FARGO — Jade Nielsen stood in The Hall, the new events space at Fargo Brewing Co., on Thursday, March 25, watching the sound system go up.
A co-owner of Fargo Brewing and the biggest local concert promoter in Fargo-Moorhead, the sight and sounds brought a smile to his face.
“It’s been a long time. It feels good,” he said.
For most of the past year, Nielsen’s events promotion company, Jade Presents, has been more busy postponing and canceling dates as the COVID-19 pandemic brought the concert industry to a standstill. Watching the sound system get installed last week, however, was like a sign of spring for the veteran promoter as he’s looking to book more shows at Fargo Brewing and other locations in the area.
“It seemed like three or four weeks ago someone turned the faucet on a little and we started getting this trickle of calls from agents looking for dates this summer and into the fall,” he said. “It feels like the industry is starting to move a little and get things booked."
Early last week, Jade Presents announced seven events at the newly renovated Fargo Brewing, 610 N. University Drive, including the main act for its reopening celebration on April 20: Minneapolis band The 4ontheFloor.
Nielsen said more events are already on the books for Fargo Brewing, with announcements coming out over the next few weeks.
“I think this summer we’ll do 20 or 30 events — some inside, some outside, some seated some standing-room-only at a reduced capacity,” he said.
While the concert industry may be moving in the right direction, Nielsen isn’t turning up the volume just yet.
“I’m still being cautious. This thing isn’t done,” he said, referring to a recent rise in COVID-19 cases.
So far, that means more comedy shows and music concerts. In February, comic Chad Daniels played Sanctuary Events Center, and earlier this month, Brian Regan played four shows in two nights, selling out three shows at the downtown Fargo venue that were limited to about 135 seats. All together, about 500 people saw the stand-up comic — comparable to what he did when he played the Fargo Theatre in 2018 before the pandemic.
“It appears some comics are open to getting out and working sooner. It hasn’t necessarily been our push to going that way, just less interest from musicians,” he said.
Nielsen added that while comedy shows can easily adhere to social distancing guidelines by selling seats at tables, most musicians like playing to full rooms.
“That doesn’t lend itself as possible now,” he said
Still, he has been fielding an increasing amount of calls from a variety of musicians looking for dates in May and beyond.
As far as Moorhead’s Bluestem Amphitheater, another venue he books, country superstars Alabama are still on to play June 4 — one year after the group's initially booked concert date, assuming Minnesota raises the capacity limitation from 50 percent. If not, the show couldn’t financially work and would likely be postponed again, Nielsen said.
That will be the only concert there until after Trollwood Performing Arts School's mainstage musical, “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” ends its three-week run at the end of July. After that, he’s looking at shows at the amphitheater through August and into September.
One event already on sale is Sister Cities Smokeout, a mix of barbecue, beer and music, on Aug. 28 and 29. Tickets are selling well for this event, Nielsen said.
At the Fargodome, General Manager Rob Sobolik said in addition to Happy Harry's RibFest, set for June 9-12, this summer will feature the rescheduled Maroon 5 and Guns N’ Roses concerts on Aug. 6 and 11, respectively. But in general, the acts that play larger venues aren’t adding new dates just yet.
“We’re still waiting to see how everything pans out,” he said. “The smaller venues will come back faster and the bigger venues will be down the road.”
Moorhead’s RiverHaven Events Center, another Nielsen partnership, will add another patio music series this summer, he said.
He’s also been in discussions with the Red River Valley Fair about producing some non-RRVF shows on the fairgrounds, and he's been in contact with the owners of the Fargo Blues Festival about working together after the festival's founder, Dan Bredell, died in February.
“I’ve talked to them about taking it over, but I know that they’ve talked to others,” he said.
As fall settles in and outdoor shows become unfeasible later this year, Nielsen thinks performers and audiences will be ready to warm up to indoor shows. He’s already received inquiries looking for holiday shows in December.
“It feels like when we get into fall, it will be more business as usual,” he said.