“Before his 2010 performance here, Mr. Santana walked the festival field with Duke Devlin, an original Woodstock attendee and Bethel Woods site interpreter. At the site of the original stage, tears in his eyes, he declared that ‘this is ground zero for peace and love,’ which he repeated for the audience that night.”
Marking his third performance here since 1969, Santana returns this August for Bethel Woods’ annual summer concert series. Group programs and packages include tours, dining and events.
Like old-school lighters from the crowd calling for an encore, Bethel Woods has kin in every corner. New York City has lost CBGB and other gems over recent decades, including the Hippodrome, Bottom Line and Roseland Ballroom, but alive and well are group-capable strongholds such as Madison Square Garden, Harlem’s Apollo Theatre and the 1861 Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), the nation’s oldest performing arts center. Plus, downtown’s Webster Hall, formerly the Ritz, still going from 1886, and legendary Village anchors Cafe Wha? (1959) and The Bitter End (1961).
Atlantic City’s original convention center, 1926 Boardwalk Hall, is a cavernous sonic national landmark still rocking with legends such as The Who, playing this July. The event-capable Hall is also famed for its massive pipe organ, the world’s largest musical instrument.
In Lenox, Mass., Tanglewood, world-renowned summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), has been summoning concert-goers since 1936 for classical music, rock, jazz and more. Slated for 2019, BSO’s $30 million expansion will include a new audience-engagement initiative called the Tanglewood Learning Institute.
In October 1954, Elvis Presley gave his first-ever performance at the national landmark 1929 Shreveport Municipal Auditorium in Louisiana. On December 1956, 83 shows later, “Elvis has left the building” was coined.
Minneapolis groups can tour Paisley Park Studios, the late Prince’s estate and production complex southwest of the city. In “Hitsville U.S.A.” Detroit, home of Motown and seminal bands including Iggy Pop and The Stooges, and MC5, group calls include the Motown Museum and 1915 Majestic Theatre.
Groups can strum up the agenda with tours of historic guitar factories such as Gibson (founded in Kalamazoo, Mich., in 1894) in Memphis and from 1833, C.F. Martin Guitar in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley.
With Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum celebrating rock’s master class, other event-ready stops include the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live (also in Mississippi); the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Mo.; Oklahoma City’s American Banjo Museum; Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix; and Birthplace of Country Music in Bristol, Va.
In every state and countless cities, from the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock, Texas, to the former rock debauchery den Continental Hyatt (“Riot”) House on L.A.’s Sunset Boulevard, now the 239-room Andaz West Hollywood (with legendary 1964 rock club the Whisky A Go-Go nearby), the heritage hit parade is calling.
Music can work wonders, especially in the hands of old masters. In 1971, Americans Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton, living in London and hungry for a good burger, launched Hard Rock Cafe in an old Rolls Royce dealership. Their combination of American-style diner with rock and roll music and memorabilia was a smash sensation, and rocks on today more successfully than ever with some 228 group-ready branded properties in 74 countries worldwide.
Now, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is coming to Atlantic City, taking over Trump Taj Mahal in a wholesale makeover that could reach $400 million when completed as projected by summer 2018. For Atlantic City’s ongoing renaissance, driven in large part by investment in meetings and events, Hard Rock’s brand power—which includes presenting more than 30,000 live music events and attracting 100 million visitors globally last year—stands to supply some major marketing power chords.
The project was officially confirmed at a press conference held last month at Atlantic City’s Hard Rock Cafe, which turned 20 last November. Among the dignitaries was Steven Van Zandt, legendary guitarist for Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band and Sopranos actor. “It’s a vote of confidence for the [Hard Rock] brand and for the town,” said Van Zandt, who stated he will be bringing bands to Atlantic City as part of his syndicated throwback rock-radio show Little Steven’s Underground Garage. “And it’s a wonderful thing for New Jersey.”
Like the message of the Hard Rock Heals Foundation, one of the brand’s charitable organizations that will also bring benefit to Atlantic City, “Music is energy; it stirs emotion, inspires, connects and restores.”
Sometimes, you just got to go.
In January 1994, heart pounding, I swept into the main ballroom of NYC’s fabled Waldorf-Astoria hotel and sat at a table two back from the stage, where the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s ninth annual induction ceremony was getting underway.
In pre-9/11 Gotham, hustling and acting like you absolutely belonged no matter where you went was a reliable all-access pass. Security never came, and with Axl Rose to my near left and Bruce Springsteen to my near right, I saw inducted the Grateful Dead, The Band, Bob Marley, Elton John, The Animals, Rod Stewart, Duane Eddy and with Paul McCartney presenting to Yoko Ono, John Lennon.
Chuck Berry was there, too. After inducting Willie Dixon and telling tales of Chess Records in the ’50s, Berry, still the cat in charge, led a jam of Roll Over Beethoven. Much later, departing the Grateful Dead’s suite before dawn (that’s another story), my feet were still 10 feet off the ground. For any delegate or group seeking the same, meetings with music are a rocking place to start.
Hail, hail, Mr. Berry, and the music and venues that play forever.