Back in April, when everyone hoped the Covid-19 thing would be over in a reasonable amount of time, Ruth Eckerd Hall Executive Vice President of Entertainment Bobby Rossi was still booking and announcing new shows for the summer, optimistically thinking normal was just around the corner.
That ol’ devil virus has hung around for almost a half year now, and while the theater doors in Eckerd’s 2,200-seat man hall remain closed, as they do at the smaller Capitol Theatre across town, Rossi and his crew have had significant success with their series of socially-distanced (intimate audience, tables spaced far apart) acoustic shows in the Clearwater venue’s 6,000-square-foot lobby. The series, which began in June, features artists who live, or have family, in the area.
“We didn’t have to do a lot of arm-twisting,” Rossi says. “Quite honestly, they all wanted to play, and they obviously know it’s going to be a safe, cool environment. We just unveiled this new, enlarged lobby in November with a giant glass atrium. And it really lends itself nice to this kind of unique concert.”
As reported here last week, three of the four shows with Sister Hazel’s Ken Block and Andrew Copeland, Sept. 3-4, are already sold out.
Watch the Aug. 21 edition of The Catalyst Sessions with Block and Copeland here.
Additional concerts in the series include:
Jazz saxophonist Mindi Abair, a native of Pinellas County, Aug. 27-30.
From the Catalyst archives: Sax and the city of St. Pete: Mindi Abair plays tonight (2019)
Outlaws co-founder Henry Paul (from Tampa) and singer/songwriter Henry Gross, Sept. 11 and 12.
From the Catalyst archives: ‘Sing like the Eagles, play like the Allmans’: Henry Paul and the legacy of the Outlaws (2019)
Greg Billings (of the Greg Billings Band) and Brother Phil (from the Black Honkeys), Sept. 18.
Watch The Catalyst Sessions with Gregg Billings and George Harris here.
Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander (of Safety Harbor) with Robin Taylor Zander, Sept. 25 and 26.
From the Catalyst archives: The best rock band around: A chat with Robin Zander
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band co-founder John McEuen (a resident of Tampa) with John Cable and Shaun Hopper, Oct. 2.
From the Catalyst archives: The circle is unbroken: Acoustic legend John McEuen plays the Hideaway Tuesday (2019)
Each show is limited to 100 patrons; all tickets and information can be found here.
“They’re within all the guidelines,” enthuses Rossi. “There’s no reason these shows shouldn’t happen. And we’re really kind of selling the intimacy, selling the uniqueness – these are like a New York City club vibe. We wanted to embody that ‘big name in a small space.’ And nationally, we’ve been told by agents that we’re the only one doing this. These are the only national acts playing on a regular basis anywhere.”