This summer, the Idaho Botanical Garden is bringing in acclaimed national artists LeAnn Rimes, Bob Weir, Lyle Lovett and Randy Travis. Rimes kicked off the series earlier this week. These shows, called the Outlaw Field Concert Series, evolved out of a partnership with the Knitting Factory and will be the largest events ever held at the garden, expecting to outnumber their highest attended fundraiser—a benefit for Hurricane Katrina victims—by almost 2,000 people.
Earlier this year, the Knitting Factory was looking to create a series of family-friendly shows. With venues like Merrill Park and Sandy Point Beach no longer available, the Knitting Factory's Greg Marchant said that they wanted a small to mid-sized venue for an intimate, outdoor show. The garden have always wanted to host events of this caliber, said Doreen Martinek, IBG's events and marketing manager. Though their schedule is full of local music shows in the smaller meditation garden and assorted private parties and weddings, IBG was eager to offer dates to create a special concert series ... this time, opening their gates to up to 2,500 people.
Marchant says that even though that sounds like a lot, it isn't. "When you consider that the Knitting Factory club, the Big Easy, can fit 1,000 and the Idaho Center Amphitheatre seats 11,000, twenty-five hundred is a pretty small show," he says.
The event will be held in the largest section of the botanical gardens, Outlaw Field, next to the penitentiary. Historically, it was a recreation area for prisoners, where many a murderer played a rousing game of baseball in the 1930s and 1940s for the prison team, "The Outlaws." It is currently used as an overflow parking lot for other events in the garden. The price tags of $35 and $50 are for open seating on the lawn in two sections, one farther away from the stage.
Whoa. Concert-goers are expected to pay $50 to sit in a parking lot?
Yes they are, said Elizabeth Dickey with the IBG. The actual gardens provide beautiful surroundings on all sides.
Accommodations aside, word that Grammy winners and rock legends are coming to Boise has some people buzzing. Hosting them in a venue that has never accommodated more than 600 guests even has a few people questioning the practicality of such an event. But the Knitting factory is non-plussed. When questioned about how organizers would be able to keep people from watching the concert from the Tablerock trails, which offer a lovely—and free—view of the garden, or loitering outside the garden fence, the Knitting Factory's Chris Moore expressed little concern about interlopers. For both Moore and Marchant, putting on large shows in a new setting doesn't seem to pose a problem. From the many outdoor shows the Knitting Factory has coordinated in Sun Valley, Brundage and Eagle, Marchant is confident they can assess the space and deliver the best ratio of security staff to audience size. "Besides, none of these are very volatile events," says Marchant.
To be fair, Lovett, Weir and Travis should—like Rimes—put on mellow, kick-back-on-your-picnic-blanket show. Undoubtedly, the lyrics to Lovett's "Friend of the Devil" will ring out with special meaning in the shadow of the penitentiary.
Lovett, Weir and Travis often play outdoor shows featuring their greatest hits, a surefire way to please longtime fans. The appeal of these acts is often largely nostalgic and gives people the opportunity to introduce their kids to music that they themselves have loved for a long time.
LeAnn Rimes, however, took time off from a highly publicized opening slot for Kenny Chesney to stop in Boise and play to a much smaller crowd than she probably did before she arrived in town. Before coming to Boise last Monday, Rimes was scheduled to play the Amphitheater at Clark County in Portland, which seats 18,000. After Boise, she'll sing at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Friday.
Rimes' resume includes being the youngest person to win a Grammy, the only country singer to win the Grammy for Best New Artist, and the distinction of selling over 37 million albums worldwide. Lovett's 30-year career has netted him four Grammys (along with the notoriety of being Julia Robert's ex-husband). Weir, who will be performing with his current band, Ratdog, is sure to pull some gracefully aging fans of his 30-year career with the Grateful Dead. Lastly Travis, with 16 No. 1 hits on Billboard's country charts and 12 studio albums behind him, is etched into the history of country music.
Based on current ticket sales, Moore said that Lovett and Weir are expected to sell out, and Travis should net over 2,000 attendees.
June 23, 5:30 p.m., Bob Weir and Ratdog with Government Mule; July 22, 7 p.m., Lyle Lovett; August 8, 7 p.m., Randy Travis. Tickets are $35 and $50. For more information, call the garden at 208-343-8649 or visit idahobotanicalgarden.org. Idaho Botanical Garden, 2355 Old Penitentiary Rd.