Mellencamp/Dylan and Black Crowes: Tickets still available

With the first eight months of the current year almost gone, the number of household-name concert headliners in Missoula can still be counted on one finger. By the end of next week, we’ll almost reach a handful.

Crammed into the final days of August and the first day of September, Missoula is playing host to a sudden string of big-name acts: The Beach Boys (last night, at Ogren Park), John Mellencamp and Bob Dylan (next Tuesday, also at Ogren Park), and the Black Crowes (next Wednesday, at Ryan Creek Meadows, 30 miles east of town).

Yet it appears that our unusually paltry season of big-name shows hasn’t spawned overwhelming demand for those concerts. As of press time Thursday – just hours before the Beach Boys concert was set to begin — tickets to all three concerts remained available, with numerous tickets to last night’s concert still available and thousands of tickets still available to both of next week’s concerts.

Granted, we’re talking about big venues here: according to Nola Hunter, director of ticketing at Ogren Park, the capacity at the riverfront baseball park is somewhere in the neighborhood of 8,000 people. So far, about 6,000 tickets have been sold to next week’s Dylan/Mellencamp double-header.

And the capacity at Ryan Creek Meadows is theoretically almost limitless, given that it’s located on a vast swath of empty land, where fences can be moved according to how many tickets are sold.

Still, Ryan Creek Meadows owner Toby Hansen said that sales for next week’s Black Crowes concert have been “a little slower than (the promoter would) like,” adding, “I think that’s been the case everywhere this year.”

Hansen speculated that this week’s condensed schedule – which notably also includes this weekend’s (free) River City Roots Festival, headlined by Robert Earl Keen and the Gourds – hasn’t helped any of the shows reach expectations.

“I don’t think it helped that you have the three biggest concerts of the year in a five-day period,” said Hansen. “You have this dearth, it’s a wasteland out there, and then boom, everything happens at once.”

Boom, indeed. For live music fans, this looks like the week to bust out the credit card and the picnic blanket.

Reviews of recent concerts by Mellencamp and Dylan (who’ve spent the summer touring minor league baseball parks, along with a few stops at more traditional venues) indicate the two Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers have focused their sets on familiar classics.

At their August 11 concert at Dehler Park in Billings, Dylan kicked off his set with “Everybody Must Get Stoned” (“Some folks had already gotten a head start,” quipped Billings Gazette reviewer Jaci Webb) and rolled through standards including “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Just Like a Woman,” “Working Man Blues” and “Highway 61 Revisited.” Mellencamp (pictured here) followed with his own highlight reel, including “Pink Houses,” “The Authority Song,” and “Small Town.”

Given the size of the crowd expected at next week’s general-admission concert, it’s worth planning ahead if you intend to drive. Parking at Ogren Park will cost you $10, with the lot opening at noon on the day of the show. The park managers are asking that visitors otherwise consider parking at the Central Parking Garage, Bank Street Parking Garage, the lots adjacent to Caras Park, the lot at the corner of Front and Orange, or in the downtown metered areas. A free shuttle will run to the concert (starting at 4 p.m.) and back (for one hour after the end of the concert), with stops at Caras Park (by the Pavillion), the Central Parking Garage, and the lot at the corner of Front and Orange. Free bicycle parking is available at Ogren Park. Gates to the concert open at 5:30 p.m. Note that lawn chairs are prohibited.

Fans of the Black Crowes probably couldn’t care less what the band will be playing next week: With the current tour billed as the southern-rock band’s farewell, it’s a don’t-miss event regardless of the set list.

Recent reviews say the band has been spending about two hours on stage, mixing up a wide-ranging set that veers between tight arrangements of familiar tunes and rambly jams highlighting the guitar wizardry of Luther Dickinson in particular.

“The set list showcased the band’s wide range: It can play it soft and subtle and unleash some heavy artillery,” wrote Kansas City Star critic Timothy Finn about the band’s August 18 show. “You could argue that things got too jammy a few times, but for the most part, guitarists Rich Robinson and Luther Dickinson managed to keep things from getting too loose and wandering.”

Gates at Ryan Creek Meadows open at 5 p.m.; the show starts at 6, with opening sets by Jackie Greene and Truth & Salvage Company. Camping is available at the venue; visit www.RyanCreekMeadows.com for information.

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