Outside voices: New Mountain hosts an outdoor stage through October

STAGED RIGHT: Local bluegrass, rock and jazz fusion act Brushfire Stankgrass performs this weekend as part of New Mountain's outdoor series. Photo courtesy of the band

Labor Day is behind us, but there is still plenty of fair weather ahead. In fact, it’s easy to make the argument that October’s crisp air and bright foliage make for some of the year’s best days — that’s why it’s perfect timing for New Mountain to launch its outdoor stage series.

The venue, which moved into the complex formerly occupied by Hairspray and other nightclubs in January, has been quietly hosting shows, building its brand and finding a toehold. The development process is still underway, with plans for landscaping, hardscaping, interior work and developing a consistent show schedule. An outdoor stage was originally in the works for a July debut but the permitting process took longer than expected, says New Mountain managing partner Manning Moxley. Still, “we didn’t want the entire season to go by without doing something.” No time like the present.

The Larry Keel Experience launched New Mountain’s outdoor series on Aug. 24. The stage, brought in for each production by Stewart Sound Inc., is set up in the venue’s north parking lot. New Mountain’s team recently tore off one old patio and has plans for a second to become a beer garden — but that’s most likely in the cards for spring 2015, along with tearing up asphalt and, according to Moxley, “getting a more natural look.”

For now, the outdoor series, which runs through the end of October, promises to be down-home and family-friendly. “For these first few outdoor concerts I wanted to focus on local and roots for the most part,” says Arieh Samson, who is booking the series (along with other concerts for New Mountain). “We have some stellar two- and three-band bills lined up — about 75 percent of the acts playing are local.”

Samson adds, “I’m very excited to get very diverse with the booking for 2015. We’ll be doing sunset shows throughout the week and sometimes on the weekend.”

But these first outdoor events will give the New Mountain team information on how to streamline operations. “We need to learn some things about the space — where it’s working and where it’s not working — so we can make improvements,” says Moxley. “We need to make sure there’s no bottlenecks to get a beer. Having these events will give us a lot of data.”

Not that the audience will have to act as test subjects. Think sunshine, cold drinks and bands like Brushfire Stankgrass, Camel City Collective featuring Oteil Burbridge, Sirius.B and others. Plus the shows, mostly on Sundays, have 5 p.m. start times and $5 general admission prices. “We’re not looking to make a lot of ruckus out there,” says Moxley. “If we want an electronic or rock show with a lot of volume, it makes sense to do that inside.” The indoor stage is also available — and just a few feet away — should inclement weather threaten an outdoor event.

Moxley says that while New Mountain has a vision, “We’ll probably try a little bit of everything and see what works out best for us and for the public.” The outdoor stage, with its festive lineup and casual atmosphere, is a confident step in that direction. According to Moxley, “This is about, ‘Let’s have a good time and get people home at a decent hour.’”

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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