UPDATE: This article was originally published last month but considering the Downtown Amphitheater, whatever it’s name may be, opens this Friday and we thought revisiting these suggestions would be good conversation as the city’s residents flock to the first show.
It is well known by now that Live Nation has been booking lots of summer shows for the new 5,000 seat Downtown Raleigh Amphitheater across from the Raleigh Convention Center. From The Black Crowes, Sevendust, Slightly Stoopid, to the Backstreet Boys, we can’t say that we are very excited about the quality of the selections that have been made thus far. We know that these are only the first few shows that have been announced and that there are A: more to come and B: there are many other dates that can be independently booked and could turn out to be fantastic. But, the fact that The Backstreet Boys will be the first act to grace the stage got us to thinking that there has to be many more quality options out there that could sell out this pavilion.
So, New Raleigh set out to ask our own writers as well as a handful of musicians, music writers, a city council member, a food writer and a few other folks around town the concerts they would like to see at the amphitheater. Many of these shows were written with a 5,000 ticket sell out but a few were not. Some are new bands, some are older. The genres are very broad. And then there are the silly ones. Some choices are based on sound reasoning, others are simply a list of bands that the author would like to see on stage. Some are single bands, other are orchestrated concerts with opening bands as well as headliners. Nevertheless, we see this as a start to the conversation of how the lineup could look if it wasn’t full of second-tier bands and reunions. Let the discussion begin:
If this was about which bands I would most want to see at the amphitheater, then at the top of my list would be one of two options: The Whitest Boy Alive with Röyksopp or The Cinematic Orchestra with Bonobo. Both combos of bands from the other side of the ocean would have no problem filling up the space in their respective regions (Norway/Germany for the former, England for the later), but it could be a stretch to say that either could fill a 5,000 capacity in Raleigh. It’s a shame, because I think I would pop a blood vessel if any of these groups came this way. Especially if Erlend Øye from The Whitest Boy Alive/Kings of Convenience did a solo DJ set to wrap the evening up.
On that note, maybe a lucrative option would be to have a “Scandamanian” festival billing including the best from the region: José González (Sweden), Kings of Convenience (Norway), Lykke Li (Sweden), Junior Senior (Denmark), The Knife (Sweden), Mew (Denmark), Suburban Kids With Biblical Names (Sweden), and Sigur Rós (if you include Iceland in Scandinavia). That’s something that people outside of the city would travel to Raleigh to come experience. Just like Hopscotch in September, the bill would be strong enough to have a large out-of-town draw.
All this being said, my vote for a one act easy book that would fill all 5,000 seats would be Van Morrison. Just like Stevie Wonder fans give him a pardon for “I Just Called to Say I Love You”, when you put aside “Brown-eyed Girl” and a few of his other most popular songs (ie. all the ones my parents like), Van Morrison remains my most listened to artist of all time. He has no problem selling out 7,000 seat venues, and would be a draw for all ages. He’s probably the only artist I can think of that both myself and my parents would want tickets.
It was a cruel April 1st joke when it was mentioned Vampire Weekend was going to headline Hopscotch. If Bonner Gaylord says he can get them to play here, then in Bonner I trust!
I definitely echo the calls for Rosebuds, Arcade Fire, Spoon and others, and I’m going to resist the urge to scream Avett Brothers. According to the Play Count on my iTunes, some of the bands I’d most like to see and ones I feel would make for a good outdoor show are:
- Megafaun and/or Love Language
- Cloud Cult
- Vampire Weekend
Cloud Cult is one of my personal favorites that I would love to see more of here on the East Coast, much less the South.
A dream hip hop show at the pavilion? This exercise of dreaming up the perfect lineup is kind of like drawing your dream house, you want it all, but that’s not going to jive with reality. Live Nation is a monster of a publicity group, if you aren’t familiar, they control most of the large concert venues in the nation, they are also the management for most of the major artists in the world, and finally they are merging with Ticketmaster - so they will control most of the ticket sales in the US. Well now, they control most of the big downtown Raleigh shows too, with the free Downtown Live now defunct, Live Nation is who we have to count on to bring any sizable national acts . So we can dream, but the management/promoter/venue owner/ticket sales group is going to tell us what we can see regardless. That said, heres my dream: Big Boi ( a Live Nation Artist) will release a highly anticipated album this summer. Kid Cudi also performs for Live Nation. How about a show opened by Kooley High then followed by Kid Cudi and Big Boi? That would be an amazing hip hop show that would pack that venue out. Maybe I am overshooting capacity here with Big Boi- but we are talking about our dream show right?
