Michael Deeds: Looking back at summer attendance numbers

September 6, 2013 

Autumn doesn’t 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 couldn’t 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 Garden’s Outlaw Field sold out: Imagine Dragons, Fun, Willie Nelson and OneRepublic/Sara Bareilles. Of the shows that didn’t quite sell out, one was a first-time visitor very special to diehard followers: Steely Dan.

Voted “Best Music Venue” in the Idaho Statesman’s Best of Treasure Valley readers’ poll for the first time in 2013, the Idaho Botanical Garden officially hit its stride as a music mecca.

“It’s safe to say it’s dialed,” agrees Greg Marchant, chief operating officer of promoter Knitting Factory, which produces the Outlaw Field events. He says this year’s 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 Sheriff’s 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, it’s 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 Meridian’s Julius M. Kleiner Memorial Park, after fleeing Ann Morrison Park in Boise because of a clash with city officials. The relocated brew festival probably won’t 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, he’s “very happy” with Meridian city officials and police, and plans to keep the festival a two-day event in 2014. It isn’t a certainty that it will be at Kleiner again, though. Meeting the city’s 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 isn’t turned on consistently — it was off when I attended Polyrhythmics last week — you’ll 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 weren’t available at press time, Thursday’s 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 let’s 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 A’Faire, happening next weekend, the partying isn’t over just yet.

Michael Deeds’ column runs Fridays in Scene and Sundays in Life.

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service