FARGO — With five shows over four days, including three at Bluestem Amphitheater and one at the Fargo Theatre, this is the biggest weekend in a long time for local concert promoter Jade Nielsen of Jade Presents.
The concert industry was hit hard by the COVID pandemic, but things were looking up after vaccinations became readily available this spring.
“All of a sudden it was like a faucet on full blast and now it’s wait and see,” Nielsen said from the grounds of Moorhead's Bluestem on Thursday, Aug. 12, as he was getting ready for that night’s show with country singer Cody Johnson. That same night, he had Corey Taylor playing outside at Fargo Brewing Co.
The “wait and see” is a reaction to the new delta strain of the coronavirus rolling across the country. As of Thursday afternoon, none of the Jade Presents shows have been affected by the virus, but he’s seen it have an effect on the industry.
Earlier in the week, roots rock band The Avett Brothers rescheduled a show in Wichita, Kan., for next summer over health concerns of an indoor gig during the pandemic. The act is scheduled to play Sept. 12 at Bluestem, but hasn’t announced any plans to cancel outdoor shows.
Also earlier in the week, singer-songwriter Jason Isbell made news by announcing he was requiring all attendees to provide either proof of vaccination or a negative test before entry.
Nielsen said decisions on whether shows go on as initially planned are not his to make.
“It will be done by the artist or the venue. I don’t feel as a promoter that it’s my role to make those calls,” he said.
On Friday, singer Shakey Graves announced he was postponing his tour, including a Friday stop at Fargo Brewing Company, due to COVID concerns.
He said at those locations it would be a vote among all of the partners. Still, he stressed that he and his venues follow local and statewide health protocols.
After Thursday, Jade Presents still has six more nights of concerts at Bluestem, including hard rock band Seether on Friday, Aug. 13, and country singer Cole Swindell on Sunday, Aug. 15, and the two-day festival, Sister Cities Smokeout, set for Aug. 28 and 29.
On Saturday, Aug. 14, singer and guitarist Robert Cray will be the first major live performance at the Fargo Theatre. Jade Presents has 13 more shows booked there the rest of the year.
Of the 45 Fargo-Moorhead shows Nielsen has lined up through the end of the year, 15 are outside and none later than Needtobreathe on Sept. 23 at Bluestem.
The promoter said since shows started picking up again earlier this summer, ticket sales have been pretty close to 2019 levels, the last full summer of concerts before the pandemic.
In particular it’s been a bountiful summer for hard rock fans, as Jade Presents featured a limited time offer of tickets for $25 or less for rock shows in August, a reaction to having so many rock shows in the month, including Pop Evil on Aug. 18 at Sanctuary Events Center and Rock the Rails featuring Beartooth on Aug. 26 at Fargo Brewing.
“In some cases we get a lot of (concert) options,” he said. “That’s good for patrons, not necessarily the promoter. You get a lot of shows fighting for the same dollars.”
Still, a variety of shows and venues means music fans have options if they want to catch a live show.
“If you’re not comfortable with going to a show indoors, take advantage of being outdoors for one of the shows,” he said.
In the long term, he didn’t know if acts would be as willing to go out on tour in colder weather when they have to play inside, but did say that he just confirmed some shows for January at the Fargo Theatre. He wouldn’t say what the shows were as the artist’s camp usually decides when announcements are made.
“If I worried about what could be happening in a few months, I would have closed up shop and gotten a new job,” he said. “There’s too much uncertainty to speculate on something down the road.”
This weekend's concerts
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 13
Where: Bluestem Amphitheater
Info: Tickets from $29.50 to $49.50
What: Robert Cray
When: 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 15
Where: Fargo Theatre
Info: Tickets from $42.50 to $52.50
What: Cole Swindell
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 15
Where: Bluestem Amphitheater
Info: Tickets from $39.50 to $69.50
For tickets, go to https://jadepresents.com/