Jukebox: What’s up with all the ‘pavilion-only’ shows?

Artists themselves may choose a smaller venue configuration
Del McCoury, above, and David Grisman bring their signature bluegrass sound to Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on Friday.
Del McCoury, above, and David Grisman bring their signature bluegrass sound to Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on Friday.

Some 20 years ago, summer concert indoor/outdoor “sheds,” including Saratoga Performing Arts Center, began selling inside-seats-only to select shows, closing the lawn. This naturally draws the ire of fans who prefer the generally lower ticket prices, picnic possibilities and jump-around mobility of the lawn. Meanwhile, the number of “pavilion-only” shows grows: Ringo and John Fogerty last summer at SPAC, for example; Jackson Browne, Rob Thomas, the Australian Pink Floyd Show and perhaps others this season.

So, why “pavilion-only” shows?

Tim Tobin of LiveNation said by email that some tours hit the road specifically designed for theaters or small amphitheaters. “SPAC is great for this,” he explained, “since it’s both.” In other words, artists themselves may choose a smaller venue configuration.

Legacy artists whose audiences are aging out of concert-going face diminishing ticket sales. For them, playing smaller venues reduces the embarrassment of visibly smaller audiences by concentrating ticket buyers into smaller spaces. Legacy artists are also combining forces for the same reason. Performers who formerly could sell out SPAC by themselves are now teaming up, as Santana tag-teams with the Doobie Brothers at SPAC this summer. Such pairings sometimes make artistic sense, however. When Santana played SPAC in the ’80s, weakened by personnel changes and lack of hits, they brought the Neville Brothers as openers. When the Nevilles joined Santana onstage late in the show, they lifted the music mightily. But I digress.

While some fans accept the idea that “pavilion-only” shows enhance the concert experience through proximity, those who see monetary motives behind any show-biz policy decision might not be wrong, either.

Selling inside-seats-only demonstrates the principle of “artificial scarcity” that socio-economist Philip Slater described in “The Pursuit of Loneliness.” Limiting supply drives up prices by focusing supply and demand to the seller’s advantage. How many times a day do we hear “Buy now, while supplies last” or “You must call now”?

However, “pavilion-only” seats at SPAC for the July 5 Jackson Browne/Lucius show range from $40.50 to $204.50 (higher from resellers), while lawn seats are $49 for Dave Matthews Band July 13, and $46.50 for Santana and the Doobie Brothers Aug. 23.

So, in some cases, and depending on artists’ drawing power, “pavilion-only” seats may actually be a bargain.

Del McCoury and David “Dawg” Grisman (Jerry Garcia dubbed him that) reach back to bluegrass basics and forward into the future on Friday at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (30 Second St.). First a banjoist, now a guitarist and singer, Del met mandolinist Dawg at Del’s first show with Bill Monroe in 1963. They played their first-ever show together three years later in Troy at RPI. Del has restlessly pushed the bluegrass frontier with contemporary material including Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.” Thompson likes McCoury’s cover, calling McCoury’s crew the best bluegrass band around. Similarly creative, Grisman rocks tunes old and new by blender-izing tradition into a jazzy vortex. Playing together periodically around their own bands’ tours and recordings, they recorded “Hardcore Bluegrass” together in 2012. 8 p.m. $55, $45, $35. 518-272-0038 www.troymusichall.org

Wielding three banjos, sometimes fiddle, guitar and mandolin, Irish acoustic combo We Banjo 3 waves the flag of Irish revelry, hangs their heads low in Celtic melancholy and generally rips things up Friday at The Egg. They’re two pairs of siblings, hailed as Ireland’s answer to the Punch Brothers, and call their rambunctious music “Celtgrass.” 8 p.m. $34 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org

Sean Rowe plays a hometown show Saturday at the Hangar (675 River St., Troy) with big plans to match his big voice. The Troy-born troubadour, whose baritone blasts WAY down there and hits the heart directly, starts recording a new crowd-funded album next month. He recorded his last release “New Lore” with fan support and reunites this time with producer Troy Pohl (Kamikaze Hearts, Rowe’s albums “Magic” and “Madman”) in Wisconsin, where drummer/co-producer Shane Leonard and engineer Brian Joseph (Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver) join the project. “Troy fundamentally gets me and knows where I’m coming from,” Rowe said by email. “I couldn’t imagine making this album without him.”

Kickstarter contributors also receive Rowe’s “Used Songs” EP of covers: “I Hope I Don’t Fall in Love with You” (Tom Waits), “The River (Bruce Springsteen), “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll)” (AC/DC), “Go Home” (Lucius), “Papa Was a Rodeo” (The Magnetic Fields), “If I Could Only Fly” (Blaze Foley), and “Long Black Veil” (written by Lefty Frizell, classic recordings by Johnny Cash, and The Band). Rowe has sung these live for years, as their writers would sing them if they could. 8 p.m. $20. 518-272-9740 www.thehangaronthehudson.com

Classical guitarist Joel Brown and multifaceted troubadour Dave Maswick (keyboards as Chevrolet Blotto, bassist with the Stony Creek Band, solo artist of Brian Wilson-ian ambition) play and sing duets Friday at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs). They know how. 8 p.m. $20 advance, $22 door, $11 students and children. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org

Sloan Wainwright (yes, THOSE Wainwrights: Loudon’s sister, aunt to Rufus and Martha) and Cosy Sheridan (winner of Kerrville and Telluride songwriting contests) play the Caffe Saturday, both in duos: Wainwright with guitarist Steve Murphy, Sheridan with bassist Charlie Koch. 8 p.m. $18, $20, $10

Golfstrom combines familiar faces from chamber-jazz masters Heard (percussionist Brian Melick, bassist Bobby Kendall and clarinetist Jonathan Greene), plus accordionist-singer (often in Russian, French or Spanish) Sergei Nirenburg. They party in a patented European jazz/Klezmer style on Sunday. 7 p.m. $18, $20, $10
Earlier Sunday (1 p.m.), the Caffe hosts a benefit for the Saratoga Foundation for Innovative Learning, starring rock/jazz jammers Let’s Be Leonard. $25, students and children $20

Categories: Entertainment

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