KINGSPORT — The Twilight ALIVE concert series recently wrapped up its second year in downtown Kingsport with officials calling the series a success and saying that plans are already under way for next year’s event.
However, some members of the downtown community are still unhappy with the Thursday night event.
Last year Kingsport kicked in $72,900 to create a 12-week Thursday night concert series — dubbed “Twilight ALIVE” — and to expand the “Bluegrass on Broad” concert series started by TK Dogs’ owner Tom Keller four years ago. The Downtown Kingsport Association oversaw the event and employed Asheville, N.C., concert promoter Doug Beatty to handle the concert bookings. The bands performed a variety of music including zydeco, jazz, blues, rock and gospel-rock.
This year the concert series returned with the help of $75,000 in city funds, but under the supervision of the Kingsport Convention and Visitors Bureau. Beatty and his company, Broad Street Productions, still booked the bands, set up the stage and arranged for security. The DKA handled concessions and beer sales. Unlike last year, community sponsors helped fund the concert series this year.
According to Beatty, there were 27 concerts this year — 12 on Thursday nights and 15 on Friday nights. Beatty said he would guess the lowest attendance at a concert was around 800 people while the largest was around 4,000 — the Junior Brown concert. Average attendance was probably around 1,500, Beatty said.
At least 50 different bands graced the stage during the summer concert series, including Junior Brown, Tinsley Ellis, Scott Miller and the Commonwealth and the East Tennessee State University Bluegrass Band.
“From the promoter’s side of it, we think everything went great and working with the chamber and DKA ... we thought it went wonderful,” Beatty said.
“I think just having the partnership, we’re stronger this year. We had the city and chamber, KCVB, DKA and Broad Street Productions. Having those five working together towards the common goal made for a stronger show, said Leigha Williams, director of tourism development at KCVB.
Beatty said 35 community sponsors helped with this year’s concert series and corporate fund raising has already begun on next year’s series. Williams said the KCVB expects to request the same amount from the city next year.
“The more money we do get, the better quality shows we can put on,” Williams said.
“One of the reasons why we’re getting on as early this year is we have the ability to raise money and buy acts based on what we have in hand. One of the issues we got into last year was booking bands with no money in hand and hoping everything goes right,” Beatty said. “Once we have our funding secured and hopefully getting on it early this season we’ll be able to do a good job attracting national acts next year because we’re way ahead of the game.”
One complaint from some downtown merchants has been the location of the concerts. Beatty said for the time being the concerts would stay in the current location — at the intersection of Broad and Market. Beatty said there is some talk about having the concerts on a permanent stage, possibly at the concrete loading dock at the end of the chamber building.
Henry Kistner Jr., owner of Henry’s Motorcycles located on Broad Street, spoke out against the concert series last year. This year, Kistner said the city has done better.
“Another 10 years they’ll have it down pat,” Kistner said. “It was a hardship how they were blocking the street, but we finally got that worked out with them. Trash detail was aggravating for a while, but they halfway got that worked out. They tried to work with us this year.
“They’re going to do whatever they’re going to do and I don’t care any more.”
Earlier this year before the concert series started, Mayor Dennis Phillips appointed a committee, which included some from the downtown community with issues with the concert series, to sit down and work on these concerns.
Dr. Steve Hooper, pastor of Restoration Church located on Broad Street near where the concerts are held, was one of the members of this committee. Hooper said the committee was a non-committee and that one of the recommendations made — that the concert series be moved to Market Street — was never acted upon.
“That was agreed to at that meeting. We never had another meeting and we assumed that was the way it was going to be. Then all of a sudden it’s back on Broad Street, right in front of the church,” Hooper said. “It’s just like so many things, it didn’t happen like it was supposed to.”
Phillips said he didn’t remember the recommendation that way, noting the move to Market Street was never set in stone.
“There was a request to look at other areas and Market Street was one of the areas to be looked at, along with Glen Bruce Park and the fact of not having them at all,” Phillips said. “After talking and discussion with merchants and others, there did not seem to be that much animosity to keeping them at the present location. What merchants wanted more than anything was consideration of not blocking the street off at noon.”
Hooper said one of the church’s biggest problems with the concert series has been the sale of beer in front of the church.
“We’re not snobs, but we don’t think it’s right to sell beer in front of the church,” Hooper said. “The concert series ... we’ll acquiesce to that. I don’t like for us to not have access to our building at certain times, but we’ll give that up. I just think the selling of beer is just wrong for downtown and certainly wrong in front of a church.”
Last year church members sold popcorn during the concert series, but this year Hooper said the church chose not to do it.
“We elected not to fight (this year). The DKA has been phenomenal with us; the mayor’s office has not been,” Hooper said. “I don’t have a bitter taste in my mouth about the whole thing, other than the selling of alcohol.”
Restoration Church is celebrating its 20th anniversary in two weeks and has been in its current location for 18 years.