Boxoffice Insider: Southern Rising – Momentum Building With Smaller Venue Bookings

Travis Tritt
David A. Smith / Getty Images
– Travis Tritt
performs at The Alabama Theatre Jan. 28, 2020, in Birmingham, Ala. Tritt is part of of the increasing number of new socially distanced shows booked mostly in Southern states.
Booking full-capacity arena concert tours may still be out of reach for the immediate future, but more and more small venues in Southern states are locking down dates for touring artists popular regionally. Generally, the upcoming shows are set in socially distanced environments with safety protocols in place. 
The country and Southern rock genres are among those well-represented on calendars at smaller venues in the South in the coming months. Here is a sampling of just a handful of artists and venues planning live shows during the first half of 2021, as fan enthusiasm for a night out to see a favorite band gains strength every day.
One of the country artists, Travis Tritt, has dates on the books this month as well as in April, May and June. He actually kicked off a string of socially distanced concerts back in December and has already hit Pollstar’s Global Live Boxoffice chart with two of them, both in Florida markets. The first, a Dec. 12 show at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, drew a crowd of 434. On the following night, Tritt played Jacksonville’s Florida Theatre for 782 fans.
Tritt has acoustic solo sets booked at two Kentucky venues this month before hitting the road with his band in April with more appearances in Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Texas and other cities stateside.
The Jacksonville Southern rock band 38 Special also played the Florida Theatre, drawing 800 hometown fans on Dec. 10. They are set to kick off a slew of socially distanced dates later in the spring, beginning with a rescheduled show on April 1 at the North Charleston (S.C.) Performing Arts Center. They will follow it with more dates booked through June.
The Allman Betts Band was early to the scene in 2021, launching a tour of indoor, low-capacity shows at theaters in Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina and Florida on Jan. 29. The rockers have a busy itinerary for much of 2021 and are planning to support Blackberry Smoke’s summer “Spirit of the South” tour, currently scheduled in Southern cities and beyond.
In the Lone Star State, the calendar for the famed Fort Worth venue Billy Bob’s Texas is teeming with a slate of upcoming concerts featuring such country headliners as Tracy Lawrence, Kip Moore and Shenandoah & Collin Raye, among others. Multiple-night stints by Dwight Yoakam and Hank Williams Jr. are also planned in April, while 14-time CMA Award winner Miranda Lambert is booked for shows on April 22, 23 and 24. Lambert most recently toured last year in support of her November 2019 release Wildcard and was able to complete 17 performances before the pandemic shutdown. From Jan. 16 to March 2, Lambert moved 137,567 tickets at U.S. arenas for a gross of $10.2 million. She had to cancel 10 of the concerts on the 2020 run but, along with the shows at Billy Bob’s, she has seven more live appearances planned for this year.
Jamey Johnson and Randy Houser also played Billy Bob’s Texas this year, kicking off their “Country Cadillac” co-headlining tour there on Feb. 5. In January, the country artists announced plans for 13 socially distanced shows at venues in eight Southern cities. The trek is set to run through mid-April.
Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House began allowing a limited number of attendees indoors starting with their weekly Opry shows in October. The number of available tickets has grown from the original 500 for the first in-person show on Oct. 3, and tickets are currently on sale for Opry broadcasts through early July.
Elsewhere in Music City, the Ryman Auditorium, set to host the Grand Ole Opry in April, reopened on Sept. 4, capping the available tickets at 125 for country artist Scotty McCreery, who previously played there on March 11, 2020, the venue’s final live show prior to the shutdown.