BREAKING: Irvine approves temporary amphitheater near Great Park

By Tomoya Shimura

IRVINE – Orange County music fans will get to continue enjoying their local summer outdoor concert tradition in their own backyard at least for the next three years.

In an effort to replace the now-closed Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, the Irvine City Council on Tuesday, March 14, unanimously approved the building of a temporary 12,000-seat amphitheater adjacent the Orange County Great Park.


“An amphitheater has been a part of this family fabric for years and years so it was a heartbreak when (Irvine Meadows) amphitheater was torn down for all those apartments,” Councilwoman Christina Shea said. “I drive by there and I see that devastation and it just breaks your heart. This is just so nice to see we’re resurrecting the amphitheater and we can bring all of Orange County to Irvine to celebrate live music and just become a family again.”

The temporary amphitheater could open in late summer, in time for the latter half of the concert season, said Steve Churm, spokesman for developer FivePoint, which proposed the project and is overseeing the development of thousands of homes around the Great Park.

“We’re going to have a couple surprises towards the end of the summer,” said Bret Gallagher, president of concert promoter Live Nation Southern California.

Supporters of the project, donning red “#SaveLiveMusicIrvine” T-shirts, packed the council chamber and the City Hall lobby. They included music fans, concert venue workers and local business and political leaders.

All 21 people who addressed the council spoke in favor of the project. They said the new amphitheater will fill the cultural gap left by the Irvine Meadows closure, create jobs in the area and help put Irvine on the map.

“We are excited for Irvine and Orange County that we will continue to see live music,” Churm said after the public hearing. “I think Irvine Meadows has been a destination for musicians for bands for fans. This will continue it. … (In Orange County) we’ll become a major destination for artists, both starting and very established artists. It’s exciting.”

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Gwen Stefani Closes Irvine Meadows

By Kelli Skye Fadroski

IRVINE – Gwen Stefani took the Irvine Meadows stage Sunday night as the concert venue’s final performer, 26 years after her band, No Doubt, first played there as an opening act for reggae artist Ziggy Marley.

“Can you imagine? Tonight is one of the most special nights for all of us,” she said. “We, together, will be closing down Irvine Meadows. This is it, right here … I’m so honored to be from Orange County, and I’m so honored to be with you here tonight to celebrate music. Let’s have some fun tonight. Do you want to?”

And with that, Orange County’s first large-scale concert venue began its swan song. The 16,000-capacity amphitheater, which opened in 1981, will be razed soon to make way for the second phase of the Irvine Co.’s Los Olivos apartment community. The amphitheater, which opened in 1981, sits on land leased by the Irvine Co., with the last of those leases expiring this year.

Annette Galindo of Huntington Beach has worked at Irvine Meadows for eight years, first at the front podium and then at the backstage entrance. She has spent those years saying “hello” and “goodbye” to a slew of artists, employees and stagehands. Sunday night she said goodbye for a final time as the venue hosted its last concert.

“It’s heartbreaking that we’re closing,” she said. “I’ve been saying goodbye all year and realizing that it is literally goodbye. I’m looking at the trees and looking around here and knowing it’s going to be torn down. When I worked out front, I watched Wild Rivers go down, so I know the reality of what’s going to happen here, and it’s breaking my heart.”

Fans turned out early Sunday for the final show.

“We just happened to stumble upon tickets to the last show at Irvine Meadows,” Marty Reichman of Fullerton said.

He was tailgating out in the bed of his truck in the parking lot with his wife, Keely. Reichman added that he usually attended multiple shows each season and that his first show at the venue was Rush in 1982.

“It’s quite the dichotomy between Rush and Gwen, but we’re also just happy to be at the last show.”

Others in attendance Sunday also said that being part of the final show was the big draw.

“We’re here because this is history,” Erin Koury of Dove Canyon said. She showed up with a handful of girlfriends who agreed they would have come to the venue to support keeping live music in Irvine, no matter who was performing.

Continue reading at he Orange County Register…

Photo by Ana Venegas, Orange County Registe/SCNG

Meet the people who have been behind the scenes at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre since it opened

By Kelli Skye Fadroski

Long before the fans enter through the gates, buy their first cold beer or cocktail and head to their seats to enjoy an evening of live music at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, dozens of men and women have already been hard at work behind the scenes to ensure that every last detail is perfectly in place before the first note is played up on the stage.

