Mumford and Sons’ Ben Lovett Talks New Amphitheater: ‘There’s Just Not Enough Great Venues’

Mumford and Sons’ Ben Lovett Talks New Amphitheater: ‘There’s Just Not Enough Great Venues’

American music lovers have a intricate relationship with the heaps of amphitheaters that criss-cross the United States. A handful are placed on a base for their stunning design and acoustics — think Denver’s Red Rocks or the Gorge in Washington state — while the majority are only tolerated by lovers who slog through muddy parking lots, uncomfortably hot bandstands and busy plots of concrete and lifeless grass to see their favourite bands make their biannual trip.

After playing countless amphitheaters from North America, Ben Lovett using the group Mumford & Sons is reimagining outside concert venues using a new 8,000-capacity amphitheater being built in Huntsville, Ala.. The $40 million project, which city leaders hope will be part of a larger cultural effort to form a new identity to the city, will be handled by Venue Group, which Lovett formed in 2018 by Mike Luba, who runs on the AEG-managed Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, New York along with Ryan Murphy, former manager of the St. Augustine Amphitheatre, who will function as GM of this undertaking.

“Huntsville is an amazing opportunity to construct a flagship project from the bottom up,” Murphy tells Billboard. “Instead of all of the various pieces along a large field, we’re constructing some streamlined and vertical that’therefore borrows from acoustic style concepts have been in existence for thousands of years. ”

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Many amphitheaters constructed in the first part of the 20th century — such as the Hearst Greek Theatre at Berkeley which opened in 1903 or even LA’s Greek Theatre which opened in 1930, relied upon design and amplification principles dating back to Ancient Rome, together with crowds packed in tightly and raised above a middle stage. However, the popularity and power of the Grateful Dead from the 1970s along with the success of two amphitheater projects in Northern California (the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View along with the Concord Pavilion) by rock leader and promoter Bill Graham led into a construction boom across the country. Through the 1980s and early 1990s, Promotion companies such as Cellar Door Entertainment and Pace Concerts raced to build cheap outdoor amphitheaters on unused property.

Massive fields gave fans more space to dance and interact, while the growing space between the group and the audience was chased by louder speakers along with fresh sound systems.

Over 40 years after, tastes have shifted.  The dawn of contemporary concert sports and clubs arenas have raised consumer expectations with many fans craving more connectivity together with artists and much more imaginative creature comforts. Billboard recently caught up with Lovett to find out more about his challenging project in Huntsville and the way he hopes to make a new path forward for future venue design.

What’s & rsquo;s the impression of the current American amphitheater world?

It actually lacks imagination. There are a great deal of carbon copy venues with the exact pieces — a big lawn, folding seats and a concrete pad to the ring — that tells you about where you’re playing. You feel as though you could be anywhere. As a musician and a music fan, it’s clear there’s a desire for greater amphitheaters from North America, it’s just largely not happening.

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Why do this project Huntsville?

The city had hired a group named Sound Diplomacy to conduct a music audit and the mayor and city leaders got behind the findings which showed that creating new cultural centers and music areas from Huntsville would improve the standard of life. Sound Diplomacy had done a similar audit in London and looked at the impact that my (350-capacity) club Omeara had about the quality of life for Londoners. Sound Diplomacy place my name forward for the Huntsville project and I flew to Alabama to fulfill Huntsville mayor Roy Battle to speak about what it might take to construct a wonderful venue. From the beginning of 2018 we had been locked into the undertaking.

The Huntsville place looks like a small stadium with its circular form and rear ceiling wall. Why is it important that you enclose the amphitheater?

We believe that it was our task to harness the energy, the two of the noise and also of this feeling within the room. Even if this energy is an intimate one and a silent one, we want it to get nearer. There are a number of fantastic venues in different parts of the world such as the Roman amphitheater at Piazza Bra at Verona (Italy) or even Waldbühne from Berlin that do this. I’t invested a lot of time considering what makes those venues special like a artist and a lover and realized it’s that feeling of being outside but not needing to compromise on that feeling of enclosure. To be honest, I don’t quite understand why so few amphitheaters are designed with no enclosure. Exterior of the Gorge at Washington along with also Red Rocks in Denver, the listing of amazing amphitheaters is truly quite short.

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Perhaps most were considered a way to an end when they have been be built?

Yes if I place my promoter hat , I will see somebody else saying “place the parking , possess the artists work here and also create this place where the lovers will visit the toilet and in which they’ll get pumped and fed. ” It had been quite a utilitarian approach. However, it’therefore the imagination and the design that layers in addition to a practical place that makes it really special and aspirational. As an artist, you wish to play with a place where the thought and thought of the design match the thought and thought that’s become the songs you’t invested your life writing.

You plan to open the amphitheater year round, also if shows aren’t occurring. How do you see it fitting within the societal fabric of Huntsville?

There is this notion that we’ve bought into called Third Space that examines the function areas play in our own lives as human beings. The very first space is your home, the second space is where you work or attend school and the next space is the place you can go and interact socially and swap ideas. It can function as neighborhood city hall, or church or market. If you’re in the UK, the pub dominates that next space principle. Venues may be that next space if they can take on that dimension. That’therefore why we’re so focused on developing a wonderful food experience. You’ve got to tick off all the boxes and care for the overall operations with as much intensity as the rigging of the PA system. For this to become that third space for Huntsville, it’s got to be first rate and buttoned up.

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What’s later Huntsville?

As long as there’s an opportunity to increase the game once it comes to venues, we’re definitely going to keep on going. And we have projects in motion right now that we’ll be announcing in due course. I’m pleased to compose and play and I love my group, but I want to contribute beyond this to other artists and make a world in which it’s just a little better than it had been when I first got going in this business. There’s just not enough fantastic venues and hopefully we will bring the whole game a notch up wherever we end up generating them.

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