As a longtime radio personality at 94.9 FM The River, Tim Johnstone has seen it all when it comes to giving away tickets on the air.
But when he tried to hand out freebies to last Friday’s concert by Soul Asylum and The Fixx, he was caught off guard.
The studio phone was silent.
“Nobody called,” Johnstone says.
He finally managed to give away three of the 25 pairs at his disposal over two days.
Have Boiseans become spoiled? I mean, we don’t even want to go to free concerts?
It’s a great time to be alive if you’re a music fan. But there’s a fine line between a robust concert scene and an oversaturated market. Our beer cup is both half full and half empty this summer.
Boise has a boatload of concert choices. But if we don’t show up, we’ll start to earn a reputation as a soft market. We’ll have fewer quality options in the future. (WHY did Faith No More not play here this summer? And will the Temple of the Dog reunion announced this week please make a Boise stop? And can I not identify myself as a pathetic Gen-Xer any more blatantly?)
Fans turned out in droves many times this summer. Paul Simon jam-packed Outlaw Field. The Cure sold out CenturyLink Arena. Meghan Trainor performed for an impressively large crowd at the Ford Idaho Center Amphitheater.
But misses are evident. When Widespread Panic gigged here last month, the crowd was so small that a high-school buddy felt compelled to text me from Taco Bell Arena to say the promoter “got murdered.” And when you start receiving last-minute Groupon pitches for shows such as the Barenaked Ladies concert at Memorial Stadium, you know that ticket sales probably aren’t record-setting.
Creston Thornton, who owns the Revolution Center and promoter CTTouring, says he put on the brakes a month ago. After enjoying solid sales for many summer concerts announced in spring, he’s shifted his focus to booking fall shows.
Thornton says he counted something like 150 concerts, big and small, on sale at one point this summer.
“There’s just too many shows in the market,” he says. “And some shows that should have performed better got hit. It’s happening across the country because too many bands are touring at the same time. It’s not just Boise.”
Still, Boise is tricky. You might think that weekends are the best time for a concert. Not necessarily here. In summer, Idahoans hit the mountains for recreation. Then in late August and early September, we start thinking about the Western Idaho Fair and back-to-school supplies and Boise State football. Spending money on music feels less appealing.
Thornton expects the Korn and Rob Zombie tour next week at the Ford Idaho Center Amphitheater to draw as many as 10,000 fans. “On a Tuesday,” he adds happily. That’s a grand slam. He’s also encouraged by advance sales to Sublime with Rome and Dirty Heads (July 22) at Eagle River Pavilion, and to Revolution Center gigs such as Kansas (July 26) and Band of Horses (Aug. 15).
But the large-scale Warped Tour (Aug. 11) — returning to Nampa’s amphitheater for the first time in five years — is not exactly going ka-ching yet.
“People need to go out and buy the tickets and support that show,” Thornton says. “I mean, it’s not doing bad, but it’s not blowing the doors off yet. Or they can just say goodbye to that, like the Rockstar Mayhem Festival went away.”
The Soul Asylum/The Fixx show was at Thornton’s venue, the Revolution Center. “It should have done better,” he admits. “But it was summer. It got put on sale late.”
To compensate, the 2,200-capacity venue was configured to a 1,000-capacity club setting. The crowd, including much-appreciated freeloaders, filled about half that. Everyone heard old radio hits such as “Runaway Train” and “One Thing Leads to Another.”
“It was a great show!” Thornton says. “I went down with my wife and friends. We enjoyed it.”
That’s the thing: When we aren’t willing to leave our couches, it’s hard to realize what we’re missing. We’re all guilty of this sometimes.
How thrilled do you think James Taylor fans were at Taco Bell Arena this week when Carole King surprised everyone and joined him to sing “You’ve Got a Friend”?
“Go out and live, man!” Thornton urges with a laugh. “Rock on! See some music. Spend some money.”
Changes to Scene
Wondering where the Movies section went? Try page 24.
To freshen things up and place local stories where more readers will enjoy them, we’ve reshuffled sections. We’ve also taken content normally in the middle of the magazine — “Go Do It” event previews — made those articles bigger and spread them throughout Scene’s comprehensive calendar. These aren’t major changes, and we think you’ll grow to like them.
Need help finding things? Check out the “Inside” index at the bottom of page 3. Questions? Shoot me an email.
Michael Deeds on Twitter: @michaeldeeds