After 36 years, the venue will be torn down this year to make way for the expanding Los Olivos apartment community, but not before a pair of shows headlined by Orange County’s own Gwen Stefani on Saturday and Sunday. Putting together these last few gigs, including Go Country 105 FM’s final Go Fest with Florida Georgia Line, the hip-hop festival How the West Was Won featuring Ice Cube, and longtime venue favorite Jimmy Buffett, has been an emotional experience for the amphitheater’s crew, which has become like family over the past three decades.

Several members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 504 have worked at the 16,000-capacity amphitheater since it opened with the Charlie Daniels Band on Aug. 21, 1981.

“He had brown hair back then, like I did,” head carpenter James “Buck” Buckholz said of Daniels with a laugh, pointing down at one of his work ID badges bearing a photo that’s a few decades old. He’s also head of payroll, and as the team shows up to his office, nestled just off stage right, he checks off their names as they clock in before 10 a.m. to set up pop-punk band Blink-182’s show later that evening.

Over the years, Buckholz and his team have witnessed some once-in-a-lifetime moments, from sharing ribs with Hall of Fame blues guitarist Bo Diddley in 1985 to hanging out with members of the English metal band Iron Maiden as they cooled off at the then-adjacent Wild Rivers water park after a sound check during one of their numerous summer visits.

Continue reading the Orange County Register…

Gwen Stefani to perform final Irvine Meadows concerts before it closes next month

By Kelli Skye Fadroski

After 36 years of hosting legendary tours, one-of-a-kind performances and numerous multi-stage and artist festivals, Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre will close for good following two evenings with Gwen Stefani on Oct. 29-30. The singer announced the shows this morning during an appearance on KIIS-FM.

The former Anaheim resident, No Doubt frontwoman and Grammy award-winning solo artist will be bringing the final dates of her This is What the Truth Feels Like Tour to her home county and Irvine’s own indie rock outfit Young the Giant will serve as support for one last hurrah at the iconic outdoor concert venue.

“I’m devastated,” Stefani said of the closing during an interview earlier this week. “I don’t remember my first time going there because I have a really bad memory, but I remember the first time playing there and it was opening for Ziggy Marley and I remember thinking ‘How on God’s great Earth are we playing here?’”

That show was back in 1990, five years before No Doubt would hit big with its third record, “Tragic Kingdom.” No Doubt performed at Irvine Meadows numerous times throughout the years including a main stage slot at KROQ’s annual Weenie Roast in 1996. It stopped by for one night during the Return of Saturn tour in 2000 and the band played four sold-out nights there in 2009. Stefani even brought her second solo tour, The Sweet Escape Tour, to the venue for two sold-out nights in 2007. She hadn’t talked to the other members of No Doubt about performing during these final shows, but said “You know what? You never say never. You never know what can happen.”

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IRVINE: Live Music Outdoors is Not Dead Yet

By Kelli Skye

Orange County might not have to wait too long for a new outdoor music venue to open after Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre is bulldozed at the end of the 2016 concert season to make room for the Los Olivos apartment community.

Los Angeles-based concert-promoting giant Live Nation, which runs the venue, and developer FivePoint, will propose conceptual ideas to the Irvine City Council in the coming weeks for an outdoor concert venue to be constructed at the Orange County Great Park.

As fans have made their way into the amphitheater during its final 40-show run, the fact that it would no longer be their local summer concert haven has finally started to sink in. Because of an overwhelming number of messages and posts via various forms of social media, Live Nation decided to give patrons a place to gather and express how much live music is not only needed but wanted in Irvine.

“We wanted to acknowledge the fans that have come to and supported Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre since 1981,” said Brad Locker, vice president of marketing, Live Nation SoCal Music, who has worked at Irvine Meadows since 1995. “We wanted to give them a central source to help demonstrate to potential stakeholders that there’s an undercurrent of people who want the live music experience to live in Irvine forever.”

During the sold-out Miranda Lambert concert on Aug. 5, the Save Live Music Irvine campaign began, and workers sporting bright orange shirts started collecting signatures, getting fans to sign up at and educating guests about the closure and potential next steps.

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…

OC REGISTER: Critics Recall Their Favorite Irvine Meadows Shows

An era ends this summer when Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre finishes its last season as Orange County’s haven for rock music.

Thirty-five years of concerts were chronicled by the rock critics of The Orange County Register (some of whom still have their hearing). We asked them to share their memories.

Christopher Smith, 1979-1982

Looking back, I ultimately dug Irvine Meadows for where it wasn’t and for what that meant to Orange County music fans, rather than a particular concert or two from the dozen and dozens I either wrote about or saw over the decades.

(OK, one memory I can’t shake: the 1982 image of a drenched but not dispirited Frank Sinatra gamely hanging in during his first-ever Orange County concert under an oddly timed September downpour.)

