After more than a year without a concert, Headliners Music Hall has announced six shows — mostly by local bands — that will take place throughout May in the parking lot shared by the venue and its neighbor, Distillery Commons.
Things kick off with Quiet Hollers and Heather Summers on Friday, May 14, followed by the Fleetwood Mac cover band Back2Mac on Saturday and Sunday, May 15 – 16. Two weeks later, Nick Dittmeier & The Sawdusters and Wolfpen Branch will perform on May 28, followed Keller Williams (who is currently on an outdoor-only national tour) on May 29. Finally, the series will end with Carly Johnson’s long-awaited album release party with guest Scott T. Smith on May 30.
“Thanks to all of your support during these trying times, we’re going to come back better than ever,” Production Simple and Headliners Music Hall co-owner Billy Hardison said in a press release. “And we’re not taking your concern and generosity for granted. We love our city and we want to continue to help it heal. Come join us and let’s step into a brighter future.”
All concerts will be completely seated, with four-person pods being sold between $80-$156, depending on the show. Those can be purchased beginning at noon on Friday, April 2 via the Headliners website. No individual tickets will be sold, and all pods must be bought in advance. The pods will be distanced at least six feet from one another, and drink service will be provided. Every event will be cashless, and masks will be required whenever you leave your pod.
The Road Back
When bars reopened at the end of last June, with 50% capacity limitations and social distancing requirements, the consensus among local venues was that concerts were still too dangerous and challenging to hold, despite significant financial setbacks. Most promoters LEO spoke with back then felt the virus was still too present to have safe shows, and aspects including state-to-state travel and capacity restrictions compromised effective touring and profitable concerts.
Since then, some have returned to holding live music, but on a much smaller scale. Headliners, a 700 capacity venue, has not had an inside concert since the pandemic began in March, because, after adhering to distancing measures, it would only be able to get 100 people into the venue.
But, an outdoor, parking lot show offers a safer and more practical alternative. And it currently allows for more fans — 356 per show.
“It’s twofold — the safety factor definitely comes into play,” Hardison told LEO. “As the science shows, with being outside. Not everyone is going to be vaccinated yet. We haven’t reached herd immunity…And it allows us to hit the economic equation of being able to sell more tickets, because we have more area to do that. We’re not bound by those walls.”
Headliners attempted to hold outdoor, parking lot concerts last fall, but by the time they were able to figure out the new set-up and schedule in October, the surge hit, and they canceled those shows out of concerns for public safety.
“I still stand by our decision then — we did head into a surge,” Hardison said. “We made the right decision to cancel those shows. And we think we’re making the right decision now, to go ahead and move forward with these.”
“And I’d like to think that the majority of our ticket buyers are going to choose to be vaccinated, so that’s encouraging,” Hardison continued.
A Long-Awaited Party
Prior to the pandemic, singer-songwriter Carly Johnson was scheduled to release her debut full-length via a concert at Headliners on May 15, 2020. Now, the album has already been released, but when the show to celebrate it happens during this outdoor series on May 30, Johnson intends to bring a 16-piece band so her layered, soulful record comes to life.
“I’m pulling out all of the stops for this one,” Johnson said. “I’m having a four-piece horn section, three back-up singers. There’s going to be a string quartet. It’s going to be all of the things that I want. It took a lot of people to make this record happen, so I want it to sound like it should.”
Johnson also feels good about how Headliners designed and planned this series.
“I think it’s so cool how creative they’re being, about making it happen outside, and it’s going to be safe, and it’s going to be fun — I don’t feel like we’re compromising anything. I think, if anything, what this has all taught us is that the music industry is as resilient as we hoped. And now, looking at this new approach, having it outside, there’s going to be drink table service — it sounds like it’s going to be more fun than before. Everybody gets a seat. It sounds like a really nice, well-oiled machine of a festive-type feel.”