Waterfront Concerts gives peek behind the curtain at booking shows

Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 5:20 PM EST
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Another week, another announcement from Waterfront Concerts.

On Monday we learned Lee Brice and Cole Swindell will be coming to the Maine Savings Amphitheater on May 28.

It’s the seventh concert on the books for the Bangor venue this season, and plenty more are coming.

“It’s really romantic for some people to think how easy it may be. It’s not easy,” Alex Gray of Waterfront Concerts said about booking shows.

Gray says there’s much more that goes into it than meets the eye.

“To get a 17 average show season, which has been our historical average since we opened in 2010, we probably put out 120 offers,” said Gray.

Now in its 14th year, the Maine Savings Amphitheater is coming off its biggest season in terms of star power. But it wasn’t always a given these acts would make the trek to a venue that’s – as Gray calls it – off the beaten path.

Thankfully, money talks.

“We overpaid. I mean, to be honest with you, it was literally overpaying artists to come to Bangor, Maine in the beginning,” said Gray.

Thanks to major financial investments and ongoing improvements, the venue’s reputation has grown, and Gray says they’re no longer overpaying.

Still, it can take years to convince certain acts to come.

“There are artists, like say Aerosmith that played Fenway in 2010, that we had been talking to really since the advent of the company. It was like one of those ones that we just couldn’t accept a no for an answer,” said Gray.

As for acts still out there, Gray says his white whale is Metallica. Stevie Nicks last year was a big one for him, too.

Knowing that, there are some acts on his bucket list that may surprise you.

“There’s this country artist named Jelly Roll that we’ve been chasing for years that could be the next big thing, in my opinion. And so, it’s just not all about getting the mega icons. It’s also about watching artists develop and really being in a position where we can foster their career,” said Gray.

Gray says they look to book artists in genres like country and classic rock that are proven to do well in the region. But he says they’re always listening to feedback from fans to try to determine what else it is they want.

The feeling of delivering is the best of all.

“For me, the ultimate rush is when the band takes the stage, and the crowd roars, and it’s louder than the PA is going to be all night,” said Gray. “That’s the part that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. That’s the real rewarding moment.”