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Pavilion getting breath of fresh air

Christian rockers open season at Sweetwater venue



Published May 3, 2022

Things are about to pick up at the Sweetwater Performance Pavilion.

After missing 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Pavilion started things back up in 2021, but is looking to really turn things up this year, coming out of the gates fast with Needtobreathe set to perform Thursday, May 12.

“Everybody is ready to get back to live music,” said Samantha Hunter, artist relations manager at Sweetwater Sound. “The excitement is there, the need is there, the crowd is ready. So, it’s like a fight to get artists. It’s been a very interesting booking process.”

Thankfully, getting Needtobreathe on the schedule didn’t require any fight at all.

“It was one of those first shows to come in, and be like, ‘Hey, we’re looking for a date in the area.’ We had actually heard of them because we had been looking at some shows similar to them,” she said. “So we were happy when their agent reached out to us. It does start our season a little earlier than we typically do. Usually, we wait until June to get started, because the weather can be dicey. But we felt like it was a show worth putting out there.”

And from the response of fans, that was a wise choice. Before Sweetwater was even selling tickets, many fans were buying them up through their membership in the band’s fan club, The Insiders.

“The reaction we saw was awesome,” Hunter said. “We had sold 80 percent of the tickets within the first week of them being on sale. So, we were thrilled about that.”

Recording in pandemic

The Grammy-nominated Needtobreathe released their eighth studio album, Into the Mystery, last summer. Recorded in right in the thick of the pandemic in the fall of 2020, vocalist/guitarist Bear Rinehart believes all that uncertainty can be heard on album.

“Probably more than any other record of ours, it was a product of what was going on in the world and our environment,” Rinehart said in a press release. “We didn’t second guess ourselves much or look over our shoulders. Even the spirit of the record was a result of the moment. You can hear everybody’s personality and imprint. It felt like we got this opportunity to make a record like a family.”

Formed in 2001, the Christian rockers sport a platinum single, four gold singles, and a gold album with 2009’s The Outsiders. The group was also nominated for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song at the 2015 Grammys for their song “Multiplied” off their album Rivers in the Wasteland.

Joining Rinehart in the quintet is bassist Seth Bolt, keyboardist Josh Lovelace, drummer Randall Harris, and guitarist Tyler Burkum, who joined the band following the departure of co-founder Bo Rinehart in April 2021.

attracting talent

Due to the cancellation of the 2020 season, all the bands scheduled for that year at the Pavilion had their shows moved to 2021. This year, as acts are getting more into the swing of things, there’s a bit of an arms race.

Thankfully for Sweetwater, they have a couple of things working for them.

“We’re right in the middle of a lot of markets, plus we’re outside of the radius clause for most of them, so it really is nice that (bands) can be easily routed between the markets,” Hunter said. “We’re kind of the perfect spot, because we’re right off US 30, so people are traveling through. And it does hurt that we’re the music instrument retailer that we are. But we love it too, because when artists are here, we can do so much with them: We can have them at the Pavilion, we can do workshops, and master classes.”

The schedule isn’t quite complete, but following Needtobreathe, the Pavilion will welcome in blues rocker Kenny Wayne Shepherd with Samantha Fish and special guests Shemekia Copeland & Ally Venable Band on June 11, with by Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo visiting June 19, Night Ranger on Aug. 10, Yacht Rock Revue on Aug. 18, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic performing the music of Led Zeppelin on Aug. 20, and Pink Droyd on Sept. 22.

“We love to have a variety, so we try to have as much diversity as we can,” Hunter said. “I really think there’s something for everyone out of the Pavilion.”

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