GREY’S ANATOMY: JJ Grey & Mofro opened the outdoor season on April 18 at The Amp Ballantyne, the new amphitheater in south Charlotte. (Don Muret/Staff)

Indie venue provides second option for concert tours

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Concert promoter Gregg McCraw went to bed the other night without a single issue to address following the JJ Grey/Cedric Burnside show at The Amp Ballantyne, a new 5,000-capacity amphitheater.

For McCraw, it marked a rare occurrence as he hit the sack.

The April 18 event was the first show produced by MaxxMusic, McCraw’s company, and Midwood Entertainment, a producer of three festivals in the southeast, owned by Micah Davidson.

The two Charlotte firms recently partnered to operate and program the outdoor music venue. It’s owned by Northwood, a local developer that built the facility in the middle of a corporate office park in Ballantyne, an upscale community in south Charlotte. The Amp is part of a bigger entertainment district taking shape in Ballantyne.

“I didn’t hear any complaints, which is always nice,” McCraw said. “Having done this for almost 30 years now, it’s hard to go through a night not hearing someone complain about something. A lot of planning went into it. We felt like when we opened the doors, we were ready. I had people texting me that I know who were there most of the night, telling me the sound was amazing. With the total vibe and feel of the venue, I couldn’t be more pleased.”

The Amp opened in November with a few concerts and community events before the partnership between Maxx Music and Midwood Entertainment was signed on March 12. JJ Grey was booked internally six months ago.

Concert attendance was 2,000, generating between $110,000 and $115,000 in ticket sales, McCraw said.

DLS Events runs the concessions and the food and drink per caps were strong, running between $25 and $30. The setup included food trucks lining the back of the amphitheater’s lawn section, with drink stands sprinkled around all seating sections. Overall, there were no real long lines waiting to buy food and drink, he said.

“I’ve done about 15 JJ Grey shows and the bar does well,” McCraw said. “We had discussions with our vendor before the show and talked about, based on our knowledge of the artist, what to expect, and we hit it on the nail.”

The restrooms were adequate, a mix of permanent facilities owned by Northwood, supported by portable toilets.

Parking and traffic wasn’t an issue from a crowd that filled about half the venue. There are two paid lots adjacent to the amphitheater with free surface lots tied to Northwood office buildings situated a short walk from the facility.

Logistically, the setup may be tested to a greater degree with bigger crowds at future events, but McCraw saw a lot of people taking ride share services to the amphitheater, which should help alleviate post-concert parking snarls that have been an ongoing issue for years at other amphitheaters in town.

Tixr is the ticketing provider for The Amp and the digital technology worked fine, McCraw said. The only issues were tied to ticket buyers providing an incorrect email address for delivery. McCraw was able to rectify those mistakes and resend tickets to those individuals.

MAXXIMUM VIBE: MaxxMusic promoter Gregg McCraw, joins his wife, Sondra Blaser, at The Amp Ballantyne’s first show of the 2024 season. (Facebook)

Despite getting a late start on the 2024 outdoor season, McCraw expects to book several more concerts at The Amp through October, spanning multiple styles of music. The partnership has a lot of offers out and expects to announce more shows soon.

Two more musical events were on tap, Got Soul/Savor the Culture on April 27, a benefit for the Jack & Jill Foundation, the oldest African-American-led nonprofit addressing issues affecting their children and families; and RNB Vibes Reloaded on May 11, a festival featuring four DJs documenting the all eras of rhythm and blues.

McCraw loves the amphitheater’s potential, considering Ballantyne, which is home to more than 70,000 residents, has been underserved for live music, as well as south Charlotte as a whole. To this point, there’s never been a facility of this magnitude in that area, he said.

The Amp’s chief competition is Live Nation’s Skyla Credit Union Amphitheatre, a 5,000-capacity shed on the edge of uptown Charlotte.

“I’m friends with the folks at Live Nation and we co-exist very well in this market,” McCraw said. “But I’ve found that some artists would like to have an alternative to Live Nation. When we talk about a niche, that could be a differentiating factor when bands are making decisions about touring. Not sure if it was by accident or not, but I grabbed my (National Independent Venues Association) T-shirt to wear to the show. I’m still proud to be part of the indie music scene.”

Convenience is another plus. From listening to concertgoers’ banter, McCraw said many patrons were delighted to attend an outdoor show a short drive from home, compared with longer distances to Skyla Credit Union Amphitheatre and PNC Music Pavilion, the biggest amphitheater in Charlotte.

“Charlotte’s clearly a growing city, but it’s also a growing music scene,” McCraw said. “We’re a lot further along than 30 years ago when I started. This venue is a great addition to the music ecosystem in Charlotte.”