LOCKPORT – Thom Jennings, the Orleans County music writer who is attempting to organize a summer concert series for Lockport, said Tuesday that he envisions as many as six Friday night shows, starting July 11.
Mayor Michael W. Tucker confirmed that Jennings is the man he’s been dealing with in an effort to keep Friday night rock ’n’ roll on Lockport’s summer calendar.
After last year’s sixth annual series, the city parted ways with promoter Kathy Paradowski. The city, rated as under “moderate fiscal stress” by the state Comptroller’s Office, cut concert costs out of its 2014 budget.
The city was paying $8,800 per concert to rent a stage, and also was paying heavy police and fire overtime costs. The total city expense for 50 shows over six years was $684,414.
Jennings said he is working with a talent booker and a “logistics guy” to help hire the bands and handle the many details of concert organization.
Jennings said he’s still looking for a major corporate sponsor to underwrite much of the expense of the shows, but he said if the concerts are held, he will charge about $5 admission. Paradowski promoted free-admission shows and depended on beer sales to make ends meet.
Jennings said he intends to sell beer, but he commented, “Because we’re charging a $5 admission price, we’re not dependent on beer sales.”
He added that a series that went poorly would be “a stain on the community. I don’t want to embarrass Mike Tucker. He’s been a great ally.”
“We’re really leaning toward classic rock because it’s a great demographic. Artpark has proven that,” Jennings said. “It has a broad appeal. Young kids have been exposed to classic rock.”
He said new bands tend to “box out the older demographic,” but the bands he intends to sign will not send Lockport residents off to Google to find out who they are.
However, the opening act slots will generally be reserved for local groups, he added. He held out the possibility of a “theme night” with multiple national acts, such as a lineup of three bands that had hits in the 1980s.
Jennings said he intends to offer some sort of VIP seating, but he added, “We want to make the front of the stage open to everyone. It’s not going to be one of those deals where if you pay the $5 admission, you have to stand so many yards away.”
He said private security “is a must” to keep Tucker’s pledge that the new series won’t cost the city anything.
Jennings said he would prefer to shift the concerts back to Ulrich City Centre, where they were held from 2008-12. Last year’s series was held in a city-owned parking lot at Elm and Chestnut streets.