It's not a new concept. Side stages were a fixture at the place back in the '90s when it was still known as Walnut Creek. But last year, General Manager Bob Klaus approached talent bookers Deep South Productions co-owners David Rose and Andy Martin to come up with some new ideas. "Our idea was to bring in sort of a higher caliber of Plaza stage acts," says Rose. In the past, the side stages were kind of a surprise novelty, largely un-advertised. "We wanted to make it actually a notable part of the evening--here's a band on the rise, a well-respected regional or in some cases national act playing early."
To give that feature higher visibility, they decided to move the stages into the Plaza area near the VIP tent. In their original locations up front, people passed by quickly. The new stages are right in the middle of things where people congregate.
The second change was to have the side stage acts play during intermission as well, in between the headliner and the support acts on the main stage. "From an artist's point of view, that is incredibly appealing," Rose says, "because the 25 minutes that they play between the two main stage acts is actually their most heavily attended part of the evening."
Local rap artist Dibiasi captured his audience on his May 21 debut on the Deep South/Indy acoustic stage with his go-go roots and down to earth approach. "I'm a grown man and I keep it real," the 30-year-old rapper said. "When I become a billionaire I'll tell you about that, but right now I rap about what I am, and what I want and what I want to be and what I want the world to be."
Dibiasi, who owns the Raleigh-based Network Records label, is down with his go-go past, performing the music that popped up in D.C. nearly 30 years ago, about the same time hip hop was starting in New York. It's a mix of calypso and hip hop, a little more hard core version of ska, D.C. style. "If you have 50 Cent out, we'll do that same song, but we'll slow it down, put some congas behind it, put a break in it, with just the drums and the congas--kinda like reggae, the same way reggae used to take a lot of the R&B songs and remake 'em reggae style."
Audrey Ball plans to use different tactics to attract her audience when she plays the acoustic side stage June 11 for the Toby Keith/Lee Ann Womack show. Ball is the daughter of country singer David Ball, who produced and engineered her last EP, Past Polite. Her band has been playing classic rock covers in the Elon College area where she's in school, but for this gig, she's doing all originals, going back to her country roots. "Lyrically, they're kind of rock based, but I'm from Nashville, Tennessee, so I can't hide my twang very well. It really comes through when I sing." She'll be accompanied by her drummer, Cade Colgate, who'll be playing guitar for this gig.
National acts are just as ready to perform on the stages as are locals, Rose has found. "Even for a national act that's relatively unknown or up and coming, it's a good gig. It's getting in front of a target audience and it's much more highly attended than if they were to just book themselves in a club."
The list of nationals include Vaughan Penn, a former local who will appear on the Z-Spotlight.com/ Lincoln Theatre Electric Stage at the Carole King show on July 17. Penn, who had a song on the TV series Dawson's Creek, has one of her original tunes featured in the recently released movie Kicking & Screaming starring Will Ferrell and Robert Duvall.
Rose says that the side stages have finally come to the point where it's a great thing for the venue, the fans and the artist. "It's providing additional music for fans and providing a more enjoyable fan experience, making the artist a part of the community. As long as they want to have us, we'll continue to do it."
June 11 Toby Keith with Lee Ann Womak and Shooter Jennings--Jule Brown
July 17 Carole King--Vaughan Penn
July 23 Earth, Wind, & Fire with Chicago--Sleeping Booty
August 12 Kenny Chesney with Gretchen Wilson and Pat Green--Jason Michael Carroll Band
August 24 Avril Lavigne with Gavin Degraw and Butch Walker--Rob Watson
Schedule and information at www.lincoln-theatre.com/electricstage.htm.
June 11 Toby Keith with Lee Ann Womak and Shooter Jennings--Audrey Ball
July 17 Carole King--Vienna Teng
July 29 James Taylor--Kyler England
August 12 Kenny Chesney with Gretchen Wilson and Pat Green--John Howie of Two Dollar Pistols
August 24 Avril Lavigne with Gavin Degraw and Butch Walker--Kyler England
August 27 Brooks & Dunn with Big & Rich and The Warren Brothers--Woodwork Roadshow
Schedule and information at www.deepsouthentertainment.com/plazastage.