AMP’d Up: Rogers venue prepares to welcome back live music

AMP’d Up: Rogers venue prepares to welcome back live music

Do you hear that? The sounds of guitars, drums, your favorite song and 10,000 screaming fans echoing out over the Ozark hills once again?

OK, so maybe those familiar sounds are just sweet memories of the before times. But they’re starting up once again — and SOON!

Facilities staff members at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers are preparing to get people back in seats, artists back on stage and music ringing through the night as concert announcements begin again.

On April 15, the first new touring show in more than a year was announced as the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers added to its summer lineup, which includes 10 shows rescheduled from the 2020 season. More announcements are coming soon. (Courtesy Photo)

Every show on the 2020 season, of course, was either postponed or outright canceled. Luckily, 10 of those postponed concerts have already set a 2021 date for this summer, and one has moved to the summer of 2022. Late last week, two brand new announcements for the 2021 season were released, to be followed by several more over the next few weeks.

“It’s exciting to say we’re going to have more shows to talk about,” Brian Crowne, vice president of the AMP, says with a touch of relief. “Four or five months ago, I wouldn’t have bet a dollar on it. So it’s exciting for us.”

“That tells us that people are ready to get back out on the road,” adds Wendy Riggs, vice president of operations for Walton Arts Center and general manager of the AMP.

And AMP employees are ready to welcome music lovers back to take advantage of all the new perks and amenities the venue offers following its $17.2 million renovation and expansion completed in the spring of last year.

Prolific jam-band rockers Phish will give their first-ever Arkansas performance at the Walmart AMP July 28. (Courtesy Photo)

There are so many changes that make the experience so much better, Riggs reveals. To name just a few: There are now more bathrooms and more concession stands. Lawn chairs (legless and low-sitting) are available to rent. New metal detectors at entrances aim to expedite lines. Handicapped seating is available at the top of the lawn for the first time. The brand new Choctaw Plaza at the top of the lawn also offers space to enjoy a drink and a great view. Patrons can purchase a Fast Track ticket add-on to bypass long entry lines.

And that’s all just from the patrons’ side. The back of the house amenities for touring artists and crews, the hospitality capabilities — including laundry, catering space, dressing rooms, expanded Green Room — were also conspicuously expanded, Crowne says.

“We added a loading dock extension. That isn’t real sexy to some people, but that means we can unload five or six trucks at once, and they have a working dock. Before we were loading straight into the stage,” Crowne demonstrates. “And that makes my job of programming easier for some bands, because a lot of times they’re going to look and say, ‘How easy is it to get in and out of that building? Can we do it and be on the road by 3:30 in the morning and still make our next show?’ That loading dock extension makes production capabilities expand exponentially.”

Nineties grunge icon Alanis Morissette was set to make her Northwest Arkansas debut last year during the 25th anniversary of her seminal 1995 album “Jagged Little Pill.” She’ll make it, instead, this summer on Aug. 14. (Courtesy Photo)

“Venues like this sometimes are looked at as blue collar,” Riggs reveals. “And the reason is because you just come in, the artists bring everything, and we’re just the shell. But this venue is so much more.

“There’s these beautiful public spaces that I don’t see in other venues — and I’ve toured these venues all over the country. I’ve worked at several different ones,” she continues. “And it’s a higher class look; it’s cleaner; it’s sharp with its signage, and the way that we think of everyone when they come in. So I think that we’ve really accomplished what we wanted to do, which was treating our patrons and our artists first class.”

Those venue improvements, accompanied by increased seating — which translates to more ticket sales — have moved the AMP up the radar for some artists who might not have considered a Northwest Arkansas tour stop three years ago. Backstreet Boys, Alanis Morissette and Lindsey Stirling were all poised to make their AMP debuts in 2020 and will this summer. Likewise, iconic rock band Phish was set for its first-ever visit in the whole state last year. The foursome is now performing July 28.

