Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook is a cozy place to play, a musician’s working vacation. The backstage area has basketball, horseshoes and a private chef. S’mores made with marshmallows roasted over a fire pit are a ritual at every show. That may explain why James Taylor and Kings of Leon are coming to the Lakes Region this summer after doing arena shows earlier this year. Booking the Nashville rockers, known for hits like “Sex On Fire” and “Use Somebody,” is a big deal for Meadowbrook President R.J. Harding.
“It will be a huge and great rock show,” he said.
The Meadowbrook staff is also juiced for the venue’s first ever EDM show with Skrillex (June 4).
“He is just blowing up,” Marketing Director Becky Burke said by phone recently. “I think it’s something different. It’s important to bring different genres to the venue. I know it’s important to R.J. to have this new and different genre in here, because that is what we are. We’re not one specific venue.”
Maybe not, but Meadowbrook has made a name for itself in the country music industry. It’s earned nominations for Academy of Country Music’s Venue of the Year six of the past seven years and each summer books solid country acts. After Zac Brown Band sold out a July Fenway Park show months in advance, it later booked two mid-August shows at Meadowbrook. Now the Lakes Region stop is a tradition for the country stars.
“They like the whole vibe, the Winnipesaukee thing,” Harding said.
For Meadowbrook VP of Corporate Development Emma Womack, mellow superstar Taylor is this season’s best get.
“The anticipation of hearing his classic songs live at our venue is something we hoped would happen for years,” she said. “This year R.J. made it happen.”
Overall, the calendar is well-balanced. An eclectic show on July 12 exemplifies an intersection of genres, when Jennifer Nettles, who’s sold out dates with Sugarland, will appear solo backed by indie folk duo Indigo Girls.
Double bills and multi-act shows abound: Lynyrd Skynyrd and Charlie Daniels June 15, Willie Nelson and Allison Krauss June 20, classic rock with Styx, Foreigner and Don Felder (Eagles) on July 6 and a great pairing of Train and The Wallflowers on Aug. 28.
Burke is personally pleased that bands like Boston (July 3) and Peter Frampton and the Doobie Brothers (June 29) are booked.
“I love classic rock; it’s definitely my favorite, and we have such an awesome thread for that this year,” she said. “But I am also psyched about Michael Franti and the Soulshine Festival (July 19), and I’m a country girl as well.”
As usual, Meadowbrook has plenty on offer in that department, with Jake Owen kicking the season off May 29, plus shows from Keith Urban (July 24), The Band Perry (Aug. 3), Alan Jackson (Aug. 7), rocker turned country star Darius Rucker (Sept. 13) and a powerful triple bill with Lady Antebellum, Billy Currington and Joe Nichols (Aug. 31).
Comedy is represented by Jeff Dunham (two shows on July 11) and the return of Bob Marley’s Camp-A-Palooza (Aug. 9).
Over the winter, Meadowbrook added new bathrooms and upgraded some VIP services. But the big news is a lawn expansion that increases capacity to near 10,000.
“Everyone always jokes that I’m the lawn spokesperson, but I love it,” said Burke. “I think it’s such an amazing experience. You can have great sight lines from anywhere, you can dance around, and we have improved that even more. Better still, you can always get an affordable seat on the lawn.”