Record-breaking 2013 Meijer Gardens concert series boasts 30 shows E-mail
by John Sinkevics

sherylcrow2 If West Michigan concertgoers thought last year’s hectic 25-show lineup at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park was impressive, the 2013 summer series is over the top.

With returning stars Steve Miller, Umphrey’s McGee, Wynton Marsalis, Lyle Lovett, Los Lobos and Peter Frampton joining first-timers Sheryl Crow, Dwight Yoakam, Harry Connick Jr., The Beach Boys, Michael Franti and Grizzly Bear, Meijer Gardens has booked a record 30 summer concerts at the amphitheater, starting with a June 3 show by legendary bluesman B.B. King.

Indeed, the 11th season of Meijer Gardens concerts in the 1,900-capacity outdoor venue represents three times as many shows as the amphitheater hosted in 2003, its inaugural year.

While the continued growth of the series is “pretty remarkable,” concert promoter Chris Mautz, who books concerts for Meijer Gardens and for Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City, Utah, insisted organizers didn’t set out to schedule that many shows for 2013.

“We start each booking cycle with the same parameters: We really want to look at each individual potential artist in its own unique state and figure out if and how and why it might fit into our series,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate to expand the series, and each time we expand the series, the response has been really good.”

The 2013 season blends Motown hero Smokey Robinson, classic rocker Steve Miller and blue-eyed soul singer Michael McDonald – skewing toward older audiences – with emerging groups such as the folk- and bluegrass-flavored Old Crow Medicine Show and synth-pop’s Owl City. And as usual, the series covers multiple genres: rock, blues, country, R&B, pop, jazz, bluegrass, swing.

Seventeen of the 30 bookings represent returning acts to Meijer Gardens – 18 if you count The Beach Boys (Brian Wilson performed Beach Boys hits at the amphitheater in 2011). Still, Mautz stressed that some of the repeat artists haven’t been back to the amphitheater in years, while others will return with different musical collaborators and fresh shows: Frampton’s Guitar Circus Tour features Robert Cray; jazz giant Wynton Marsalis will perform this summer with the Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Discounted tickets go on sale to Meijer Gardens members at 9 a.m. April 27; sales to the general public begin May 11. In past years, several shows in the series have sold out to Meijer Gardens members during the pre-sale period and never made it to public sales.

The cost of tickets continues to inch upward: The average price of a 2013 ticket sold to the general public is $58.46, up from $55.44 last year. (The average price doesn’t include handling fees assessed for online and phone purchases; Meijer Gardens members get a discount.)

Mautz insisted Meijer Gardens is “conscientious about those ticket prices” and works with performers to keep prices as low as possible. But higher-profile artists often play larger venues with heftier payouts, he said, so that factors into pricing for an intimate venue like Meijer Gardens. And interestingly, many higher-priced shows often are the first to sell out, which could well be the case for popular singer-pianist Harry Connick Jr.’s first-ever appearance at the amphitheater on July 17.

Prices for 2013 range from a low of $40 (Gov’t Mule, Umphrey’s McGee, John Butler Trio, Owl City) to a new high of $92 for Connick. On the flip side, 10 concerts – one-third of the lineup – boast tickets priced at $45 or less, compare to nine in 2012.

Many of those cheaper tickets are for shows by up-and-coming acts catering to younger audiences, including first-time Meijer Gardens performers such as reggae’s Michael Franti & Spearhead on July 15, roots/jam outfit John Butler Trio on Aug. 2 and airy, inventive indie-rock’s Grizzly Bear on Aug. 3.

Like Bright Eyes and The Head & The Heart who played Meijer Gardens in recent years, Grizzly Bear is bound for Chicago’s hugely popular Lollapalooza festival. “I’m ecstatic to continue the trend toward picking up a hot band before a Lollapalooza performance,” Mautz said.

And clearly, snagging a rock/pop superstar such as Sheryl Crow is a real coup for the amphitheater – a high-profile booking that almost came to fruition last year.

