Words & Deeds

By the numbers: Summer concerts, festivals in Boise drew eager crowds

Fans jammed to Kaleo at the first Alive after Five of the year on the Basque Block.
Fans jammed to Kaleo at the first Alive after Five of the year on the Basque Block. kgreen@idahostatesman.com

In Boise, when summer ends, regret begins.

All those outdoor concerts you coulda, woulda, shoulda gone to? You now have plenty of time to mope while you rake leaves.

Last week, Neil Young capped the year by rocking 4,000-capacity Outlaw Field at the Idaho Botanical Garden, graciously allowing Boise to milk its summer music season into early fall.

But don’t feel too bad if you missed out. Chances are, you saw other great shows this summer. Boiseans partied at lots of concerts and festivals. Promoter Creston Thornton, owner of CTTouring and the Revolution Center, estimates that the number of shows in the Boise area — indoors and outdoors — was up 20 percent. “I’ve never seen it like this,” he says.

Because of competition, there were a few less-than-stellar turnouts. But let’s stay positive. Here’s a look back at successful events at popular outdoor venues.

▪  Gotta love Pronto Pups. Total attendance at the Western Idaho Fair over 10 days was 243,474. That’s a 5-percent incease over 2015. Several weekdays were super busy, thanks in part to this year’s packed grandstand concerts — 13,103 for Josh Turner, and 11,582 for Pat Benatar?

So what spiked those grandstand turnouts? (Seriously, 9,234 for what essentially amounted to a Foreigner cover band?)

“We believe the high attendance numbers were based on a strong lineup coupled with fantastic weather,” fair spokesperson Becki Woodbury says.

Bring back Weird Al Yankovic. Attendance records will be smashed.

▪  Blue skies also blessed Outlaw Field this summer — mostly. The first concert for Erin Anderson, new executive director at the Idaho Botanical Garden, was Cyndi Lauper on Sept. 21.

“Cyndi was cold and wet,” Anderson remembers. “But that did not deter the crowd. Everybody was very energetic and excited to be here.”

It’s tough not to enjoy yourself at Outlaw Field, which hosted a 12-concert season. Two shows sold out: The aforementioned Young and Paul Simon. Other notable shows: Steve Miller (nearly sold out) Tony Bennett (ditto), Willie Nelson and Bonnie Raitt (who apparently fell in love with the Boise Greenbelt during her stay).

“We felt like it was a really successful concert season,” Anderson says, “and we’re looking forward to next season.”

▪  Ford Idaho Center Amphitheater in Nampa offered variety. That meant country (Jacksons Stomp), folk-rock (Avett Brothers) and plenty more. The Life in Color EDM-and-paint party splattered nearly 4,000 (they expect to do it again in 2017), pop singer Meghan Trainor performed for almost 6,000 fans, and the Rob Zombie-Korn headbanger show lured nearly 8,500. “We’re definitely pleased,” Idaho Center general manager Tim Savona says.

▪  Summerfield Concerts at Memorial Stadium got off to a well-received start in the home of the Boise Hawks. Lindsey Stirling ended the four-concert series Oct. 3, drawing a crowd of about 3,000. The other shows were Leon Bridges, Barenaked Ladies and Boston. Mark Dinerstein, president of promoter Knitting Factory Presents, says the series will return in 2017. “We were extremely happy with the results,” he says. “It’s a beautiful space.”

▪  Free Wednesday concert tradition Alive After Five moved to the culturally rich Basque Block because of construction in The Grove Plaza. As expected, attendance dipped slightly. But many Boiseans told the Downtown Boise Association that they enjoyed the change of scenery, executive director Lynn Hightower says. In 2017, Alive After Five will return to the spiffed-up Grove Plaza and its revamped, iconic fountain. “I’m one of those looking forward to seeing the new fountain,” Hightower says, “and how much it will add to the experience of the event next summer.”

Alive After Five kicked off its summer season in 2016 at its temporary location on the Basque Block with the band Kaleo as the first headliner.


▪  The Village at Meridian’s free Rock the Village series entrenched itself as a community staple. An estimated 68,000 people entered Fountain Square over eight Friday nights. That’s up “several percentage points” over 2015, general manager Hugh Crawford says. Two reasons caused the bump. First, touring tribute bands cranked crowd-pleasing hits from the Eagles, Elton John and Fleetwood Mac. Secondly, headliners played earlier sets: 6:30 to 8:30, which allowed concertgoers to shop, dine or see a movie afterward.

▪  Tour de Fat filled Ann Morrison Park with smiles and goofy costumes. The festival attracted about 12,000 bicycle and beer fans, and the same number for the bike parade, according to organizer New Belgium Brewing Co.

▪  Attendance at the huge Hyde Park Street Fair was down a smidge during its three days at Camel’s Back Park. But it still came close to hitting the roughly 40,000 people that it did last year. “Daytime numbers were up and nighttime numbers were down from last year,” event coordinator Carl Scheider says. “We had great weather, but it got cold early.”

▪  The days of a truly massive Treasure Valley brew festival in a park are probably over. But the third Hoptober Freshtival got bigger, thanks to 2,300 drinkers Oct. 1 in Downtown Boise. Beer Wars, the annual IPA battle hosted by 10 Barrel Brewing Co., swelled similarly. It pulled in about 2,000 Boiseans on Sept. 3.

Ultimately, with all this amazing warm-weather entertainment in Boise — arguably too much for a market this size — what should we expect in 2017?

“I think it’s going to be a big year for everybody,” the Idaho Center’s Savona says. “I think it’s going to be busier.

“It’s terrifying!” he only half jokes.

Just not as terrifying as the thought of summer in Boise being over.

Michael Deeds: 208-377-6407, @michaeldeeds