There is one thing you can’t control when managing outdoor concerts; the weather. For example, we had wind, rain and hail and unseasonably cold temperatures at one of our turnkey outdoor concert event in April that kept the crowd small even as the weather got better as the showtime approached.
That was traumatic enough, but I have to say the July 3rd Concert put on by the City of Baytown, Texas was something to remember. The July 3rd concert is part of a two-day July 4th Celebration put on by the Baytown Parks and Recreation Department. TSE has been booking this concert and managing entertainer logistical issues for well over 20 years.
Rickey Davis Classic Band with a Tribute to Frank Sinatra was finishing up what was a top-notch performance as the first of two acts that evening. Dennis DeYoung & the Music of Styx was the headliner for this outdoor concert and Dennis was doing the customary “meet and greets” portion before he went on stage. It was a typical Southeast Texas summer day, hot and humid.
When Managing Outdoor Concerts Remember: You Can’t Control the Weather
The sun was shining, and the world was right. That’s when the black sky appeared on the horizon with those flashes of light we all know as lightening. It was apparent that a very bad storm was going to rain on our outdoor concert in the next few minutes.
Lloyd Lively, City of Baytown’s Multimedia Specialist & the event emcee made the announcement for fans to take cover in their cars until the storm blew over. Most Texas afternoon thunderstorms are hit and miss and don’t last long. At the time, that was our thinking that the Dennis DeYoung performance might be delayed for a while until the storm passed. Anyone who has been managing outdoor concerts understands these kinds of delays.
The crowd cleared, except a couple hundred of your most dedicated fans, and the wind started to pick up. The partially covered stage looked like a stepped-on ant pile. The sound and lights guys, the band’s crew, along with all the Baytown hands were working as quickly as possible to get the equipment covered, moved, etc. By now the rain was pouring and lightning was streaking down from the sky. We are talking Forrest Gump rain! A playlist of music from the Styx era was streaming through the speakers as though everything was “right as rain.” Ha! I look out onto the grassy knoll in front of the stage and can’t help but notice this old-timer with his silver hair & beard. He is standing unprotected in the rain jamming with his gentle moves to the sway of the music. It was PRICELESS! There were many more die-hard supporters still sitting in their lawn chairs & under any cover they could find.
I knew this was going to be more than an afternoon thundershower when I started to see vendor tents flying away as wind gusts reached up to 60 mph.
Forty-five minutes into the storm, there was no sign of it abating. It was time to get all the decisions makers together to figure out whether to cancel the performance. That’s a call that involves both the person in charge of the outdoor concert venue and the band’s tour manager. It’s the most difficult call when managing an outdoor concert. After all, the fans were already at the venue. In this case, it was a call to be made by Dave, Dennis DeYoung’s tour manager. Turns out he was at the police command post, looking at the radar along with the City’s Fire Marshall. The Fire Marshall is charged with the responsibility of making sure the people who came out would be safe from any lightening strikes.
While waiting for the tour manager to get back to the Green Room for the event, Scott Johnson, Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Baytown, and I hung out with Dennis and his band. Instead of sex, drugs and rock and roll, Dennis was singing old songs with his fellow keyboard player John Blasucci. I was talking with Suzanne, Dennis’ wife and backup singer and August Zadra (guitarist) was throwing cheese at everyone. Despite the weather, Scott & I were smiling from ear to ear reveling in the experience.
After all of us trooped back over to the command center to take another look at the weather, Dave asked everyone’s opinion as to whether or not to try to wait and do the show. We all wanted the show to go on, but for the band, audience and equipment to be safe as well. With the rain letting up somewhat on the radar, going from red and purple to green, TSE and others made the pitch to give the audience who had waited through this hellacious storm something for their loyalty.
To make a long story short, after several others gave their input Dave ended up saying yes to a 5-song set of their greatest hits. Score one for the home team in managing this outdoor concert.
The announcement was made and fans started exiting their vehicles and returning to their spots. It was touch and go up to the very moment they took the stage. These guys were simply amazing! They played their hits Lady, Mr. Roboto, Too Much Time on My Hands, Show Me The Way & ended ironically with Come Sail Away. Instead of staying backstage I decided to go out in front for one song. It was so magical as the rain came steadily down & the fans cheered on. This was a moment in time I will never forget.
Later Dave came up to me and Mike Black, a TSE Partner and my dad, and said, “Mike, you are going to have to give this win to Glenda. If it wasn’t for her, we would not have done the show. I had already told the band it was a no-go, but her persistence paid off.”
That’s the kind of persistence and dedication that TSE Entertainment brings to managing our outdoor concerts. It’s our goal to give the artists, talent buyers and audience the best performance possible under whatever circumstances we face.
The next day all festivities resumed as normal. Shane Smith & The Saints, Brent Brunson, & the one-and-only Roger Creager performed rain-free. This successful Independence Day ended with the most glorious fireworks show I have ever seen!
The next day we got an email from Kevin Troller, Baytown’s Assistant City Manager. He said; “Mike – I only see you at the 3rd and 4th of July; but you make me smile. You know your stuff, and you take care of us making sure we always have great shows. Thanks to both you and Glenda this year. I see the rapport you two have, and I think it’s awesome you’ve brought her up in the business. The weather was a challenge; but overcoming obstacles makes it all the sweeter. I wish you the best always — and look forward to seeing you and Glenda next year.”
Despite the horrendous storms, TSE Entertainment’s clients, i.e. the City of Baytown, Texas and the bands that we booked were more than satisfied with our performance. Sometimes it takes circumstances such as we faced to separate booking agencies who only book from those of us who have seen it all when it comes to outdoor concert events. After all, we’ve been managing outdoor concerts since 1975.