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Mass Street to close for some upcoming concerts; free movie in downtown coming up; local restaurant lands in NY Times
In most cities the orange construction cones and “road closed” barricades mean crews are pouring some concrete or laying some asphalt. In Lawrence, it may be a hard substance of another kind: rock 'n' roll. Get ready for a major street closure in downtown Lawrence this weekend as part of a street party and concert.
Downtown business owner and music promoter Mike Logan has received City Hall approval to close the 1000 block of Massachusetts Street on Saturday as part of a new free concert series he is calling Live on Mass. The street will close to traffic about noon and won’t reopen until several hours after the concert ends at 11 p.m.
Logan is betting the inconvenience will be worth it to many music fans. The concert’s headliner is The Get Up Kids, an international touring act that got its start in Lawrence in the 1990s and went on to become a significant player in the emo music scene.
Now, the group will help Logan — who owns the Granada, Abe & Jake’s and other venues — answer a question: Can Massachusetts Street become a significant player in the Lawrence concert scene?
Logan has had the Live on Mass concert series idea for awhile, but the one other time he tried it, he didn’t win city approval to close the street to traffic — only large portions of sidewalk. But city commissioners granted his requests this year. The first event is Saturday, while a second event — featuring the reggae band The Wailers — is scheduled for July 2.
Logan said other cities have had success in using their downtown streets for concert venues. He estimated that Columbia, Mo., hosts about a dozen street concerts per year. The key, Logan said, is getting bands with large enough followings to attract sizable crowds.
“I’m pretty confident both of these shows will draw about 3,000 people,” Logan said. “We’re expecting a lot of out-of-town visitors for both of these acts.”
That means the concerts could provide a boost to hotel bookings, and it will represent new money coming into town and being spent at bars, restaurants, gas stations and other such businesses. Concert-goers, though, won’t be spending money on tickets. Both concerts will be free to enter, although Logan has won city approvals to sell alcohol and food at the street events.
Logan said he thinks the concert series has a chance to keep Lawrence’s live music scene alive during the summer months. He said concert-goers have really taken to the idea of outdoor music, which has fueled the growth of musical festivals. Ever since the state of Kansas turned sour on the Wakarusa Music Festival at Clinton Lake State Park several years ago, Lawrence has struggled to get into the music festival game. Organizers of the Free State Festival have closed a block of New Hampshire Street to host concerts in the past, but that festival has been downsized this year, and there will be no such street concert.
As a result, the number of summer concerts in Lawrence has also dropped, Logan said. He said many larger touring acts don’t do many of the small venue shows during the summer. They save those type of concerts for winter months. Logan said local concert-goers likely have noticed fewer summer shows scheduled for Liberty Hall, and he said his summer bookings at The Granada have been cut by about half.
“I think we need to try to prove this concept,” Logan said of the larger street concerts.
If successful, he thinks it could be a true form of economic development. He said his data shows that more than half of all the concert tickets at The Granada are bought by people who live outside of Douglas County.
“Music in this community can be a magnet for people,” Logan said.
But he said he also recognizes closing down a major city street can be a hassle for many people. He said he has won the support of fellow business owners on the 1000 block to give this a try this summer.
“I think many of them want to see how it works because they recognize there could be a greater benefit come from this,” he said.
As for details about the shows, here’s some additional information:
— Saturday’s show will feature The Get Up Kids with opening acts Making Movies, Kawehi, and Lily Pryor and Iris Hyde. Gates open at 6:30 p.m.. In the case of rain, the show will move indoors to The Granada. Admission is free.
— The July 2 show will feature The Wailers, which is a band formed by many of the remaining members of the late Bob Marley’s band. Opening acts are scheduled to include Page 7 and The Rhythm Project. Gates open at 6 p.m., and the rain venue will be The Granada. Admission is free.
In other news and notes from around town:
• Maybe you are bit more into drama than music, a bit more into grass than the hard pavement of a city street. (I should probably clarify that for the Marley fans, but hopefully it will make sense in a second.) Downtown Lawrence Inc. this week is hosting the second of three Dinner and a Movie events on the lawn of the Lawrence Public Library.
This one will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the grassy area between the library and the city parking garage on Vermont Street. The movie will be "Lego Batman." Like I said, drama. (Put a large group of kids around a small batch of Legos, and you will see drama — and perhaps an ER trip to have a Lego removed from an inappropriate place.) While the event starts at 7:30 p.m., the movie won’t start rolling until 9 p.m.. Various food vendors will be on hand, although you can also bring your own picnic to the event. Several downtown businesses also will be giving away door prizes to those in attendance early.
The final Dinner and a Movie event for 2017 is set for July 26 at Abe & Jake’s Landing. That movie will be "Jurassic World."
• While we are in the area, I have news of a Lawrence restaurant that received some attention in The New York Times. It may not be one you would expect. It is the relatively new Lucia Beer Garden & Grill at 1016 Massachusetts, which used to house Fatso’s Bar & Grill.
As we reported in August, Mike Logan — the concert promoter from above — opened the Caribbean-themed restaurant. The menu is heavy on Jamaican items, and Logan alerted me that the restaurant landed a prominent mention in a New York Times article last month.
The Times did an article on Jamaican beef patties. If you have never had one, they are ground meat — beef suet is common — with Jamaican spices inside a flaky, golden pastry crust. Somehow The Times noticed that Lucia had the item on its menu and was doing well with it. The author of the article interviewed Logan, and Lucia’s version of the Jamaican beef patties served as the photo for the story.
You can read the full article here, and it sounds like the Jamaican patties have become a bit of a downtown street food trend. Logan has taken to selling the patties during late-night hours through a food window that opens onto Massachusetts Street.
“You can hold it with one hand,” Logan told The Times about one of the reasons the food has become popular.
He said he owed his passion to George Ricketts of G's Jamaican Quisine, in Kansas City, Mo., who introduced him to Caribbean food. "Most of my experience from Jamaican food comes from George," Mr. Logan said. He recalled the first time he tried the island food.