Paul Publisher of Giusto Gusto
The Strokes are unbelievable live, their mix of fast, energetic rock turns the crowd into one giant sing-along mob. Considering the mixed reviews of their last album and the success of Julian Casablancas solo album, the Strokes are due to come out with what should be a righteous new album this year.
Gnarls Barkley is like a modern super group. The jazzy beats and melodic keys of Danger Mouse mixed with the falsetto blues tones of Cee-Lo have turned the pop/hip hop world upside down, appealing to fans of punk, jazz, blues, r&b, and early rock n roll.
Interpol, a dark rock band from NYC, create hauntingly beautiful songs that you can’t help but love. Heavy bass lines, soothing lyrics, low-bottom drums, and reverb-laden guitar create an undistinguishable sound that has kept this band on the top of bills all over the nation.
The lineup I’d be most interested in seeing at the new downtown Raleigh amphitheater would include the Flaming Lips, MGMT, Spoon, and Modest Mouse. Wayne Coyne hosts a phenomenally fun concert, and the venue would be the perfect place to display his outrageous antics (it’s kind of hard to roll over the crowd in a giant inflated bubble at Disco Rodeo). Fresh on the heels of their sophomore release, MGMT could easily draw a large crowd ready to dance to some of the catchiest damned songs released in the last decade. Spoon just keeps getting better and more prolific with age, and their appeal with Merge fans would make them a definite audience pleaser, while Modest Mouse would round out the lineup with their well loved indie rock sound.
Holy Ghost Tent Revival
The Carolina Chocolate Drops
and another one…
Here are a few shows that I would love to see. Some old, some new. All fabulous live.
Neil Young (solo)
Dave Rawlings Machine
Amadou & Miriam or
Ali Farka Touré
TV on the Radio
Dean McCord - Publisher of VarmintBites
There are two slates that I’d love to see at the downtown amphitheater. The first would be a collection of artists from Merge Records. We know that Arcade Fire would sell out easy, but they’re apparently doing only festivals this summer. But how about Spoon, She & Him, Caribou and The Rosebuds? That’s an easy sell out, and really, if you have Spoon, you’d only need one other band, I suspect.
Of course, we don’t have access to the attendance figures that the promoters do, so we’re blind a bit.
Another possibility that would be great is bands playing at Bonnaroo and have a gap in their tour schedule. Bonnaroo runs from June 10-13. Who’s playing then that has a gap in their tour schedule afterwards? The National, The Black Keys, The xx. I mean, Phoenix is playing at Koka Booth on their way to Bonnaroo!
Samuel McGuire - former WKNC DJ BigFatSac
The inaugural schedule of bands for the Downtown Amphitheater should be looked at like a menu from a first time restaurateur. Trying to hit everyone’s tastes, but not being bold or confident enough to impress true gourmets. Great location, nice décor, but what’s on the plate is not impressive.
To be fair, the slate of summer shows leads me to believe they won’t have a lot of trouble selling some tickets to folks looking to have a fun night downtown or relive some past memories. However, I do hope that the booking starts turning toward bringing in acts that can both sell out a five thousand seat venue AND host artists that appeal to and reflect the tastes of the hordes of intelligent, involved music fans here in the Triangle. Since you asked (no you didn’t) here are three acts that I think would be a huge step in the right direction.
Start with booking the Avett Brothers. North Carolina band, large and growing following, excellent musicians, and a band that can come back year after year and pack the house. This is an easy call and one that will give the Downtown Amphitheater a good name going forward.
Next I would look at booking Ben Folds. He’s shown a predilection toward playing here in his old stomping grounds (Meymandi, DPAC) and ALWAYS brings a big crowd. I didn’t love his last album, but live? In the words of JB, he blows doors down.
Finally and since I’m pulling the strings here, two words. White Stripes. In my oh so humble opinion, one of the best live acts out there and however you feel about it, they sell enough records to put five thousand butts in the seats. And Jack and Meg’s feedback and pounding drums screaming out into hot North Carolina night? That’s the stuff live albums are made of.
