The 20th Lowell Summer Music Series runs July 14 to September 18 with artists like Joan Baez, Blues Traveler, Dar Williams and the Wallflowers performing in a close knit setting north of Boston.
Blast spoke with John Marciano, the director of the Lowell Summer Music Series, who gave us some insight on how the series is progressing, while Tad Kinchla of Blues Traveler gave some musicial input on being involved with the non-profit.
BLAST: So, John, can you tell us a bit about the history of the music series?
JOHN MARCIANO: Sure, 20 years ago, Peter Aucella created the Summer Music Series. He was Executive Director of the Lowell Historical Preservation Commission, and now is Assistant Superintendent for the National Park Service. It was 100 percent paid for by the Commission. And it was created to be one of the revitalization efforts in Lowell to help bring Lowell back. It started…with local artists, and small roots. Everything was free.
The Lowell Preservation Commission doesn’t exist anymore, so the question was: What do we do with the Lowell Summer Music Series? It was getting to become popular and iconic in Lowell. It became a self sustaining, not for profit music series, that had to pay for itself to survive. Its about great entertainment in great prices in the smallest outdoor venue you’re going to see any of these artists at.
It’s helping to make Lowell a great place to live and to visit.
BLAST: Who comes up with ideas for artists to perform?
JM: What we do is we poll the audience. Our website is lowellsummermusic.org, and you can click on the survey and throw in your personal suggestions and we will get those.
BLAST: That’s great! And funding is through sponsors?
JM: Absolutely, we’ve got a number of national sponsors. Our main sponsors are Wholefoods and organic food bases. Positive type things that go well for the National Park Service.
Sponsors include 92.5 The River, Project 7, Apple & Eve, Honest Tea and Jim’s Organic Coffee. And the sponsors contributions are very evident.
Eastern bank helps get kids under 12 for free. Can you think of any other music (event) where kids under 12 go for free with their parents? We’re seeing a boost in popularity because…people are more concerned about the most for their dollar. Quality and value. So much more for so much less. Family atmosphere and environment!
BLAST: It seems that the Music Series has been getting bigger names from the music industry over the years. How has it turned in that direction, or why?
JM: We focus on blues, folk, rock or classic rock and roots music. And so that’s kind of the genres we bring in. And in those genres we try to get the very best acts that we can, that can attract a wide variety of concert goers. I want to hire acts that are very popular and that will sell well. I’m not thinking so much on demographics. Michael Franti and Spearhead is very different from Joan Baez. Each has their own audience and demographics. Spearhead goes into our roots audience, and Joan Baez has her folk audience.
The Lowell Summer Music Series has two main presenters-Lowell National Historic Park and the Lowell Festival Foundation, our non for profit organization. Those two entities make this non for profit series happen!
BLAST: What else would you like us to know about this concert series?
JM: There is also a kids series at 11 a.m. Free fun for kids — the show is free, the drinks are free and there are free art activities. Today we had about 750 people. Imagine being a mom or daycare provider and seeing how cool it is to see that the music is free, the art is free and the food and drinks are free!
Blues Traveler had not played the Lowell Summer Music Series before, but Tad Kinchla only had good things to say about the vibe and organization.
BLAST: What do you like about performing at a non-profit, self sustaining program?
TAD KINCHLA: As often as possible it’s nice to get involved in non-profit gigs. It always makes for a cool vibe. There’s a different vibe than your basic gig in New York City.
BLAST: What are you guys looking forward to for this gig?
TK: In the summer we prefer playing outside. It’s a better experience, and it’s less crowded. It’s one of the nicer experiences for us.
BLAST: And you will be performing at the end of the month?
TK: Yes! And we’d like to get back to the Northeast.
Blues Traveler stopped in Lowell last summer with Live and Collective Soul and will be performing at the series on July 31 at 7:30 p.m.