Ten of the postponed 2020 concerts at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers were rescheduled for dates this summer, and one show has a performance date in 2022. The AMP announced two new shows April 15 and 16, with more to come. (Courtesy Photo)

“It’s one more of those things where, I, as the guy who gets to hold the calendar, if you will, and help steer the bands in, I think about what door is that going to open next,” Crowne muses. “I feel like we got Phish because Dave Matthews came and played us twice. They’re friends; they’re managed by the same person. All of a sudden, Dave leaves and talks about the great experience he had at the AMP and in Northwest Arkansas, and it helped put us on the radar.

“That word-of-mouth really is out there nationally,” he adds, pointing to his teams’ hospitality and professionalism — a foundation that built strong industry relationships. “It makes me proud of the work that our teams have done over the years to make Northwest Arkansas a place that artists at that caliber think of when they start thinking about where do we want to tour?”

Dave Matthews Band

Though Riggs and Crowne are looking forward to welcoming artists and audiences back, there’s no way to know right now what the logistics of each show are going to look like. Masks will continue to be required at the venue, and social distancing will remain in effect while staffs monitor state regulations and best practices moving forward. It’s also likely, Riggs points out, that the specifications the venue will need to adhere to will vary artist by artist as tours establish their individual protocols.

In the meantime, Happy Hour at the AMP returns in May as a way to ease back into live music. The Friday and Saturday night shows began in the fall as a way to provide employment for industry workers, performance opportunities for local bands and to support the Walton Arts Center’s Ghost Light Recovery Fund. Some 4,000 people attended the series, which is hosted on the new Choctaw Plaza. Guests can reserve a table, purchase food and/or a specialty drink and support local music at the free performances.


“It was a really great event for us last year,” Riggs recalls of the popular series. “It allowed us all to connect as artists and individuals and managers who work in this industry, where we were all stunned and surprised. I mean, I’ve been in this business over 40 years, and I’ve never had a time when we weren’t doing events. So it was kind of good for us to be around the artists and for us all to kind of hang together and take a big breath, because it was a scary time for the arts last year.”

“I can just tell people out there that we are all equally as excited together,” Crowne says in conclusion. “I’m very, very thankful to be here on the other side of what we’ve all experienced. And hopefully, in bringing back live music, it’s going to add to the mental health and well-being of our patrons. It’s something that, when it was taken away from us, it really became apparent how important it was to not just us, the producers, not just the economic piece of it, but it truly is therapy for people to get to check out of reality for a couple hours and just get lost in their favorite band. Extremely excited to be bringing that back to people.”


Walmart AMP – 2021 Schedule

June 17 — Backstreet Boys, “DNA World Tour”

June 25 — An Evening with Chicago

July 27 — Lindsey Stirling, “The Artemis Tour”

July 28 — Phish

Aug. 8 — Megadeth and Lamb of God

Aug. 10 — The Black Crowes

Aug. 13 — The Avett Brothers

Aug. 14 — Alanis Morissette, 2021 World Tour

Aug. 15 — Matchbox Twenty

Sept. 21 — Dave Matthews Band

Steely Dan — Rescheduled for June 10, 2022

INFO — 443-5600,

Happy Hour Returns

Happy Hour at the AMP began in the fall as a way to employ struggling hospitality workers, support local bands with performance opportunities and highlight some of the Walmart AMP’s new expansion and renovation. (Courtesy Photo)

To foster a casual music atmosphere on the Happy Hour at the AMP series, Brian Crowne, vice president of the AMP, decided to go with the cream of the crop of local and regional names, he reveals. Bands that already have a local following and a reputation for providing a good time bring the right kind of vibe for a series hosted on Friday and Saturday nights at the new Choctaw Plaza at the Walmart AMP. Happy Hour returns in May, with more shows to follow in June.


May 7 — Boom! Kinetic with Jim Goza

May 8 — The Juice with TJ Scarlett

May 14 — Jukeboxx with Neon Flight Duo

May 15 — Uncrowned Kings

May 21 — Cate Brothers with TJ Scarlett

May 22 — Irie Lions and the Ashtyn Barbaree Band

May 28 — Oreo Blue with Jim Goza

Categories: Cover Story