If reinvention is the key to relevance in today’s music business, fans of Rochester’s Americana Showcase concert series will be glad to know the change-ups to this year’s fall season are because the series is more relevant than ever.
The concerts will shift from their traditional Wednesday night to Friday night. And the concert schedule has been narrowed to three concert dates from four, with Sam Llanas, the co-founder of T he BoDeans, headlining the Oct. 14 season opener with Six Mile Grove opening the show.
Organizers say the effect of the condensed schedule and move to Friday nights will be the ability to bring in more established, marquee musical groups. With the same resources spread over a shorter line-up, the hope is to make the concerts more of an “event.”
In addition to Llanas, who pursued a solo career after 25 years with the BoDeans and who recently released his 12th studio album, “The Whole Night Thru,” the Knoxville-based Black Lillies will be part of the fall line-up. The one exception to the Friday night dates will be the series’ traditional, dancing-in-the aisle Christmas concert featuring Trailer Trash, which will be held on Wednesday night.
The first concert will be Friday, Oct. 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the Rochester Civic Theater.
“We wanted to really focus on three awesome shows as opposed to four that were kind of OK,” said Brandon Sampson, lead singer for Six Mile Grove and the originator of the concert series. “It takes about the same resources to pull off three as it does four.”
The changes also reflect the fact that Americana Showcase, now in its eighth season, has grown in stature among musicians in the Midwest. When the concert series was conceived eight years ago, the idea was to introduce bands and a kind of music – steeped in blues and early rock and propelled by storytelling – never heard live before by Rochester audiences.
The concerts would be live and set in the intimate, 300-seat confines of the Rochester Civic Theatre. In the beginning, Wednesdays were seen as the best “routing opportunity” to draw high-caliber groups and musicians to Rochester who performed in Chicago or Minneapolis on weekends, Sampson said.
Even if they had wanted to, Friday nights, at least in the beginning, probably wouldn’t have been a feasible time to hold the concerts, given Rochester’s location between the two metropolitan musical poles. But as the series has grown in reputation among musical circles, Rochester has developed a gravitational force of its own.
“Our goal is to make the Rochester Civic Theatre the stop on the Americana Highway,” said John Wheeler, steel guitarist for Six Mile Grove. “We’re going to the next level up of nationally recognized artists.”
But there is a heftier price tag that comes with punching up into a heavier weight class, and that is reflected in the larger fees that it takes to bring these bands to Rochester, Wheeler said. Not only will the names be bigger, but the bands themselves will be bigger (Llanas’ band, for example, will feature four or five members). Their pay, consequently, will be as much as twice what previous bands received.
Organizers hope the shift to Fridays will also find a larger potential audience in a city that values its sleep and found Wednesdays an inconvenient time to attend a concert.
“They’re going to be more conducive to going,” Wheeler said. “On the other hand, we’re going to be competing with Friday night activities. We got to make it good.”