the title-sponsor issue remains unresolved for now. But even though the Bud Light name is not yet official, I submit that it's not too early to start calling the place a shortened version of that name. Henceforth in this space, the downtown Raleigh amphitheater shall be known as...
Concert promoter Live Nation, eager to boost summer ticket sales as consumer confidence remains shaky, will waive its pesky service fees this month.
The company's "No Service Fee June" started today and runs through June 30. In all, the offer covers 700 shows, 110 bands and 50 amphitheaters, Live Nation announced.
Around here, it helps customers who buy tickets at LiveNation.com for the Raleigh Amphitheatre's Backstreet Boys concert on June 6.
It will also cover June shows at the Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek, including Brooks & Dunn on June 5, Lynyrd Skynyrd on June 18 and Rascal Flatts on June 25.
Naturally, there are catches: The offer doesn't including shipping, parking and other "non-service fees." And you have to buy the tickets via Live Nation's Web site.
The day the news broke about the new downtown amphitheater possibly taking on the name of a beer brand, I got a phone call from a reader who was furious about a public facility being named for an alcoholic beverage. There was something almost... I don't know, quaint about her outrage. She said she wanted to take up a collection to give the building a different name and wanted to know: Would $10,000 be enough to persuade the city not to take Bud Light's money?
I tried very hard not to laugh as I explained as gently as I could that, no, $10,000 would not be nearly enough; in fact, based on the $1.5 million Bud Light will pay over the five-year term of the deal, 10 grand would cover less than four months. But something occurred to me that might appease the people who don't want to have to say the words "Bud Light Amphitheater" for the next five years: Call the place something else, too.
For example, Raleigh's city-owned Walnut Creek Amphitheatre has had three different sponsors as part of its name over the past two decades. But because Walnut Creek has always been part of the name, it's always been possible to talk about the place without sounding like a TV commercial.
So let's call the new venue the Bud Light Pavilion at _______________ Amphitheater. You fill in the blank. What should it be?