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Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre anticipates successful season, despite HB2 uncertainty

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U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, a North Carolina native, announces that the Dept. of Justice is filing a lawsuit against NC about HB2 after the state filed a lawsuit against Justice earlier in the day. She spoke personally to the citizens of
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U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, a North Carolina native, announces that the Dept. of Justice is filing a lawsuit against NC about HB2 after the state filed a lawsuit against Justice earlier in the day. She spoke personally to the citizens of

The busy summer season at Koka Booth Amphitheatre had yet to begin when the venue faced uncertainty over its schedule.

Ringo Starr attracted national attention when he joined other artists and bands – including Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam – in canceling his North Carolina show in protest of House Bill 2, a law that the U.S. Department of Justice says violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act.

After Starr canceled his June 18 concert at Booth Amphitheatre, representatives at Cary’s outdoor venue said there were concerns about other artists pulling their shows, said Liz McDonald, the amphitheater’s general manager. So far, no other artists have canceled, McDonald said, and she didn’t say which acts had discussed canceling.

“People have talked about it, but have decided to take a different route,” she said.

Meanwhile, shortly before Starr’s announcement, country music legend Merle Haggard died. He was scheduled to play alongside Willie Nelson on May 22.

Still, despite the uncertainty other venues are facing as more cancellations are announced, McDonald said it could be Booth Amphitheatre’s most successful season yet, citing thousands of tickets already sold.

“The season is looking great,” she said. “The ticket sales have been pretty strong for several of our shows.”

Grammy Award-winning country singer Chris Stapleton, scheduled for May 20, broke amphitheater records, selling out in 20 minutes.

The Lumineers, a folk-rock band based in Denver, will return on Sept. 15 this year. The last time they visited the Cary amphitheater, the show sold out, and McDonald anticipates that likely could happen again.

As for the Nelson-Haggard show, she said few ticket-holders wanted a refund. Tickets to the show have continued to sell, and it was announced May 2 that Nelson would be joined by Kris Kristofferson and The Strangers, featuring Haggard’s sons, Ben and Noel.

“There will be many Merle songs sung,” McDonald said. “It’ll be a very lovely tribute to Merle.”

Mostly lawn tickets remain for some of the more popular shows.

The amphitheatre, off U.S. 1 on Regency Parkway in south Cary, is the town’s main outdoor performing arts facility. It is run by management company SMG.

Season outlook

The season was off to a good start when the amphitheater hosted its first Chinese Lantern Festival from Nov. 28 to Jan. 17. The festival attracted 52,000 people and generated $675,000 in revenue from ticket sales.

“Based on where we are right now, we could very well exceed last year,” said Lyman Collins, the Town of Cary’s cultural arts division manager. “I think we have, like, three or so shows right now that are over 5,000 (tickets sold).”

Weather, as much as anything, will play a role in this season’s success, he said.

Generally, Koka Booth hosts 11 to 15 national acts, which have included musical groups as well as comedians. McDonald said 12 have been scheduled.

“It is possible that we will add more acts to our lineup, but we’re very happy with the groups that we do have booked,” she said.

Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons recently was added to play Aug. 7.

“We’re excited to have a fabulous legend in musical history joining us,” McDonald said.

In the fall, the Cary Town Council approved a budget of $610,000 for the season.

Koka Booth Amphitheatre also will host the N.C. Symphony’s Summerfest, Hob Nob Jazz Series and Movies by Moonlight again this summer. The Pickin’ in the Pines Concert Series starts in September.

The lineup, informally referred to as the Laughter & Legends series, has rock, country and classical tunes. Even the N.C. Symphony has a night devoted to the music of the late rocker David Bowie.

“You have a nice range there with lots of things in between,” Collins said.

Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon

Booth Amphitheatre season

For tickets and times, go to For information on Summerfest, go to

5/18 – Styx, Kansas, Don Felder

5/20 – Chris Stapleton, Sam Lewis – Sold out

5/21 – Russell Peters

5/22 – Willie Nelson & Family with guests Kris Kristofferson and The Strangers, featuring Ben and Noel Haggard in honor of the late Merle Haggard.

6/18 – Ringo Starr – Canceled

7/6 – Modest Mouse, Brand New

7/18 – Flight of the Conchords

7/22 – Tedeschi Trucks Band, Los Lobos, North Mississippi Allstars

8/7 – Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

9/15 – Lumineers

10/7 – Alabama, Charlie Daniels Band

Hob Nob Jazz Series

5/4 – Marcus Anderson

5/11 – Atomic Rhythm All Stars

5/25 – Peter Lamb & the Wolves

6/1 – Yolanda Rabun

6/8 – La Fiesta Latin Jazz Quartet

N.C. Symphony Summerfest

Tributes to film composer John Williams, late rocker David Bowie and Beethoven highlight the North Carolina Symphony’s Summerfest concert series that kicks off Saturday, May 28. Each show features an instrument zoo with gates opening before the shows for picnics. A roving judge selects the best picnic spread before each show. Children 12 and younger are admitted free on the lawn.

5/28 – Tchaikovsky’s 5th

6/3 – Gershwin & Jazz with Joey Alexander

6/4 – Classics Under the Stars

6/10-11 – John Williams Festival

6/16-17 – Beethoven Festival

6/24 – Broadway at the Booth

6/25 – The Music of David Bowie

7/4 – N.C. Symphony Independence Day (free)

7/9 – Beach Music with Jackie Gore and North Tower

Movies by Moonlight

The Movies by Moonlight film series opens with a screening of “Rio 2,” rated G, at 8:30 p.m. Friday, May 13. Cost is $5; children 12 and under are admitted free. Gates open at 7 p.m. Bring a blanket or chair. Picnics are allowed. A portion of proceeds benefit WakeMed Children’s Hospital.

▪ Thursday, June 9: “King Fu Panda 3” (PG)

▪ Thursday, June 23: “Labyrinth” (PG)

▪ Friday, July 15: “Pitch Perfect 2” (PG-13)

▪ Thursday, July 21: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (PG-13)

▪ Friday, July 29: “Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2” (PG-13)

▪ Friday, Aug. 12: “Zootopia” (PG)

▪ Friday, Aug. 19: “Chef” (R)

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