Portland’s music fans cannot be contained, not this summer anyway.
After years of seeing just two or three major outdoor concerts come through Portland, local music lovers will have at least 14 to choose from this summer.
There are 13 concerts featuring national acts scheduled for the Maine State Pier off Commercial Street and one at the new outdoor venue at Thompson’s Point off outer Congress Street. And that number will likely grow because the promoter of the Thompson’s Point concerts is hoping to host up to six shows.
The 12 acts announced so far for the pier include Kenny Wayne Shepherd, The Wailers, Gregg Allman, Peter Frampton and Cheap Trick, The Beach Boys, Pat Benatar, Barenaked Ladies and Weezer.
The show coming to Thompson’s Point is to be announced Tuesday.
While some music fans think Greater Portland might not be populous enough to support so many concerts in a short summer season, others believe the outdoor concert bonanza will be good for fans, for the city’s music scene and for the economy.
“I’m excited about it. I think it’s a recognition of the supportive music community we have here,” said Ken Bell, who is opening a new music club, Portland House of Music and Events, in late May.
Sean Slaughter, a Portland freelance recording engineer and musician, said he’s always happy to see more concerts scheduled in Portland. But he worries a little bit about whether the area has enough concert-goers to support so many shows in one summer. He also noted that Portland’s weather can be a bit unpredictable.
“I’m not sure we have the population for it, we might have some fatigue with people going to that many shows,” Slaughter said. “And the weather could be an issue. If it’s a beautiful night, that’s great. But there’s always the chance of bad weather.”
The growth in the number of Portland’s outdoor concerts is part of a national trend over the past few years, said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of Pollstar, a concert industry publication. Promoters have found that fans, when given the choice, often would rather see an outdoor show in a beautiful setting than indoors in a concrete arena. Both the Maine State Pier and Thompson’s Point have beautiful water views.
Bongiovanni said the growth of outdoor music festivals, in picturesque spots around the country, has helped fuel the public’s desire for outdoor concerts.
“Being able to hold the outdoor show in a beautiful location is the key element,” he said.
Having so many outdoor concerts will help solidify Portland’s reputation as an arts and culture destination, and will give residents and visitors one more reason to come downtown in the summer, said Steve Hewins, executive director of Portland’s Downtown District, a merchants group.
Hewins said Bangor’s downtown has been revitalized by the Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion concert series in that city, which has attracted dozens of major acts over the past six years or so. That series is put on by Waterfront Concerts, the same company organizing concerts at the Maine State Pier.
The outdoor concerts scheduled so far this summer are at two different kinds of venues.
The state pier, which holds a maximum of about 3,000 people, is owned by Portland and rented to Waterfront Concerts for each show, with the city making about $2,000 to $6,000 per show, said city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin.
Alex Gray of Waterfront Concerts said he’s doing more shows on the pier this year because the shows he’s done there in the past have been successful, and because of his “growing working relationship” with the city. Gray did four major concerts on the pier last year.
The Thompson’s Point outdoor venue will hold about 5,000 people to start, with the potential for more in the future, said Lauren Wayne, general manager for Portland’s State Theatre, which is booking the Thompson’s Point shows. Thompson’s Point is a 30-acre site on the Fore River, including a couple of 100-year-old industrial buildings, that is being developed into a mixed-use “commercial, creative, residential and recreational” development. An outdoor concert venue was part of the development plan when it was first created six years ago, said Chris Thompson, a principle in the site’s development group.
The site also is home to the Circus Conservatory of America and other businesses, and future development plans include the construction of a multi-use arena for sports, conferences or concerts. The venue is easily recognizable from Interstate 295 because of the historic railroad shed roof that has been renovated and covers part of the site. Concert concessions will be located under the shed roof.
The Thompson’s Point shows will feature up-and-coming artists and those making new music, said Wayne, who noted that being located on the Portland Trails path makes it easy to bike and walk to concerts. There also will be shuttle buses to local garages. Eventually, organizers hope to have a dock for kayakers.
Also this summer, radio station owner Townsquare Media is planning to host a one-day music festival with national acts on Portland’s Eastern Promenade in August, though no specific date or acts have been announced yet. The last major concert event on the Eastern Promenade was in 2012, when the State Theatre organized a day-long festival headlined by Mumford & Sons. That event drew more than 15,000 people.
“Having this many outdoor shows can be a tremendous benefit to the city,” said Hewins, leader of the Portland merchants group. “People want to be outdoors in the summer.”