“She’s an A-list artist, a household name,” Mautz said of Crow, a Grammy-winning, platinum-selling artist with seven No. 1 hits to her credit. The singer and multi-instrumentalist has delivered albums spanning a dizzying array of styles: rock, pop, soul and folk, with her first country album on the way. “It’s … an incredible band and such a fun, high-energy show.”

The promoter also said he’s pleased about landing country singer Dwight Yoakam, describing him as “an iconic figure in the music world,” and Robinson, a legendary hit-maker “who we’ve wanted to have at the Gardens for as long as we can remember.”

Meijer Gardens also will bring back popular prog-rock/funk jam band Umphrey’s McGee, singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile and rock’s Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, all of whom have electrified diverse audiences in past amphitheater performances.

“History tells us we’ve been doing a pretty good job. Our mission is to keep offering more experiences for people,” Mautz said. “I’m as pleased with this series from top to bottom as any series we’ve done. I can’t wait to get this thing rolling.”

To see Spins on Music’s list of the Top 12 Meijer Gardens concerts of all time, click on this link.

MEIJER GARDENS 2013 SUMMER CONCERT SERIES

June 3 - B.B. King ($57 presale, $60 member, $62 public)
June 7 - Dwight Yoakam ($48, $51, $53)
June 9 - Smokey Robinson ($77, $80, $82)
June 13 - Gov’t Mule ($35, $38, $40)
June 16 - Sheryl Crow ($75, $78, $80)
June 17 - Peter Frampton, Robert Cray ($68, $71, $73)
June 20 - Wynton Marsalis/Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra ($65, $68, $70)
June 21 - Los Lobos & Los Lonely Boys, Alejandro Escovedo ($53, $56, $58)
June 24 - Pink Martini ($45, $48, $50)
June 27 - Brandi Carlile, The Lone Bellow ($40, $43, $45)
July 3 – Umphrey’s McGee ($35, $38, $40)
July 5 - Montgomery Gentry ($62, $65, $67)
July 7 - David Byrne & St. Vincent ($60, $63, $65)
July 11 - Old Crow Medicine Show ($37, $40, $42)
July 15 - Michael Franti & Spearhead ($38, $41, $43)
July 17 - Harry Connick Jr. ($87, $90, $92)
July 18 - Steve Miller Band ($80, $83, $85)
July 21 - Grace Potter & the Nocturnals ($37, $40, $42)
July 25 - Chris Isaak ($55, $58, $60)
July 29 - Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers with Edie Brickell ($71, $74, $76)
Aug. 1 - The Beach Boys ($60, $63, $65)
Aug. 2 - John Butler Trio ($35, $38, $40)
Aug. 3 - Grizzly Bear ($40, $43, $45)
Aug. 5 - Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion with Sara Watkins ($67, $70, $72)
Aug. 8 - Randy Newman ($45, $48, $50)
Aug. 11 - Owl City ($35, $38, $40)
Aug. 15 - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy ($38, $41, $43)
Aug. 21 - Michael McDonald ($52, $55, $57)
Aug. 24 - Lyle Lovett & His Large Band ($62, $65, $67)
Sept. 5 - Indigo Girls ($45, $48, $50)

Meijer Gardens’ member pre-sale of discounted tickets runs 9 a.m. April 27 through 5 p.m. May 10. Tickets available online at startickets.com or by calling 800-585-3737, with $8 handling fee. Also available in person at Meijer Gardens admission desk with no fee. (Grand Room will open at 7 a.m. April 27 for members lining up for the first day’s ticket sales.)

Public ticket sales begin at 9 a.m. May 11.
Tickets available online at startickets.com or by calling 800-585-3737, with $8.75 in fees.
Also available at Meijer Gardens admission desk with no fees.
For Meijer Gardens memberships, visit meijergardens.org/membership.
Season ticket sponsorships – which include two tickets to every show with seating in the East and West Terraces, snacks, beverages and reserved parking passes – are available by contacting Katharine Kane at 975-3177 or emailing her at This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

Music critic and entertainment writer John Sinkevics comments on the local and national music scene at localspins.com, and spotlights artists at 10 a.m. Wednesdays on Local Spins Live at News Talk 1340 AM (WJRW). Email him at This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

Published April 11, 2013

 
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