Last Wednesday night, live country music returned to Anchorage as the new downtown bar, The Broken Blender, hosted the Nashville duo Love and Theft.
The sound of clinking glasses and excited chatter seemed to cover concerns that plagued many small business owners in 2020. For The Broken Blender co-owner Brad Erickson, it was the start of what he hopes will be a revival. small businesses downtown.
“Everyone’s story of COVID is different. You know, some people have lost friends and family members because of it. Some people have lost businesses; some people have lost their jobs. There are a lot of people in business who have taken advantage of COVID. So everyone’s COVID story is different, ”Erickson says.
Not only a restaurateur but also the owner of Erickson Unlimited, an event promotion company, Erickson’s own COVID story was not straightforward. Anchorage’s health warrants forced him to cancel numerous events, and financial woes with longtime supplier Brown Paper Tickets caused by canceled events across the country left him with $ 200,000 in revenue from sales. from previous shows.
As Erickson continued to produce smaller shows in Fairbanks, the Valley and the Kenai Peninsula, he faced a wave of public criticism for seemingly circumventing mandates on rally sizes.
“I know I was a hated man, but the reality is that there haven’t been any positive cases of COVID dating back to any of my shows in 2020. And we’ve had shows in Soldotna, Fairbanks, Kodiak and the valley. The reality is that I have done due diligence. I have spoken to the state. I have spent thousands of dollars on masks, hand sanitizer stations and thermometers, and we have really limited the number of tickets sold, ”he said.
But staying afloat during a global pandemic is just another thing Erickson has had to contend with as a concert promoter.
“[It’s] one of those things that people just don’t understand. It takes months and months and months, even a year, to plan things. You have to put all of your money up front and hope that you will sell enough tickets and enough people will come out to collect the money, ”Erickson said.
In addition to responding to artist requests, booking venues, and selling tickets, Erickson also has to adapt to the unique nature of concert promotions in Alaska.
“I’m talking to developers in Nashville, and they don’t seem to understand. I ask them, “Did you ever sell tickets to a concert because the salmon were running?” Well, it’s happening here, ”he said with a laugh.
But the fishing season is just one of the many peculiarities associated with being a promoter of the last frontier. Convincing top tours to take two days of travel to perform in front of a finicky Alaskan audience is a challenge in itself.
“We’re in the middle of nowhere and artists make their money by touring,” Erickson said. “It takes a long time to travel here, and often they see it as a loss of income. We are also a small market and are not going to sell the number of ticket seats like Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
The difficulty of seducing acts forced Erickson to find ways to soften the deal.
“In Bas 48, a promoter takes care of the logistics, and as soon as the concert is over, the job is done. Here, I take artists fishing, or hunting, or on a glacier cruise. It’s a lot more involved than you might think, ”he said.
While the hours are long and the work often thankless, Erickson said it was worth it because of the impact it has on the state.
“The most important thing you hear, especially now that things are open again, is’ Wow!
With 2020 in the rearview mirror, Erickson looks forward to reviving Alaskan small businesses, starting with a two-day country music festival in downtown Anchorage June 26-27 at the EasyPark Chinook Field. on Third Avenue and E Street.
An annual event, the ninth Backyard Country BBQ promises to be the biggest yet as it goes from a night to a multi-day multi-headliner festival featuring winner Sara Evans American Idol 2011 Scotty McCreery, Easton Corbin and the others. newcomers like Lainey Wilson, whose “Things a Man Outta Know” recently reached No. 14 on the country charts.
“I really, really wanted to do this downtown because of the severity of damage to businesses, hotels, bars and restaurants in 2020,” Erickson said.
He says his goal is to flood the downtown area with thousands of enthusiastic festival-goers.
“I hope people will stay downtown all day and go to a restaurant or shop. Maybe they will also stay at the hotel for the night. I think the atmosphere is going to be great, and hopefully that can revitalize the neighborhood as summer approaches, ”says Erickson.
However, Erickson is not alone in his business. McCreery lends a helping hand by bringing his entire band and team to the festival.
“Yeah, we’re bringing everyone in because playing in Alaska has been a trip on the to-do list for all of us. It’s the last state for all of us, so once we saw we were going we were going. we were like, “We’ve all got to go on this one,” said McCreery, which will be headline-grabbing Sunday.
McCreery’s full band making the trip is a big departure from most bands that travel to Alaska with small crews to keep costs down. But McCreery says his band couldn’t wait to perform again, so it was a no-brainer.
“Last week we put on a whole new show, and we have a new album coming out later this summer, so Alaska is going to hear some new music that hasn’t been released yet. We’ll be playing some old stuff as well, but it’s gonna be a new show. And the guys will be locked up and excited to play this stuff. You know, sometimes you get to play the same songs every night, so when you finally get to play new stuff, it feels like good, ”McCreery said.
Saturday night headliner Sara Evans echoed McCreery’s enthusiasm.
“I love doing shows. I love interacting with my fans. I love being on the road! My kids travel with me; my son Avery plays guitar for me and my daughter, Olivia, sings harmony for Me. My brother Matt is my bass player and my daughter Audrey also travels with us. So we’re just one big family. We literally take our house on the road, “says Evans.
McCreery and Evans both plan to play tourist for a few days after the festival.
“I think I heard Miranda Lambert say it a year or two ago. She said something like, ‘I’ve been pretty much everywhere, but I haven’t seen anything because all I see is the airport and behind the scenes. “It’s like that in a lot of the cities we’re on tour,” McCreery said. “So I’m glad we get to hang out and really see Alaska.”
The Backyard Country BBQ begins Saturday, June 26 at 3 p.m. with the opening acts Lilly Winwood, Lewis Brice, Texas Hill and Kendell Marvel. Easton Corbin is scheduled to take the stage at 7:15 p.m., followed by Sara Evans at 8:45 p.m. The doors will reopen at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 27 with the opening acts Josh Melton, Elvis Monroe and Lainey Wilson. Star Scotty McCreery performs at 8:30 pm Tickets are $ 55 per day or $ 100 for both days and are available at EricksonEvents.com.