BANGOR, Maine — Waterfront Concerts is poised to have fewer, but bigger shows in 2014, as the first event of the series hits Darling’s Waterfront Pavillion Saturday with Rise Above Fest, an all-day hard rock festival.
Waterfront Concerts promoter Alex Gray said Tuesday that he has confirmed 15 shows for this season, down from 19 last year but he expects attendance to hold steady if not exceed previous years.
“History with these artists would lead you to believe we have a big season on tap,” Gray said, citing the early sellout of the Dave Matthews Band concert, as well as other big turnouts expected. Among the acts scheduled are country stars Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley and Willie Nelson; classic rock bands Boston, Styx, Foreigner, and Steely Dan; and singer Sarah McLachlan.
Gray declined to disclose exact attendance numbers from 2013, saying he is contractually bound from disclosing those figures, but did say the events drew more than 100,000 patrons. In 2013, a University of Maine economist released a study that found more than 200,000 people had attended the series in its first three years, pumping more than $30 million into the local economy. Attendance figures had grown steadily each year.
Gray said the UMaine researcher who compiled the last economic report is in the process of finalizing an updated version, which has been sent out for peer review.
While the bulk of Waterfront Concerts have been held along the Bangor Waterfront, the series has stretched to other parts of the state as well. The series promoter has announced a trio of shows on the Maine State Pier in Portland this summer — Reggae Fest, Dierks Bentley and 3 Doors Down. Both Bentley and 3 Doors Down are returning to Maine after performing in Bangor last summer. Portland City Council this week gave Waterfront Concerts the green light to schedule more shows in the city this summer.
Performances launch Saturday with Rise Above Fest, featuring Avenged Sevenfold, Seether and Black Stone Cherry. City officials expect noise issues to resurface with this first, longest, and potentially loudest event of the year.
City Manager Cathy Conlow sat down with members of the City Council Tuesday night to update them on this season’s concerts plans. As part of that update, she said the city would be working with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and Acentech, a Boston-based audio consultant, to study sound at three sites throughout the year. One location will be in Brewer, another in Bangor and the third will be at the mix tower at the venue.
The total cost of the study is about $25,000, and Waterfront Concerts agreed to cover about $15,000 of that. The rest will come from the downtown TIF, Conlow said.
The city also will invest about $20,000 in the site this year to upgrade drainage at the venue. During construction of the new stage, the city scaled back the amount of drainage it put under the relocated venue to cut costs. The city didn’t anticipate an unusually rainy season in 2013, which resulted in drainage problems, mud and a funky smell. Those issues were resolved by the end of the season, but this work should prevent those issues from resurfacing.
Meanwhile, long-term contract talks between Waterfront Concerts and the city that would keep the concerts going into 2021 have been put on hold until the sound study is completed and those issues are addressed.
Gray said Bangor officials have been great to work with and called stalling negotiations toward the long-term renewal “the reasonable thing to do” until noise concerns are resolved.
“We’re excited for another great season,” Gray said.