The last concert at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor was on August 28, 2019 when the rock band Breaking Benjamin performed. Since then, the coronavirus pandemic has kept the 16,000-seat venue on Bangor’s waterfront still – until Thursday, when country artist Luke Bryan takes the stage on the first show in nearly two years.
With the concert date here, the employees of Waterfront Concerts from Old Town, the company that puts on shows on site, barely had time to take stock that they can finally do what they do again – bring live music to Maine – when there are so many other fires to put out all the time.
“When people ask me if I think a show is going well, I tell them I can’t judge it until I see the last taillights of a truck pull out of the loading area,” said Alex Gray, president of Waterfront Concerts . “The last two years have been unprecedented. There are a thousand things to worry about. So it’s hard to smell and smell the flowers that we’re bringing live music back to Bangor. “
The Darlings Waterfront Pavilion is preparing for the first concert of the season, Luke Bryan, on Thursday. Photo credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN
Gray said he and his staff will follow all state and local guidelines when it comes to pandemic safety. Concert goers do not need to wear masks or show a vaccination card to enter the venue.
“We hope everyone is aware of their individual risk threshold,” said Gray. “Thankfully this is an outdoor venue, and science says the chances of broadcasting outdoors are dramatically less than indoors.”
Regardless of concerns of individual concert-goers about going to a gathering of thousands of people, ticket sales for Thursday’s show are robust and Gray expects a sell-out to occur. This year there will be three more concerts in Bangor, including classic rockers KISS on August 19th and country artists Thomas Rhett on August 20th and Brad Paisley on September 25th.
As for the venue itself, staff had to work around Bangor City’s massive, multi-year canal construction project aimed at preventing sewage from entering the Penobscot River, which began in February 2020. Currently, the area in front of the venue along Railroad Street is an excavation site, and the area behind the venue leading towards the Hollywood Casino is still in the middle of installing a 3.8 million gallon underground storage tank.
Preparations are underway at Darlings Waterfront Pavilion for the first waterfront concert of the season, Luke Bryan, which will perform on Thursday. Photo credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN
It’s not the first time concert staff have had to deal with construction work right outside the walls of the venue. The corporate headquarters of Bangor Savings Bank was built directly in front of the main entrance in 2017 and 2018, and the preparatory work for the canal project began in 2019.
But once the concert goers enter the venue, Gray says, it won’t look any different from the inside – in fact, it’s been improving since people last attended concerts in 2019.
“We increased the lawn from 21 feet to 33 feet, which gives people with seats in the back of the venue a much better view of the stage,” he said. “This is a big development that nobody apart from the contractors has really seen.”
The other planned improvements to the venue, such as more seating, permanent concession booths, and a new main entrance area on Railroad Street, are likely to be delayed as the company tries to recover from its nearly two-year pandemic hiatus.
Although Waterfront Concerts received a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant of $ 9.76 million from the US Small Business Administration last month, that money will be used to prop up the company, which also runs venues like the Maine Savings Pavilion in Westbrook and Bold Point Park in East Providence, Rhode Island. That money has yet to be paid out to Waterfront Concerts or to any of the 75 other Maine organizations that have received $ 36 million in federal funding.
But assuming there are no more pandemic curve balls thrown in our direction, Gray expects the 2022 concert season to be the biggest to date in Bangor – and possibly in the history of the live music industry.
“There’s just a lot of catching up to do,” said Gray. “The number of tours that have been postponed in the past two years means that some of the greatest artists in the world – artists we’ve been looking for for years – are now a real possibility for Bangor. It should be an incredible year for music. “
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