Unique music venue opens in Brown County

On the banks of the Salt Creek, a brand new kind of music venue has risen almost like an extension of the Brown County landscape.

Natural stone and hand-hewn lumber make up the facade of the building. Large windows provide ample sunlight and views of the surrounding hillsides. Wildlife-inspired artwork, more lumber and other accents give the impression of a nature lodge.

But once you step into the Brown County Music Center’s new 2,000-seat amphitheater, it’s all about the music.

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“We wanted to make sure it was a comfortable setting where the artists and the audience are catered to,” said Dana Beth Evans, executive director of the venue. “It’s set out in a field, so when you’re driving in, you’re looking at the beautiful scenery of Brown County, towns and cornfields and everything in the area. Then the architect in charge did a wonderful job of making sure the artist experience and the patron experience is the best they can have.”

The $12 million music venue hosted its first major concert last week, as Vince Gill performed a crystal-clear set to a sellout crowd. The opening of the center offers an entirely new experience for music lovers looking to see both national and regional acts.

State-of-the-art sound systems and room acoustics ensure that each show accentuates the talent on stage. The lighting design creates a visual experience that rivals the audio itself. Designers made sure that even the farthest seat away is only 106 feet from the stage, giving a sense of intimacy even among 2,000 other fans.

The venue will host such musical luminaries as Clint Black, Art Garfunkel, Tanya Tucker and Gordon Lightfoot, giving the southern Indiana area an unrivaled opportunity to bring people to town.

“We wanted to have a draw that would bring people into the area, where people would come from Chicago or Cincinnati or Louisville, to pull them in. To do that, we needed national acts,” Evans said.

The music center is the most bombastic effort by Brown County leaders to further develop its tourist pedigree. The venue is owned by Brown County itself rather than a private company. The goal as the venue grows is for it to become self-sustaining, with the potential for excess revenue going back into the community. County leadership, business owners and tourism officials thought that the venture could add a boost to an already potent appeal.

The area’s reputation as an art-lovers paradise is well established, and its folksy downtown Nashville area attracts people shopping for crafts, unique clothing and artisan creations ranging from leatherwork to guitarmaking.

But ever since the Little Nashville Opry burned down in 2009, Brown County has not had a large venue that catered specifically to music fans, Evans said.

“Brown County is a very strong artist community. It’s very eclectic, it’s a wonderful place for people to come. But once the Little Opry burned down, we realized we were missing that big draw,” she said. “Building this music center helps us by bringing people back into the community and staying for longer times.”

The new Brown County Music Center fills that void with a slate of acts that will have far-reaching appeal. Organizers worked with Live Nation to book national touring acts, and will round out its slate with favorites from Indiana and the Midwest.

The strategy when looking for the right fit for the venue was acts with big-name recognition who would still benefit from an more cozy, smaller venue.

“We’re not going to be able to bring in the arena shows, because they’re just too big. But we’re looking for that up-and-coming artist, who’s right there about to get their big break. Or that artist that’s been around for a while that is still touring and has a great following that is coming through. Or a steady artist that everyone loves, who wants that intimate setting,” Evans said.

While the country and Americana genres play a major role in the music center’s slate of shows, organizers have also booked a number of noteworthy rock, blues and folk artists. Everyone from Tesla to George Thorogood to Duke Tumatoe will take the stage over the coming months.

Programming such as Peppa Pig Live! will offer opportunities for the entire family. In October, the funk spectacle Here Come the Mummies will perform, and December brings Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox, working popular music into vintage styles such as swing and jazz.

“We want to be sure we have all kinds of people coming into the area, so it’s not just a ‘country’ venue or a ‘tribute’ venue. We’re an all-inclusive venue,” Evans said.

So far, the response has been positive from the public. Gill’s concert on Aug. 24 sold out in 15 minutes, and limited seats are available for shows such as gospel and country artist Josh Turner, Clint Black and Tesla.

“We want every show to sell out, but we’re realistic and know that not always going to happen. We’ve put together some previews and giveaways to make sure we’re getting different people in the area,” Evans said.

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Brown County Music Center

What: A new music venue being built in Nashville, which will host national, regional and local performing groups.

Where: 200 Maple Blvd., Nashville

Capacity: 2,000

Cost: $12 million

Upcoming shows

  • Sept. 6: Henry Lee Summer
  • Sept. 7: Tesla
  • Sept. 12: Art Garfunkel
  • Sept. 13: Breakfast Club
  • Sept. 19: Tanya Tucker
  • Sept 20: Clint Black
  • Sept. 28: Gordon Lightfoot
  • Oct. 4: Terri Clark
  • Oct. 5: Gordon Bonham’s Blues Band
  • Oct. 6: Home Free
  • Oct. 11: George Thorogood & The Destroyers
  • Oct. 12: Josh Turner
  • Oct. 16: Peppa Pig Live!
  • Oct. 17: Duke Tumatoe
  • Oct. 26: Here Come The Mummies
  • Nov. 8: Ronnie Milsap
  • Nov. 15: Boy Band Review
  • Nov. 16: The Why Store
  • Nov. 23: Hard Day’s Night
  • Dec. 10: The Oak Ridge Boys
  • Dec. 12: Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox
  • Dec. 21: Sara Evans At Christmas

Information and tickets: browncountymusiccenter.com