Build It And They Will Come…Maybe

Build It And They Will Come…Maybe

A show at The Harvester Performance Center can be a wonderful experience. The sound is great. The lighting is great. Even the seats are comfortable. The volunteers bend over backward to make your experience a good one. Sometimes, there may even be an act you want to see and can afford it— sometimes.

Since its debut in 2014, under the direction of General Manager Gary Jackson, The Harvester Performance Center has scheduled more than 821 ticketed events. Barely 20% of those shows saw attendance surpass 60% of capacity. Meanwhile, 41.7% of the ticketed events failed to surpass 25% capacity of the venue.

Of course, ticket prices must be discussed in regard to attendance. Since opening, 42.2% of ticketed shows have offered a price tag of less than $25. Conversely, 30.4% of ticketed shows have had tickets in excess of $40.00, with some reaching as high as $295.00.

It is important to remember that the former General Manager, Gary Jackson, came to The Harvester from Roanoke’s now defunct Kirk Avenue Music Hall. With a maximum capacity of 125 standing and approximately 95 seated, it didn’t take much to feel like a crowd in that space. It also didn’t hurt that the space was underwritten by Roanoke developer and bon vivant Ed Walker.

The Harvester project, from day one, has been based on the strategy of “I know a guy, who knows a guy…”

Former Harvester General Manager Gary Jackson

Jackson was alleged to have had a prior relationship with a Grammy Award winning Country Music artist. The Rocky Mount Town Council clearly thought this was a qualification to be the General Manager of a multi-million dollar music venue.

On opening, Jackson booked Indigo Girls for opening night, but then returned to some of his standard bookings from Kirk Avenue Music Hall, including the Black Lillies, and the Dirty Guv’nahs. The Dirty Guv’nahs, on their first appearance at The Harvester, drew a “crowd” that was 2.89% of capacity. Jackson booked them again, and this time they drew a larger crowd at 7.56% of capacity.

The Black Lillies are a group that Jackson had booked at Kirk Avenue Music Hall. He thought their draw for a facility up to 6 times larger would be the same.

ArtistDateCapacitySoldCapacity %
The Black Lillies5/31/201445012728.22%
The Black Lillies w/ opener Meghan McCormick4/24/20154506514.44%
Turnpike Troubadours w/ The Black Lillies*10/31/201546330365.44%
Jamey Johnson w/The Black Lillies*5/20/201658457297.95%
The Black Lillies w/ Folk Soul Revival10/7/201645028563.33%
The Black Lillies w/ Adam Ezra10/21/201760012420.67%
The Black Lillies4/27/20184508418.67%
The Black Lillies11/16/201846111825.60%
Paul Thorn w/ The Black Lillies Night 1*11/1/201945019142.44%
Paul Thorn w/ The Black Lillies Night 2*11/2/201945023051.11%
* indicates The Black Lillies were not the headliner of the evening and there was an additional draw.

There are other bookings that by all accounts were a flop.

ArtistDateCapacity %
Mountain Heart9/25/201532.36%
Mountain Heart5/12/20160%
Folk Soul Revival12/08/21811.96%
Chris Jones and the Night Drivers3/15/201911.52%
Chris Jones and the Night Drivers3/13/20208.48%
Acoustic Syndicate2/1/20209.78%
An abridged list of booking with a poor showing in ticket sales.

To view a complete list of ticketed shows and the tickets sold, click here.

Given more than seven years, Jackson was never able to guide the Harvester to profitability and resigned from his post in February 2021. Following his resignation, Jackson almost immediately began booking musical acts for a new venue at Smith Mountain Lake. Some of those acts were previously scheduled to perform at The Harvester and with the pandemic, the concerts were to be rescheduled.

Following Jackson’s hasty resignation the Town of Rocky Mount began an nationwide search for a replacement. The search took a mere thirteen days and the replacement is a native of Roanoke.

The Town entered into a contract with talent promoter Micah Davidson. Davidson is the son of Larry Davidson, third-generation owner of the eponymous, Roanoke men’s clothier.

Micah Davidson
Micah Davidson

Davidson owns Midwood Entertainment, which he formed five years ago. According to The Roanoke Times’ Tad Dickens, Davidson “is the talent buyer for Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, and has represented such acts as funk bass living legend George Porter Jr., blues singer/guitarist Tab Benoit and “Soul Queen of New Orleans” Irma Thomas.”

It’s important to note that nowhere in Dickens’ repeated articles about Gary Jackson, Micah Davidson, or The Harvester Performance Center is it mentioned that Tad Dickens’ own band Monster Atlantic was paid to play at The Harvester on February 2, 2018.

Dickens does not mention that Davidson is no stranger to The Harvester as he represents The Black Lillies, Mountain Heart, Folk Soul Revival, Chris Jones and the Night Drivers, Acoustic Syndicate, and more. According to Midwood Entertainment’s website, Davidson does not represent a single artist who has ever attracted more than 33% capacity at The Harvester as a solo artist.

Dickens goes on to report that Davidson will remain in North Carolina, and he will travel to Rocky Mount frequently to oversee the Harvester’s day-to-day operations and budgeting.

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