April 16, 2012

Music booker puts city on map

The State Theatre's Lauren Wayne and her staff have signed some hot acts and raised Portland's visibility.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - When trying to land the hot British folk act Mumford & Sons for a Portland concert, promoter Lauren Wayne found herself sitting at her desk trying to write a thoughtful essay about Portland.

click image to enlarge

Lauren Wayne, general manager of the State Theatre in Portland, also brings musical acts to other city venues.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer


SOME OF the bigger shows that Lauren Wayne has brought to Portland:

SNOOP DOGG, March 30, 2012 -- State Theatre. Two shows

THE BLACK KEYS, March 6, 2012 -- Cumberland County Civic Center

PETER FRAMPTON / 35th Anniversary Tour, Feb. 7, 2012 -- State Theatre

ELVIS COSTELLO, July 28, 2011 -- State Theatre

THE AVETT BROTHERS, June 2, 2011 -- State Theatre

MY MORNING JACKET, Oct. 15, 2010 -- State Theatre

She had heard that Mumford & Sons were planning to do only four U.S. shows this summer, and that they were looking for interesting, artsy, quintessentially American cities to play.

Wayne -- who is the manager of Portland's State Theatre but books shows all around the city -- did a little research for her proposal.

She found that Mumford & Sons are big fans of literature as well as the arts, so she mentioned Portland poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, as well as Portland's vibrant arts scene, art galleries and art school. She also knew the band members were into all things nautical, so she played up Portland's history as a seaport.

"I basically wrote up a narrative about Portland, trying to convince them why it would be a great place to play," said Wayne, 38, sitting in a room backstage in the State Theatre. "We heard they got hundreds of proposals."

But they accepted four. And Wayne's proposal, for an Aug. 4 show on Portland's Eastern Promenade, was one of them.

In more than 10 years working as a concert promoter in Portland, Wayne has helped bring hundreds if not thousands of concerts to town. But in the past two years, as manager of the reopened State Theatre on Congress Street, she's had an even bigger impact on the area's concert scene, helping to make it more visible and vibrant than it has been in decades.

Besides bringing some 80 shows to the State Theatre last year, Wayne has had a wider impact by booking shows at other city venues, big and small. She's helped bring a wide range of pop music talent to the area, from former Grateful Dead members and hot folk-rockers like the Avett Brothers, to rap legend Snoop Dogg and veteran alt-rockers The Pixies.

She brought the super-hot rock band The Black Keys to the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland earlier this year, even though the civic center is more than 30 years old, badly in need of renovation and the smallest venue The Black Keys played on their tour. On the same tour, the band played two sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

"With The Black Keys, I had been trying for a long time to get them, but it didn't work out," said Wayne. "But sometimes when you have a relationship with an agent, and you keep yourself on their radar, it works out eventually."

The relationship between agent and promoter works both ways, says Seth Seigle, a New York-based agent with WME Entertainment, which represents both Snoop Dogg and The Pixies, among many others. Seigle says he and his agency have confidence that when they book a show through Wayne -- and the State Theatre's management -- their clients will be treated well and fans will get their money's worth.

"We know when we work with them we can count on good people presenting the show," said Seigle. "When clients ask what else they should be doing, we can talk about the State Theatre and Portland, and all the other shows that have played there. To Lauren's credit, she works with good people and we trust them."

Wayne has been able to make a success of the State Theatre -- so far -- even though the 1929 former movie palace has seen several failed attempts by managers since it was reopened as a concert hall in 1993. It had been closed since 2006, and in disrepair, when new management took over in 2010 and brought in Wayne.

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