Entire season axed at Outlaw Field in Boise as Idaho Center plans 11 outdoor concerts

·4 min read

If you examine the calendars of the Treasure Valley’s two major outdoor concert venues, it’s like two different worlds exist.

One is ravaged by a pandemic. One seemingly is not.

This week, Ford Idaho Center Amphitheater in Nampa announced three more shows, bringing the number planned this season to a healthy 11.

Last week, the Idaho Botanical Garden in Boise quietly revealed that its annual Outlaw Field Summer Concert Series won’t happen at all this year.

11-0? Why the disparity? There are myriad reasons. Artists deciding not to play. Tours being re-routed. Pandemic regulations in flux. “It’s also partially luck of the draw,” said Andrew Luther, general manager at Ford Idaho Center.

But the biggest factor? Infrastructure.

Ford Idaho Center Amphitheater has a large, permanent stage.

Outlaw Field has a large piece of grass.

Imagine Dragons performed at Outlaw Field in 2013.
Imagine Dragons performed at Outlaw Field in 2013.

CMoore Concerts, the Boise-based promoter that produces the Outlaw Field series, installs a stage and removes it each summer.

This involves a crane. Stagehands. And a sizable price tag.

To make the series financially feasible, Outlaw Field needs a minimum of seven shows, estimates Chris Moore, CEO of CMoore Concerts.

With that schedule already dwindled to two or three by the pandemic — and artists worldwide still waffling — moving forward would have been a titanic risk. As in Titanic, the sunken ship.

That’s why CMoore Concerts moved the Primus concert from Outlaw Field to Ford Idaho Center Amphitheater. Outlaw Field’s other remaining hopes — the Avett Brothers and Slightly Stoopid — were postponed until next year and canceled, respectively. (Incidentally, do not contact the Idaho Botanical Garden about ticket refunds. They can’t help. Head for cmooreconcerts.com or Ticketmaster.)

In the current touring climate, building a stage for the Outlaw Field series while scrambling to add shows was a risk that CMoore Concerts couldn’t take.

“We’re already in the gambling business, right?” Moore said, adding that he’s “completely bummed” about the series getting nixed this year.

Kenny Chesney packed in more than 10,000 fans when he performed at Ford Idaho Center Amphitheater in Nampa in 2018.
Kenny Chesney packed in more than 10,000 fans when he performed at Ford Idaho Center Amphitheater in Nampa in 2018.

For promoters like CMoore Concerts, the last 18 months have been a nightmare. Then there’s the Idaho Botanical Garden’s budget. In a typical year, the Outlaw Field series makes up 15 to 20 percent of annual revenue, according to Executive Director Erin Anderson. The concerts also are an important marketing tool for acquiring new Garden members.

The good news? Organizers are fully committed to reviving the Outlaw Field concert series in 2022. “100%,” Anderson said. “Absolutely. Without question,” Moore added.

In the meantime, Ford Idaho Center Amphitheater has an enticing lineup in Canyon County. And although they won’t be traditional Outlaw Field events, the Idaho Botanical Garden will host an array of smaller shows, too.

Later concert season

Live Nation, the world’s leading concert promoter, has cobbled together an impressive variety of entertainers at Ford Idaho Center Amphitheater. After the relocated Primus show Aug. 10, country singer Dierks Bentley kicks things off Aug. 14. That’s an unusually late start for outdoor concert season, further illustrating challenges created by the pandemic.

September will be highlighted by acts such as pop behemoth the Jonas Brothers (Sept. 2), alt-rockers Death Cab For Cutie (Sept. 7) and what’s left of classic rockers Foreigner (Sept. 15).

Bring a jacket in 2021, because music is rolling into autumn. Two of the most recent announcements at Ford Idaho Center Amphitheater include hip-hop star Russ (Oct. 3) and veteran punk bands Rancid and Dropkick Murphys (Oct. 4).

Luther, the Idaho Center’s general manager, says there could have been up to 15 amphitheater shows if a few hadn’t been postponed or nixed. It’s a reminder that COVID-19 has messed up things for everyone in the touring business.

“No one’s immune to that,” Luther said. “Outlaw. Us.”

And although Outlaw Field’s series will be on pause, the Idaho Botanical Garden won’t stay silent.

In partnership with Treefort Music Fest creator Duck Club Presents, the Garden is hosting its annual Great Garden Escape shows. A longstanding tradition inside the Garden, they are a combination of local and touring talent.

The Idaho Botanical Garden’s Great Garden Escape music series kicks off June 24.
The Idaho Botanical Garden’s Great Garden Escape music series kicks off June 24.

Duck Club also is launching a new series called Live on the Lawn. It will take place — yep — on Outlaw Field. The shows will be relatively intimate. Located on the opposite side, the stage will be significantly smaller than the normal Outlaw Field setup. The layout will accommodate a maximum of maybe 1,500 people.

Live on the Lawn acts will include Boise’s own Built To Spill (July 21), Poolside and Brijean (Aug. 4) and Americana duo Watchhouse (formerly Mandolin Orange, Aug. 20). Those three shows probably will be the extent of Live on the Lawn, but one more act might be announced.

Boise jazz singer Curtis Stigers also will perform July 11.

Will any of these concerts feel the same as sharing Outlaw Field with 4,000 other Boise music maniacs on a hot summer night?

No. But they will be fun. And I’m betting that we’ll experience plenty of euphoric sellout events when Outlaw Field’s concert series returns in a year.

“We already have shows booked. We have shows confirmed,” Anderson said. “I think that our 2022 season is probably going to be bigger and better than any of the previous seasons ... .”

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