The Mann Center for the Performing Arts has entered into a deal with Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promotion company, to book the pop music lineup at the Fairmount Park venue.
The partnership was announced Monday by Mann president and CEO Catherine M. Cahill and Live Nation Philadelphia president Geoff Gordon.
“To be able to put on a full menu of shows at the Mann Music Center is unbelievably exciting,” Gordon said. “And with bringing the Roots there last year, we’ve shown that we can expand the campus and do some really cool things in and around the Mann.”
Gordon was referring to the Roots Picnic, which moved onto the Mann’s 22-acre tract in 2019 from its former home at the now-defunct Festival Pier on the Delaware River.
Cahill praised Live Nation’s creative presentation of last June’s sold-out Picnic, which drew 25,000 fans, in talking about why the city-owned, nonprofit performing arts center is going into business with the promoter.
“It’s a priority to ensure that the Mann is the premier destination for outdoor entertainment in the region,” Cahill said. “Last year’s Picnic made Philadelphia shine. Fairmount Park absolutely glistened. We’re thrilled to have a partner at the table where we can utilize that same footprint on other festivals."
Since 2010, the dominant promoter at the Mann, which is the summer home of the Philadelphia Orchestra, has been AEG Live, Live Nation’s chief national competitor.
The Mann’s deal with AEG Live was an “exclusive” arrangement with loopholes allowing third-party promoters to book shows in some instances. The Live Nation deal — which both parties called “long term,” without revealing specifics — is similar, Cahill said. The Beverly Hills-based company will book the great majority of shows, but other promoters will occasionally present concerts, in addition to cultural programming such as the Orchestra and Philly Pops presented by the Mann itself.
Cahill said the decision to switch to Live Nation made sense because “we meant to take advantage of the programming they can bring into the Mann … a wealth of talent operating knowledge, and a depth of data. Information is power."
The Roots Picnic will be back at the Mann on May 30, featuring the Roots, Meek Mill, Summer Walker, and more. The week before, on May 23, Hoagie Nation will be headlined by Hall and Oates, Squeeze, Kool & the Gang, and the Hooters.
Both fests will follow the model established by the eye-opening 2019 Picnic, with performances presented in the venue’s seated TD Pavilion amphitheater, up above on the Skyline Stage, and on the lawn alongside Parkside Avenue.
That lawn area, traditionally used for parking at Mann events, was the site of a temporary main stage. In that configuration, the Mann holds 25,000 people.
It’s a far more attractive festival site than either the blacktop-by-the-river venue that was the Festival Pier or the brutalist architecture of the BB&T Pavilion in Camden, Live Nation’s other summer concert venue.
Gordon plans to add “a few more perennials” to the festival lineup, besides Hoagie Nation and the Roots Picnic. The first of those will be Philly Funk Fest, happening the Saturday after the Picnic on June 6, headlined by Chic feat. Nile Rodgers. There will be at least one more festival this year.
It’s an inviting configuration for other longtime Philadelphia area festivals.
Made in America, which takes place on the Ben Franklin Parkway on Labor Day Weekend, is too big, drawing up to 50,000. But the WXPN-FM (88.5) Xponential Music Festival would seem a perfect fit, were it ever to leave its home at Wiggins Park and the BB&T in Camden. Live Nation is a partner in both events.
Other Live Nation bookings on the Mann’s calendar include the Pet Shop Boys and New Order on Sept. 11. There are also some choice shows booked by AEG Live on the Mann schedule, including John Prine with Emmylou Harris on June 28.
Since Festival Pier went kaput last year — the victim of real estate developers — Live Nation has been without a replacement for the outdoor summer venue, which held up to 10,000.
Moving to the Mann gives the promoter added flexibility. When not in festival mode, the seated TD Pavilion can accommodate 4,500 under a roof and 10,000 on its open-air lawn. The Skyline Stage, with a picturesque view of Center City, can hold 7,500 on three grassy acres.