But the outdoor facility’s ultimate blessing was the tens of thousands of treks up the 5 or 405 freeways none of us had to make eight months of the year from 1981 on. Eventually, in 1993, Orange County would get a year-round concert venue with The Pond/Honda Center, but when it opened, Irvine Meadows seemed a shockingly cool outdoor gift from the music gods, with top-end rock, pop, country, etc., in our backyard.

Weird footnote: Irvine Meadows was also the Fitbit of facilities. No matter what we saw, multi-act rock festivals to evenings ending with fireworks from the Pacific Symphony, the place exercised us equally, cardio and a concert for all. From the extended arrival – why was the plod across the 4,000 space lot somehow more tedious than the 10-minute walk up the hill? – to that race/walk stampede down the pathway to beat traffic onto Irvine Center Drive, I often ended up humming a tune while trying to catch my breath.

For me, Irvine Meadows generated more than just memories, perhaps enough exercise equal to a few extra days alive to remember them.

Jim Washburn, 1983-1988

Life in Orange County changed for the better when Irvine Meadows joined the landscape. For one thing, I got a nice checkerboard linoleum floor for my garage. When Michael Jackson played three nights there in 1988, he left his stage floor behind. Rather than discard it, a friend who worked as a Meadows stagehand rolled it up and took it. He couldn’t bring it home because his dad was racist, so he gave it to me.

I never felt that deifying artists did them any favors, so to me it was nothing precious, just a linoleum floor. Sometimes, though, while scraping the Total Gym or a leaking washing machine across the floor, I’d reflect, “Hey, Michael Jackson moonwalked on this thing!” When we moved we left it behind.

What I haven’t left behind are the memories of the magical performances at Irvine Meadows. I saw some great and varied things: David Lindley’s genre-grafting El Rayo-X, L.A.’s X, Prince, Tina Turner, the Gipsy Kings, the raucous Kinks, Tony Bennett, the reborn Who, Stevie Ray Vaughan wringing his strings, NRBQ quoting Shostakovich. I saw the Grateful Dead enough times for them to be everything that’s been said of them, from ruminant hippies meandering through a musical pasture to a band beaming golden waves of energy to the audience – though maybe that was the weed.

The setting and atmosphere helped: Hearing music under the stars always added to the wonder, and even the El Toro jets roaring overhead seemed to spur the musicians on.

Continue reading at the OC Register…

DAILY PILOT: Curtain to close on Irvine Meadows Amphitheater

By Matt Morrison

The sunset over Irvine Thursday night will mark the proverbial fade to memory for Orange County’s premier outdoor concert venue.

That’s when Irvine Meadows Amphitheater begins its 35th and final season of musical performances before closing this fall.

The first of the final season of eclectic shows opens with an ethnic punk themed lineup featuring L.A. based Celtic rockers Flogging Molly. Filling out the marquee are Southern California ska/reggae band Hepcat and gypsy punk group Gogol Bordello.

Already announced shows include Fallout Boy, Journey with the Doobie Brothers and Dave Mason, Dave Matthews Band, Brad Paisley, Duran Duran and Def Leppard.

Over the years, the stage has hosted some of the biggest names in pop, rock and country, including Michael Jackson, Oingo Boingo, Ozzy Osbourne, Bob Dylan and Orange County’s own No Doubt. Irvine Meadows also supported numerous groundbreaking musical festivals like Lollapalooza, Lilith Fair and the Christian Fishfest.

“One of the biggest events I can remember was when the Eagles reunited for their comeback ‘Hell Freezes Over tour'” in 1994, said Irvine Meadows General Manager Mark Curto. “They played three sold-out shows here, and it was just really special.”

The same can be said for scores of superstar acts that performed under the stars. Jackson, at the pinnacle of his popularity, played three nights in November 1988 during his “Bad” tour. Jimmy Buffett has been bringing the parrot-heads out for years in a regular stop on his tour schedule, and the Grateful Dead played in Irvine 15 times — there was what police called a “near riot” at a 1989 show — before bandleader Jerry Garcia died in 1995.

“The parking lot was always fun, especially when the Grateful Dead showed up,” said Stanton J. Beal, 56, remembering his treks to Irvine on several occasions in the ’80’s as a UCLA undergrad. “It was always like a carnival outside a carnival.”

The amphitheater opened in 1981 on 50 acres of land owned by the Irvine Co. and leased to Live Nation concert promoters on a 35-year land-lease deal. The venue was known as the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, after its main sponsor, from 2000 to 2014.

Continue reading at the Daily Pilot…

Photo credit: Live Nation