An estimated 2,500 people attend each Concerts in the Park performance, according to organizer Arts Huntsville.
But amid coronavirus, this year only about 15 or so people will be there in-person for the summer series’ opening three shows.
Instead of usual locale Big Spring Park, those shows will be livestreamed from Mars Music Hall. Like most of the concert industry, the Von Braun Center’s gleaming new venue has been quiet and dark since March, after opening January and hosting acts like Jason Isbell, Billy Strings and Queensryche.
So, for the time being, there’s no need to haul camping chairs, blankets, etc. downtown for Concerts in the Park.
Just visit Arts Huntsville’s Facebook page to catch 6:30 p.m. sets by local combos Lamont Landers Band (June 1), Cotton and Clover (June 8) and Them Damn Dogs (June 15).
Other venues were considered for the livestreams. However, Concerts in the Park and Mars is a clever team up. And convenient.
“Arts Huntsville, the city and the VBC all work closely together all year long,” says Arts Huntsville publicist Patrice Johnson. “Therefore, when the opportunity presented itself the Mars Music Hall was, of course, at the top of the list.”
Recently, local nonprofit Arts Huntsville's resumed their busker-format Summer Street Jams, basically background music for revelers perambulating between downtown bars. And therefore, inherently socially distanced.
However, since Concerts in the Park draws throngs to the Big Spring Park lawn behind Huntsville Museum of Art, maintaining six feet between attendees would be problematic. In order to get the 2020 series rolling responsibly, Arts Huntsville turned to Facebook Live, which musicians across the globe have utilized to keep local music flowing during the pandemic. In March, Arts Huntsville had to cancel its Panoply Festival of the Arts, the city’s signature event, due to coronavirus concerns.
Concerts in the Park was founded in 1995. Bands are financially compensated for their performances. Interested acts are encouraged to apply via artshuntsville.org. “Arts Huntsville and Huntsville Department of Parks and Recreations have a committee that reviews the applications,” Johnson says. “A preference is given to local bands and we also look for diversity in genre to appeal to a variety of different tastes in music. Typically, we get around 80 artists/bands that apply. However, this year we didn’t really promote per usual due to uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and safety of the community.”
Beside performers, the only people in attendance at the first three 2020 Concerts in the Park will be production personnel and an Arts Huntsville staffer to conduct the broadcast. For live music fans interested in top local acts, these livestreams include some must-see sets. Lamont Landers is a pop-funk star-in-waiting, and a veteran of TV’s “America’s Got Talent” and “Showtime at the Apollo.” Them Damn Dogs are indie-rockers with a well-crafted new album, “Unpoetic Flavor,” dropping May 29.
Concerts in the Park is a 10-week series. Arts Huntsville is currently determining what format the next seven shows will take and declined to comment on any options being considered, besides more Mars Music Hall streams or a return to Big Spring Park’s green grass.
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