Bittersweet Gorge

Washington’s longtime mainstay for outdoor concerts, The Gorge, is hosting fewer concerts this summer than last, and considerably less than two years ago.

But in a situation that might be unusual for most amphitheatre locales, the community actually wishes more shows would come to town.

“The Gorge has gotten a bad name at times, but there’s a lot more good than bad,” said Quincy, Wash., Mayor Dick Zimbelman. Quincy is a 5,500-population town near The Gorge. “Whenever there’s a concert, Quincy benefits.”

Local economies have grown to depend on revenues, jobs and other benefits the shed brings. Zimbelman said Gorge patrons spend thousands at Quincy’s grocery stores, restaurants, motels and other businesses during concerts.

Barring any schedule changes, The Gorge will host a total of seven different concert events between May 26th and September 3rd. At press time, the 22,000-capacity amphitheatre had Tool, the KISW Rising Star Concert, and three Dave Matthews Band shows booked for the rest of summer.

Fewer summer concerts have led to bigger crowds for each event. And Quincy residents have said the expected economic loss hasn’t been hard-felt thanks to large crowds that head to town for multi-day concerts like DMB, the three-day Sasquatch Music Festival, four-day Creation Music Festival and two Pearl Jam dates.

With the recent Live Nation purchase of House of Blues Entertainment, which operates The Gorge, city officials hope the amphitheatre will host more events next summer.

Last year, the George, Wash.-based shed hosted 22 concerts, and in some years the summer season has held as many as 24 concerts.

With other developments in the area, including the construction of a Microsoft storage plant, some residents have said it’s not such a bad time for decreased production from The Gorge.

“It happened at a good time,” said Lisa Karstetter, who is the Quincy Chamber of Commerce executive director and also supervises concession stands run by school and nonprofit groups at the shed. “We’re hoping that everything works out for [the Live Nation] sale and the number of concerts will increase. But we would rather have some concerts than none at all.”

Tax revenues to Grant County are expected to be down from the usual $535,000 contributed each of the last five years.