What’s next for outdoor music in Cincinnati? Venue operators weigh in

The battle of the brand new, similarly sized venues is upon us.

Both are inside-outside complexes. Both are run by talent buyers with history and capital in the region.

On the Cincinnati side is the Andrew J Brady Icon Music Center with an outdoor capacity of 8,000 and 4,400 for indoor shows. Across the river is the PromoWest Pavilion in Ovation: 7,000 outdoors; 2,700 inside.

They both have fancy names, but we can call them the Icon and the Ovation.

They will fight for the same bands. Could that increase the guarantees for bands and thus increase ticket prices? Or could competition force venues to keep prices down?

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It’s been over a year since a Cincinnatian stood outside with thousands of others on a warm evening, beer in hand, watching a band. So it is fair to assume that the market has some catching up to do.

Under normal circumstances, the battle for the new venues would be upon us as major summer outdoor tours usually start here in April. But the fight is postponed. By when? We’ll see check-in with the Directors of Icon and Ovation, as well as other outdoor music event activities in the area.

Thousands of people watch the Jimmy Buffett & The Coral Reefer Band concert at Riverbend Music Center on Thursday, July 18, 2019.

Notably, Cincinnati survived a summer without Jimmy Buffett last year.

Can we do it again We must?

Rosemarie Moehring says there will be music in Riverbend this summer. But she doesn’t know when that first show will be.

“We don’t have a precise schedule,” says Möhring, Marketing Director at MEMI, the operator of Riverbend. “Of course we are still monitoring everything and will follow government guidelines, but we think mid to late summer is very optimistic, like around mid-July.”

Buffett is booked for July 13th. It’s the middle of July. Keep the faith, Parrotheads.

According to Moehring, Riverbend would need 75-100% allowable capacity to reopen to make financial sense. The reason they don’t do a 50% attendance show is because Buffett, for example, probably wouldn’t appear for 50% of his normal fee.

MEMI also operates the Icon at The Banks. The icon is ready for the summer touring season. All it takes are summer tours.

Construction of the Andrew J. Brady Icon Music Center in the banks will continue on Thursday, March 19, 2021.

“It’s not just what Ohio does,” says Möhring. “When an artist goes on tour, he goes from coast to coast, so all states must have the same regulations and allow the same capacities in order for a tour to be conducted.”

Möhring expects large crowds in both places when the gates open.

“People are ready to make live music again, and I can say, especially to myself, I’ll never take it for granted again,” she says. “People are just ready to go back to normal.”

In January, given the doubt about the upcoming summer tour, Scott Stienecker knew he couldn’t headline this year’s edition of Bunbury, so he pulled the plug.

And now it has to be decided whether the festival will ever return to the way we knew it to be.

Stienecker, the CEO of PromoWest Promotions, decides whether Bunbury will continue to operate at Sawyer Point or whether to move it to Ovation in Newport.

“We want to do Bunbury in 2022,” he says. “We have to look and make a decision. Do we want to do the big Bunbury festival or maybe we downsize it and do it in the facility? “

Ovation is always ready to go when the tour starts again this summer. Stienecker says the programming will reflect Bunbury’s.

“The up-and-coming what’s happening right now is called an act. Everything from rock to punk and country to R&B and rap. We have built everything that comes our way that is hot into our facilities, ”he says.

When will this first hot act take the stage at Ovation?

“We have to wait until the world comes back,” he says. “We think of August. We believe the world will be 100% where we can do 100%. Before that, it depends on the governors of each state. Right now they say different percentages, but they still say social distancing. Like Ohio said 30% at sporting events, but social distancing and masks. We are okay with masks, but we cannot give GA (General Admission) concerts or social distancing, because as soon as the band shows up, everyone on the stage will rush to the fence. We need to get the governor to say 50% capacity and no social distancing restrictions. This is the only way we can open earlier than when the world opens 100% for us. ”

What about the other music venues?

Ja Rule drew 20,000 people to a free concert in Fountain Square in 2015, making it the largest audience for music.

Could it happen again in 2021 after the ban is lifted? Emily Stowe says 3CDC could book a big show with a national act at the end of the outdoor concert season, depending on the COVID numbers.

“We believe there’s little chance of something this size,” said Stowe, senior event marketing manager at 3CDC, the booker operator of Fountain Square’s free programming. “I don’t think there’s anything off the table in the fall, depending on the guidelines. For now, we just follow whatever the governor recommends and whatever the local government recommends. “

A woman walks Fountain Square on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, the first day of Mike DeWine's housing in response to the pandemic.  When will live music return to the square?

Big tour acts are a small part of the 3CDC program on the pitch, measured by the total number of calendar dates. Local concert series include most of their shows. The music was delayed until last July; This year it will start punctually in spring, but with the same restrictions on the quantity as last year. The spring concert series takes place on Friday and Saturday evenings from April 30th to May 29th. In May, 3CDC adds salsa to the square on Thursdays. Since Fountain Square is subject to the same rules as bars, there can be no salsa at these salsa shows.

“Usually we clear the seats so everyone can dance. That probably won’t be possible, at least at the beginning of this year, ”says Stowe.

The Brunnenplatz has a new permanent stage. Gone is the old one at the west end to the east; The new one faces west at the end. The new configuration allows for larger crowds, and Stowe is keen to take advantage of it.

“I’ve heard national touring acts are confident that they are rebooking and rescheduling the shows for August. I think we’ll see what happens there,” she says. “We want to have events, we want to bring people to the square, but we want to make it safe.”

Canceling concerts in 2020 and postponing them to later dates this year was not only done for the safety of the fans, but also for the performers.

Over the Rhine gives a concert at Nowhere Else.

For the Nowhere Else Festival, curated by folk rock band couple Over the Rhine and hosted on their farm an hour east of Cincinnati in Martinsville, Ohio, two acts top the bill with their health first stands: singer-songwriters Patty Griffin and Joe Henry.

Last year, Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist canceled the outdoor festival across the Rhine and moved this year’s dates from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend.

“Joe Henry was quite public about his frankly scary cancer diagnosis a few years ago, and at this point he had 6 to 9 months to live something like that, and in the end he did a lot of research on treatment scenarios with his wife, and I think he’s been dealing with something pretty modern and pretty intense, and he’s somehow had the best possible outcome of his treatment, and he’s in remission. After going through that a few years ago, he’s cautious about the whole COVID thing, ”explains Detweiler. “Patty Griffin had significant health problems when she was off the street for a while. I think Patty’s manager came back pretty quickly and said May would be off the table, so we would [brought up] the possibility of Labor Day and they were excited and relieved. “

Detweiler says they haven’t had any refund requests from ticket buyers after moving the dates. That could be the result of a strong line-up; it could also mean that after a year of omission, people feel like attending an outdoor music festival.

“Obviously we’ve lost some of our momentum. This is a common story for people whose records have been published. That applies in many areas, ”says Detweiler. “But I am really grateful. I think that’s hopeful. “

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