Summer concert series brings live music to venues throughout NC

Cities, towns and private venues offer family entertainment for cheap

Eamon Queeney—North State Journal
The band 14 Karat Gold performs during the Midtown Beach Music Series at North Hills in Raleigh

RALEIGH — In a time when the music industry is trying to find its way in a digital world, live performances might be bigger than ever. That’s especially true in the summer when big acts join forces for traveling music festivals and outdoor venues do their best business. But there’s also been an explosion in summer music series that feature local acts and provide a family-friendly environment to see live music.”We see more and more popping up at shopping centers, small town centers around the city, as well as more just popping up at new multi-use developments within the city itself,” said Hank Patterson, a Charlotte agent with East Coast Entertainment. “All these bordering towns — Indian Trail, Matthews, Pineville — all of those have them, as well.”East Coast Entertainment is the largest, full-service entertainment agency in the country and represents everything from wedding bands to major acts. With offices in Raleigh, Charlotte and Asheville, ECE offers its services across North Carolina.That includes assisting groups across the state with lineups for a summer music series.”I think it’s a sense of community. … Giving appreciation and value to the small cities,” Patterson said as a reason for the growth in local concert series. “I think there’s a huge rush recently of people moving to big cities, and the small towns are still trying to show they can do as much, have as much fun and give us much back to their citizens as the big cities can.”Janine Powell said Airlie Gardens in Wilmington, where she is director of donor relations, started its concert series about 15 years ago as a jazz music showcase. That drew enthusiastic, but smaller, crowds. Airlie Gardens then brought in in more varied acts and the popularity exploded.”Over the years it’s evolved into a really popular concert series throughout the summer,” Powell said. “We have about 3,000 people attend our concerts.”Airlie Gardens’ series features bands playing Americana, big band and funk to rock, reggae and beach music.”We’re just looking for the acts that are a good for us that have a strong following and that we know our crowd is going to like,” Powell said. “We get a lot of repeat people because it’s free for members. But then the crowd does change a little bit depending on what the band is. We get a very strong crowd no matter who’s playing.”Airlie Gardens’ $64.20 family membership includes admission to all of the summer concert series shows (the first and third Friday of each month through Sept. 15). Admission for nonmembers is $9 for adults and $2 for children.The City of Asheboro puts on its own summer concert series in Bicentennial Park free of charge, offering up beach music on seven dates (the first was May 21) starting at 6 p.m.Pam Hester, a facilities maintenance office assistant with the city, finds advertisers to fund the series and scopes out bands that will fit the event. She said the concerts have drawn as many as 4,000 people, though 1,500 is more of an average crowd. While many cities and towns use a company like ECE to help them book bands, Hester does it herself.”I just listen to a lot of music on my own time,” she said. “I think it’s best to see them in person, to see how they interact with the crowd and how the crowd interacts with them before we bring them in.”Many of the bands play all around the state and beyond, popping up at the beach one day and in the Triad the next. Outdoor ampitheaters like at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh hosts some national acts for its series, and a quick online search for summer concert series shows a wide variety throughout the state.Patterson said the emergence of all the smaller concert series hasn’t hurt the ticket sales of the bigger acts coming through during the summer.”I think it’s just an urge and a need for folks to see live music,” Patterson said. “And it’s a wonderful thing, because as a person working the business and just a person who is passionate about live music, I think it’s great to see that that’s kind of making a comeback.”