Fraze Pavilion Announces 20th Anniversary Season
By Matt Clevenger
Kettering’s Fraze Pavilion will be the site of a season-long birthday party this summer as the iconic outdoor venue celebrates its 20th anniversary with one of its biggest seasons in recent history.
“We opened the doors in September of ’91,” general manager Karen Durham said last week. “The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and Marvin Hamlisch was the first event in September of ’91, and my how we’ve changed in 20 seasons.”
Since opening, the Fraze has become one of the Dayton area’s favorite venues, known for bringing in top-notch talent for shows with relatively reasonable ticket prices. Sheryl Crow, Kris Kristofferson and B.B. King are just a few of the internationally-known artists who have performed at Fraze over the years, and the venue’s non-profit status helps keep ticket prices low enough that almost anyone can attend.
“We’re owned and operated by the city of Kettering, so we’re taxpayer-supported,” Durham explained. “We’ve done very well over the last several years in trying to eliminate or alleviate a lot of the subsidy.”
Accomplishing that goal should be easy this year, thanks to a special 20th anniversary schedule filled with well-known national acts ranging from Alison Krauss with Union Station and Willie Nelson to Chicago, K.D. Lang and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Tickets for most of this season’s shows are on sale now, and already going fast with less than 1,000 remaining for Alison Krauss, Chicago and Lynard Skynard.
Kicking off the season’s big-name shows, Alison Krauss will make her debut at the Fraze with Union Station on Friday, June 10. “It probably doesn’t get much better than opening night with Alison Krauss and Union Station,” Durham said. “She’s one of the most celebrated female recording artists of all time, so this is one of those things where we’ve been trying and trying over the years, and finally it happens. It’s a great way to launch the season.”
On Saturday, June 18, Fraze veterans the B-52s will return as part of the popular Mix 107.7 Summerfest along with special guests the Go-Go’s, who are in the midst of their farewell tour. “There’s no other tribute to the ‘80s like the Go-Go’s and the B-52s, so that should be a fun show,” Durham said. “This is what the Go-Go’s are calling their farewell tour.”
Funk legends Earth, Wind & Fire will appear on June 20, as part of their own 40th anniversary tour, followed by Steve Miller on June 23 and DMS with George Duke, Marcus Miller and David Sanborn on June 24. K.D. Lang will appear on June 29, followed by Brian Culbertson on July 7, and Trace Adkins on July 16.
.38 Special will return to the Fraze on July 30 with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, followed by the 1960s-inspired Happy Together Tour on August 4. After that, Bruce Hornsby and The Noisemakers will appear with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones on August 6, for what is sure to be one of the biggest shows of the summer.
“That’s a really cool package,” Durham said. “It’s a nice double bill on a Saturday night … Bela Fleck has been here a couple of different times. Hornsby opened the Schuster Center and I don’t think he’s been back since then.”
For younger fans, the Fraze will also feature Miranda Cosgrove, best known for her role as Carly Shay on the iCarly TV series on Nickelodeon, appearing for a special concert on August 10. Country superstar Willie Nelson will follow the next day, appearing with his Willie Nelson & Family tour on August 11.
Hippiefest returns to the Fraze on August 20 this year, followed by Chicago on August 26 and the Doobie Brothers on August 30 with opening act Lukas Nelson. “The Doobie Brothers’ opening act is Lukas Nelson, Willie’s son,” Durham said. “This will actually be the third time he’s been here.”
Southern-rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd will close out the Fraze’s season on September 2, with a special appearance featuring opening act Frankie Ballard. “I just saw the Skynyrd show, and they still rock,” Durham said. “They’ve still got it and the audience still loves them. Tickets for that show have been on sale since January and we’re almost sold out.”
The Fraze will also offer many free community events throughout the season including the Kettering Block Party on May 25 and the Spass Nacht Austrian Festival on June 15, and Art on the Commons August 14. Several charity concerts are also planned, including the Beach Boys and the Lettermen on June 12, KC & the Sunshine Band on July 1, and Parrots of the Caribbean on June 30.
Of course, no Fraze season could be complete without their well-known signature festivals, and this year the venue is incorporating several exciting changes into the classic lineup. The festivals start on June 25 with the well-known Blues Fest, which will feature local artists and free admission this year. “We’re doing mainly local musicians this year,” Durham said. “It’s free and it will be blues all day long.”
Other signature festivals include the Festival of the Vine on August 13, and the always-popular “Swamp Romp” Cajun-Zydeco festival on July 23. New for this year, the Fraze has also partnered with the Miami Valley Restaurant Association to introduce the free Kickin’ Chicken Wing Fest on July 9.
“We’ve been looking to do a different kind of festival and something that nobody else is doing,” Durham said. “We figured that rock and roll goes pretty good with wings, so we’re going to have an Allman Brothers tribute band called Big House, followed by a Santana tribute band called Evil Ways.”
Rounding out this year’s season, the Fraze is also offering a long list of free concerts and $2 or $5 shows throughout the summer months. Several shows are yet to be announced, but highlights include Uriah Heep, Jake and Elwood’s Blues Revue, the Menus, Mountain Heart, Committed, and Nicky Kay and His Fabulous Kay-Tones featuring “Crazy” Joe Tritschler.
“It’s a cool year and I’m really excited,” Durham said. “We’re bringing back some of those acts that we like, and the audience likes them, and then there’s some first timers on our stage that are really exciting.”
“It’s a team effort every night,” she added, giving credit to the small army of part-time workers who have helped keep the Fraze running smoothly over the last 20 years. “A lot of our returning staff is back and that’s kind of at the heart of any good organization,” she said. “We’ve got a good returning force of people who are coming from a full-time job to rush out here, grab something to eat on the way and then make somebody else’s night. It’s a real testimonial to the really great staff that we have who really enjoy coming to work, whether it’s in the rain and/or picking up trash. It’s a good group.”
Fraze Pavilion’s summer 2011 season opens with the annual Kettering Block Party on Wednesday, May 25. More information and a full list of upcoming events can be found online at www.fraze.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Matt Clevenger at email@example.com.