Karen Mann - Publisher of Mann’s World
My Morning Jacket with Band of Horses (or vice versa)
Superchunk with Annuals and The Love Language
The Avett Brothers
Wilco (though they did just play here)
Queens of the Stone Age
Pink with MIA and/or The Gossip
The Mars Volta
Baroness with Valient Thorr and/or U.S. Christmas
She & Him with Tres Chicas
Raleigh City Councilman Bonner Gaylord
Mason Jennings, Matt Costa, The Eels, The Shins, Beach House, Owl City, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, Deer Tick, Wyclef Jean, Steve Earle, Sufjan Stevens, Weezer, Leo Kottke, Tunng, Arcade Fire and of course, the almighty BIEBER…
Note that some of these are probably too big and some too small, but that doesn’t mean the show wouldn’t be sick…
Lin Peterson - Guitarist for Old Habits and Tonk
This venue would be perfect for a bluegrass festival with a downtown vibe. Cuegrass was a huge success, even with several Earth Day events going on downtown. It attracted several thousand folks and will likely need a larger venue next year.
Tift Merritt would be a great fit in the fall. CoBill with Alejandro Escavedo would kick ass. Throw in Chatham County Line for a solid Bluegrass/Americana package.
Raleigh needs some real country. Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Ray Price, Charlie Pride. Bring it!
On the rock side, I could see The Black Crowes in there. And if he starts back touring, Ryan Adams.
Wilco obviously needs a larger venue after the record DPAC sellout.
David Menconi - Music Editor of the N&O
Hmm: Bettye LaVette, Solomon Burke, T-Bone Burnett & Joe Henry. Henry & T-Bone would both play solo sets, then also play in the backing band behind LaVette & Burke (reprising their roles as producers of comeback albums for both). It would be an *amazing* night of spectral, old-weird-America country-soul all the way around.
Just Crumb - local bakers of cups of cake
A modern jazz festival with:
The Claudia Quintet
Matana Roberts/Sticks and Stones
and while we are dreaming, let’s add Ornette Coleman to the list.
I am above on the left
Hi Red Center
and we second the motion on a lot of the bands listed by others:
TV on the Radio
TV on the Radio
Jake Seaton - Music.MyNC Producer
I’m a sucker for themes, so hopefully my picks won’t seem too hokey. I have several shows I’d love to see happen, but many of them I don’t think are suited for a 5,000-seat venue.
For example, I’d love to see a chillwave showcase with Neon Indian, Memory Tapes, Washed Out, Toro y Moi and ArnHao (just hosted these guys on Sessions at Studio B yesterday … awesome). While that show would no doubt be euphoric, other than maybe Neon Indian, there’s no way it could sell the Raleigh Amphitheatre.
Another show I’d love to see is an all Baltimore showcase with Beach House, Wye Oak, Dan Deacon, Celebration and Future Islands. That one could potentially fill the Amphitheatre, especially with Deacon, Wye Oak and Beach House … but it’s pretty indie-centric.
And then there’s the indie dance party I want to see happen with Phoenix, MGMT, Passion Pit, Yeasayer (don’t hate!), Dan Deacon and Motor Skills. That one would definitely sell, but Phoenix is already coming through this summer, Dan Deacon makes frequent stops in the area and Yeasayer was just here. So there’s that.
My last pitch is something I’ve been dreaming of for a while that I call Elevator Lounge – Massive Attack, Daft Punk, Air, Justice, Thievery Corporation, Cut Chemist, hosted by 9th Wonder. Other than of course 9th, none of those band ever come through this area. I think the closest has been Thievery Corporation in D.C. and Cut Chemist in Atlanta.
and last but certainly not least…..
Grayson Currin - Music Editor, Independent Weekly
“I’ve been told a lot of single-band bills couldn’t sell this place out. So that got me THINKING: Could these fairly badass double bills do it, I wonder? I’ve also included a handy batch of marketing slogans for each.
A: Fenn O’Berg & AMM: Experimental Biscuits
B: Dragonforce and Darkthrone: The Double D’s Tour
C: Merzbow & Keiji Haino (alternate Japanese bro: Ryoji Ikeda): If by Shimmer Wall, You Mean Totally Fucking Loud.
D: Damn Yankees and Fucked Up: Hell Yes! 2011
E: The cats of Avatar and Waterworld: Webbed Feet and Weird Sex.
P.S. Thanks to the downtown amphitheater for reminding me that O.A.R. existed. Lately, I’ve noticed that something was missing in the pit of my stomach and at the core of my heart. I thought maybe it was time to find Jesus or eat a pop tart or call my banker. But then O.A.R. announced they were coming to town. All better now. Life: What a craaaaazy game of poker.