Autumn doesnt officially begin for another two weeks, but with Alive After Five ending its season two days ago, now seems like the right time to reflect on outdoor summer entertainment.
Aside from the fact that temperatures seemed to hover around 108 degrees, you couldnt complain as a concert fan. The sheer variety of music ranged from country to heavy metal, from classic-rock radio staples to modern-day chart toppers. And fans often responded en masse.
Consider the 4,000-capacity Idaho Botanical Garden. Four of the eight concerts at the Gardens Outlaw Field sold out: Imagine Dragons, Fun, Willie Nelson and OneRepublic/Sara Bareilles. Of the shows that didnt quite sell out, one was a first-time visitor very special to diehard followers: Steely Dan.
Voted Best Music Venue in the Idaho Statesmans Best of Treasure Valley readers poll for the first time in 2013, the Idaho Botanical Garden officially hit its stride as a music mecca.
Its safe to say its dialed, agrees Greg Marchant, chief operating officer of promoter Knitting Factory, which produces the Outlaw Field events. He says this years series was a home run.
Another annual tradition that swung for the fences was the Boise Music Festival at least from a marketing perspective. Say what you will about the middle-of-the-road acts, which included Carly Rae Jepsen, Candlebox and Vanilla Ice. Organizer Peak Broadcasting spent months beating radio listeners over the head about the all-day festival, which lured a head-spinning amount of young fans to Expo Idaho.
I admit to rolling my eyes when the Ada County Sheriffs Department estimated that 80,000 festivalgoers were there. (Really? What is this, wildly inflated predictions by Northwest RibFest organizers?) But Peak maintains that 83,192 people came through the gates. Fans could leave and return until 4 p.m., so some of them counted were repeat customers. Either way, its still freaking nuts.
As usual, the Western Idaho Fair rocked its grandstands.
Rough attendance numbers from the Fair: 2,500 for Los Cuates de Sinaloa; 4,000 for Kutless; 9,000 for Foreigner; 3,500 for The Guess Who; 9,000 for Brantley Gilbert and 6,500 for Clay Walker.
(I showed up at the Fair on the night of Foreigner but was entirely too snobby to attend the show. But I heard Cold as Ice while walking by, and the replacement vocalist did sound somewhat Lou Gramm-ish ...)
The Barley Bros. Traveling Beer Show enjoyed it second year at Meridians Julius M. Kleiner Memorial Park, after fleeing Ann Morrison Park in Boise because of a clash with city officials. The relocated brew festival probably wont ever draw the crowds it did in Boise. During its heyday, paid attendance was around 10,000 to 12,000 over two days.
This summer, the brewfest had about 2,500 paying customers over two days with about 2,000 of those on the Saturday and 500 on the Sunday, organizer Rick Boyd says.
Still, hes very happy with Meridian city officials and police, and plans to keep the festival a two-day event in 2014. It isnt a certainty that it will be at Kleiner again, though. Meeting the citys parking requirements could be a tougher challenge for Boyd down the road, he says.
Alive After Five organizers are pleased. Despite the heat, numbers were up over last year for the free Wednesday music series, according to the Downtown Boise Association.
However, if The Grove plaza fountain isnt turned on consistently it was off when I attended Polyrhythmics last week youll see a major drop off in attendance from the kindergarten-age crowd. Beware!
Not every outdoor event was a smashing success this summer. Attendance at the huge, headbanging Mayhem Festival at the Idaho Center Amphitheater slipped by about 2,000 fans to 6,000. And, although numbers werent available at press time, Thursdays X-Fest/Uproar Festival was on track to be a whooole lot less than that. On that note, it also must have felt strange seeing Slightly Stoopid perform at the massive Idaho Center Amphitheater, even if organizers set up the grassy bowl in a cut-down configuration. And remember the Warped Tour? It skipped the Boise market entirely in 2013 because attendance has trended down so much. And lets not even mention indoor club-show attendance, which has been erratic. (Maybe in a near-future column or blog post.)
But overall? Excellent summer outside for fans. And with the Hyde Park Street Fair and its new next-door neighbor, Hyde Park Curb AFaire, happening next weekend, the partying isnt over just yet.
Michael Deeds column runs Fridays in Scene and Sundays in Life.