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Down By The River A Two-Day Happening

Sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison two-thirds of the Dixie Chicks.

Promoter Gary Jackson says this year’s expanded two-day Down By The River concert event on the old Victory Stadium site made sense: instead of renting equipment and tents twice as he did last year for two separate concerts (John Hiatt, Down By The River), why not do it once? The May 13 and 14 concert dates have tickets that can be purchased separately or as a combination package to save money. “It makes sense to do it all at once,” said Jackson, a veteran promoter who has worked on shows and events across the country, including major happenings like Lollapalooza.

Down By The River is a project spearheaded by Ed Walker’s CityWorks organization and Kirk Avenue Music Hall, where Jackson books many of the music acts that come through Roanoke. Highlights on Friday, May 13 (6:30-11pm) include Chris Thile, Jay Farrar and Amos Lee, whose Mission Bell album debuted several months ago at the very top of the Billboard chart. Down By The River is “really taking Kirk Avenue outside of its walls,” says Jackson, who also works under the banner of GJ Productions.

Saturday (May 14) features an all-day menu of local (Pace Brothers) and national acts from 1-11pm. Neko Case and the Courtyard Hounds – two-thirds of the Dixie Chicks – finish off the show from 7-11. In all there will be three stages of music and other entertainment, including an expanded Kid’s World. The Music Lab tent will feature local and regional artists, including Suite 25 and Savannah Shoulders, comprised of high school-age students. “I was thoroughly impressed,” says Jackson of Savannah Shoulders; he put them on stage at Kirk Avenue several months ago.

Food and other vendors will be on site; Jackson has also set aside camping space for those that want to stay overnight on the 13th. Kid’s World “will be amazing this year,” promises Jackson. Inflatables, climbing walls, live music and animals from Mill Mountain Zoo are among the attractions there.

There will be some “major, giant tents,” for Down By The River, promises Jackson. “Everything happens under tents.” There will, however, be lower-priced general admission tickets for those that want to bring their own chairs and coolers, sitting outside the tents on the grass field. If the weather is bad most will be able to find a place under those tents, adds Jackson.

Tickets range from $25-$45 per person each day, combination passes are $40 general admission or $80 under the tent. Those who run the Gallop for the Greenways 5K race on Saturday, May 14, get in free on Saturday by showing their race tag.

About half of those who had purchased tickets as of about two weeks before the concert had done so for both days, according to Jackson, who is striving to make it a family-friendly event. Kids 12 and under are free; people can come and go as they please – they may want to bring children during the day on Saturday, for instance, but leave them at home with a babysitter that night.

Jackson has been assembling the show lineup for many months. “I worked hard on this one.” The lineup changed somewhat since he started working on it last August but he’s pleased with the final results. Amos Lee is a “great story,” a former inner-city teacher turned Billboard chart-topper.  Courtyard Hounds come with “an incredible band. All of …the music is amazing.”

Chris Thile (Punch Brothers, Nickel Creek) kicks off the concert at 6:30pm on Friday the 13th. Neko Case (Saturday, 7:15) has been generating a lot of buzz on line, according to Jackson. Jay Farrar (Friday, 8pm) is “almost like a Neil Young.” Farrar has been with the alternative country group Son Volt and has toured on his own. “It’s just got that California feel to it,” says Jackson. All of the artists have the ability to “put on incredible concerts … the ability to get inside your heart and soul, and make you feel better.”

Free parking will be available at the Carilion garage across the street and elsewhere nearby. “There’s a chance for thousands of people to come together and have a good time,” says Jackson, who wanted to do it as cost effectively as possible. “There’s a lot going on.”

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