A rendering of what Maine Savings Pavilion at Rock Row in Westbrook will eventually look like, including covered stage at top right. Image courtesy of Waterstone Properties

Southern Maine’s newest outdoor concert venue opens May 26 with a summer lineup that features hip hop, reggae, pop, blues and rock.

And even more appropriately, hard rock.

The Maine Savings Pavilion at Rock Row in Westbrook is slated to be an 8,200-capacity, open-air venue at the site of a former gravel quarry near the Portland city line. The concert venue is the first component of Rock Row, a 100-acre business and residential project being developed on the quarry site, that will be open to the public.

So rock fans can actually hear their favorite bands on a site that’s already known for its rock.

The season opens with hip-hop and funk act Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals on May 26. Acts scheduled in June include the rock band Slightly Stoopid, pop rock bands Young the Giant and Fitz and The Tantrums, blues guitarists Buddy Guy and Kenny Wayne Shepherd and hard rockers Shinedown.

Eleven shows have been announced so far for the new venue, while three others have been booked but not yet announced. Westbrook officials gave approval for up to 16 shows between May and late September. Other artists scheduled to appear at the venue this summer include guitarist Joe Bonamassa, and veteran rockers Alice Cooper and John Fogerty. For the full schedule, including dates and prices, see the the accompanying list.

The venue is being run by Waterfront Concerts, the Bangor company that had also promoted shows at the 3,000-capacity Maine State Pier in Portland for the past few years. Waterfront Concerts failed to secure a long-term agreement to do shows on the city-owned pier and has now entered into a partnership with the Rock Row developers, Waterstone Properties of Massachusetts.

Maine Savings Pavilion will be different from the Maine State Pier as a concert venue in several significant ways. First, it’s a lot bigger. The fact that it can hold 5,000 more people means Waterfront Concerts can book acts that probably would not have considered playing a 3,000-capacity venue, like Shinedown, said Jon Dow, Waterfront’s general manager. And while the pier was flat, Maine Savings Pavilion has a man-made slope, covered with lawn, that is about 14 feet above the stage area. So if you buy general admission on the lawn, you should still be able to see the stage.

Some shows will feature more general admission tickets, with people able to sit on the lawn on blankets and rented lawn chairs, while some shows will have mostly reserved seating on folding chairs, and other shows will have a combination.

But maybe the biggest difference is parking. The Rock Row site will have parking for more than 1,200 cars in its main parking lot and more than 500 in another lot across Larrabee Road. Parking in those lots is free but, if you want a VIP spot up close to the concert venue, it’s $35.

The venue is a work in progress, so what exactly it will look like when it opens is somewhat of a mystery. In late April, the developer gave a tour of the site, which was muddy and unpaved. The lawn hill had been built and the stage foundation had been set.

But by the time it opens May 26, the venue is supposed to have paved lots and walkways, a lawn, and tents and temporary structures for concessions, tickets and restrooms.

Dow said there will be four restroom areas, and concession areas will be spaced out on the concourse, which runs around the seating area in a semi-circle. Dow said designers were trying to create a space where no concertgoer is ever more than 100 feet from concessions or 150 feet from a bathroom.

As for who else might play Maine Savings Pavilion this summer, Dow said the venue was “casting a wide net” for musical genres, including rock, hip-hop, blues and country.

Because Waterfront Concerts essentially moved its operation from the Maine State Pier to Rock Row, Greater Portland this summer will still have two major outdoor concert venues, as it has had the past several years.

The other is at Thompson’s Point on the Fore River, managed by the State Theatre in Portland. That open-air venue, which can be seen from Interstate-295, usually has crowds of up to about 7,500, but can hold up to 10,000. Between the two outdoor venues, more than two dozen shows have been announced.

filed under: