When will concerts in Wilmington return? – Entertainment – Wilmington Star News

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Some outdoor shows could return this fall, but concerts as indoor venues might not be back until sometime next year

Cape Fear Community College’s Wilson Center issued a “red alert” this week — literally.

On Tuesday, the largest indoor concert and theater venue in Wilmington lit itself up in red lights as a way to draw awareness to the plight of the live events industry, which has been inordinately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Live events were one of the first industries to shut down & will likely be the last to return,” read a statement on the venue’s Facebook page.

The post included a link to WeMakeEvents.org, a site supported by a coalition of trade bodies, businesses, unions and live events workers. The Wilson Center was one of about 1,500 locations that lit themselves in red as a way to encourage fans of live events like concerts to contact their representatives to pass legislation offering financial assistance to venues and other businesses that depend on live events.

Specifically, the groups behind the #WeMakeEvents hashtag are pushing for the extension of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, beyond the end of the year, and for Congress to pass the RESTART Act, which would offer financial assistance to some of the hardest-hit businesses, like those tied to the live events industry.

According to statistics provided by We Make Events, live events employ over 12 million people and contribute more than $1 trillion annually to the U.S. economy. The pandemic has led to the cancellation of more than 95% of all live events nationwide while 96% of entertainment companies have cut wages or laid off employees.

All in all, it’s not exactly a positive sign that the concert industry is poised to return in Wilmington or anywhere else anytime soon.

So when will Wilmington start seeing live concerts again? Nobody knows for sure, but some are saying it could be months.

Catherine Hawksworth owns the Modern Legend record and gift shop downtown and promotes local indie rock shows. She’s also worked in the concert industry, touring with Live Nation, On the List Presents and others to set up VIP meet-and-greets between fans and artists.

“I think we’ve still got a long ways to go” before Wilmington sees any concerts, especially at indoor venues, Hawksworth said.

She added that it might be “next year,” or even next summer, before Wilmington starts to see the types of show it was getting before the pandemic.

“The touring industry is just totally screwed right now,” she said. “But I think when it does come back it’ll come back full throttle.”

Of course, gatherings like concerts aren’t allowed until N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper moves the state into phase 3 of coronavirus restrictions, and even then venues would be under limited capacities. But there’s no guarantee the governor will do that when the current order putting the state under phase two expires Sept. 11.

Right now, there are a couple of shows still on the Wilmington concert schedule for this year, including at the open-air Hugh Morton/Greenfield Lake Amphitheater. Jazz/jam act Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe is on the schedule for Oct. 3 and reggae band Toots and The Maytals for Oct. 5. Both of those are looking unlikely, as Denson’s date isn’t listed on his website and Maytals singer Toots Hibbert just suffered a medical episode that put him in intensive care.

The Wilson Center doesn’t have any music scheduled for this year, although the small-cast show “Menopause: The Musical” is still on the bill for Oct. 3 and could conceivably be staged in a socially distanced setting.

Still, outdoor shows would logically be among the first to come back, mainly because the coronavirus is harder to catch in the open air than it is inside, especially if one wears a mask and is diligent with hand sanitizer.

Wilmington’s historic Thalian Hall, currently undergoing roof repairs, has its annual “bluegrass bash” of local acts scheduled for Nov. 20. Executive director Tony Rivenbark said the show could be done with social distancing inside or outside as conditions warrant, but right now theaters are not allowed to be open.

They wanted to have something on the schedule, Rivenbark said, “because we don’t want to find out suddenly that we can open and then not have anything.”

A festival-type concert of local acts was a good fit, he said, because it didn’t require the Hall to take the current uncertainty of the touring industry into account. Various unannounced shows are in the works as well, Rivenbark said.

“We’re ready to go,” he added. “We just can’t get the gangplank down.”

Thankfully, Wilmington hasn’t been totally without live music. The Wilson Center ran a drive-in concert series this summer with area bands including beach music favorites the Embers, and solo and duo acts have been making the rounds of restaurants and breweries. Hawkworth’s Modern Legend shop, a pre-pandemic concert spot, is spearheading the ILM Music Outpost initiative, a live-streamed series of local acts.

And rock club Reggie’s 42nd Street Tavern had a live-streamed concert from its stage in July to raise money for expenses. The venue is planning another upcoming live-streamed show with legendary Wilmington hard-rock acts Weedeater and ASG, but co-owner Charles Krueger said he doubts he’ll be able to have any public concerts before 2021.

“I hate to say it but we’re not confirming anything probably for the rest of the year,” he wrote in a Facebook message. “At this point we’re just hoping to get to operate as a neighborhood bar for the time being. Everything keeps getting pushed back again and again so I don’t want to confirm anything with anyone just yet. Hopefully that changes soon.”

Hawksworth said that even if the governor moved North Carolina to phase three and someone offered her a show to promote right now, “I would turn it down.”

“That’s a lot of people in a room. I mean, we still don’t know. There could be another spike.”

“There’s a lot of greediness in the music industry,” she added, but at the end of the day concerts are about “uniting people through music. Doing a big show right now would go against everything this industry is built on.”

Contact John Staton at 910-343-2343 or John.Staton@StarNewsOnline.com.

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