PNC Bank Arts Center
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|Former names||Garden State Arts Center (1968-1996)|
|Address||Exit 116, Garden State Parkway|
|Public transit||Aberdeen-Matawan (Via Shuttle):|
|Owner||New Jersey Turnpike Authority|
10,500 (grass area)
|Opened||June 12, 1968|
|Construction cost||$6.75 million|
|Architect||Edward Durell Stone|
PNC Bank Arts Center (originally called Garden State Arts Center) is a modern amphitheatre located in Holmdel, New Jersey. About 17,500 people can occupy the amphitheater; there are 7,000 seats and the grass area can hold about 10,500 people. Concerts are from May through September featuring 35–45 different events of many types of musical styles. It is ranked among the top five most successful amphitheatres in the country. It is one of two major outdoor arenas in the New York City Metropolitan Area, along with Nikon at Jones Beach Theater. Like the Nikon theater, the PNC Bank Arts Center is managed by Live Nation.
The amphitheatre was originally called the Garden State Arts Center. The 1954 legislation that created the Garden State Parkway (at whose Exit 116 the Arts Center is located) also called for recreational facilities along the Parkway's route, and in 1964 Holmdel's Telegraph Hill was chosen as the site for "a cultural and recreational center ... that would be developed as a center for music and the performing arts." The amphitheatre was designed by noted modernist architect Edward Durell Stone and featured open sides covered by a 200-foot (61 m), saucer-like roof supported by eight large concrete pillars. It featured seating for 5,000 people with space for about 5,000 more on the lawn area outside the roof. The facility is most easily accessible from the Parkway.
The Garden State Arts Center first opened on June 12, 1968, with a program featuring pianist Van Cliburn, conductor Eugene Ormandy, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The Arts Center was operated in conjunction with the New Jersey Highway Authority, which also ran the Parkway. On June 25 and 26, 1968, Judy Garland performed at this facility.
In the beginning, the Arts Center's programming featured a good deal of classical as well as popular music. In addition, a number of free daytime programs were provided for schoolchildren, senior citizens, and the disadvantaged and disabled. Beginning in 1971, the non-profit Foundation associated with the Arts Center also sponsored International Heritage Festivals before and after the regular season. Focusing on ethnicities such as Scottish, Slovak, German, Polish, African American, etc., these festivals remain to this day an unusual part of the venue's programming. Signs advertising these upcoming festivals, along with the regular upcoming concerts, became a familiar site to drivers approaching toll booths along the Parkway.
During off-season months the Arts Center is generally unused, except for a Holiday Light Spectacular show during the Christmas season. A banquet hall is on premises that can be rented for private occasions. In 1995, the Arts Center grounds saw the addition of the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial.
During the 1990s the philosophy of the Arts Center underwent a change. Classical music was almost completely phased out, and a need was felt to expand the venue to compete for the top popular music acts against other, larger amphitheatres on the summer outdoor concert circuit. Thus before the 1996 season, a substantial expansion of the facility was done, with 2,000 seats added (some now outside the roof, which was not altered) and the lawn capacity doubled in size, by way of taking out rows of trees and a surrounding walk and raising the bank around the facility much higher.
In 1996, PNC Bank, a Pittsburgh-based banking company, purchased naming rights and the venue was renamed to the PNC Bank Arts Center. (The company also has naming rights to Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball venue PNC Park.)
Holiday Light Spectacular
PNC Bank Arts Center features one of the most extravagant drive through light displays in the tri - state area. The spectacular is a 2.5-mile (4.0 km) drive through a forest of lights. Over 5 million lights were used over 225 displays and usually runs from the end of November through January 2. The display is set up in the parking lot around the Arts Center and on a specially prepared road for the display. In the premises of the light spectacular, there is a radio station that plays Christmas carols as well as a Winter Village at the end of the display which features a snack bar, ice rink, and a Christmas decoration shop which sells smaller replicas of the displays in the light spectacular. Some large displays which are not visible from the parking lot or the amphitheater itself are left at their respective spots permanently. In 2008, it was announced that the display would be discontinued, however, after a 7 year hiatus, the display returned for the 2014-2015 holiday season.
Performers and performances
Perhaps the most popular performer, over the years, has been James Taylor, who appears there almost every year and who has been one of the few acts to be booked there three nights in a row.
Ironically, Bruce Springsteen, New Jersey's most famous musician during these years and a person that lived in nearby towns during most of this time, never appeared (save for a 1989 walk-on, during a Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band show), until two performances in 2006, during the Bruce Springsteen with The Seeger Sessions Band Tour. The Boss joined Brian Wilson on stage for 2 songs on July 1 2015.
The amphitheatre has played host to music festivals, including The Area Festival, Crüe Fest, Crüe Fest 2, The Gigantour, Lilith Fair, The Mayhem Festival, Ozzfest, Projekt Revolution, The Uproar Festival and The Vans Warped Tour.
Sinéad O'Connor controversy
Sinéad O'Connor was scheduled to perform on August 24, 1990. The practice of the venue is to play a recording of the American national anthem prior to the beginning of a featured show. O'Connor, who said she was unaware of this practice until shortly before the show was to begin, refused to go on if the anthem was played. Venue officials acquiesced to her demand and omitted the anthem, and so O'Connor performed, but later permanently banned her. O'Connor said that she had a policy of not having the national anthem of any country played before her concerts and meant "no disrespect" but that she "will not go on stage after the national anthem of a country which imposes censorship on artists. It's hypocritical and racist." The incident made tabloid headlines and O'Connor received considerable criticism, including an embargo of her songs by several U.S. radio stations. Frank Sinatra, who performed at the Center the following night, said he wished he could "kick her in the ass." O'Connor responded with, "I wouldn't be the first woman he has threatened to hit," and her father, Sean O'Connor, added that Sinatra was too old to lift his leg to kick her.
On June 28–29, 2000, over 70 people were arrested, in connection with two concerts by jamband Phish. After their breakup, Phish's guitarist Trey Anastasio headlined shows at PNC several times, including a 2006 performance with "G.R.A.B." (Gordon.Russo.Anastasio.Benevento.), which included former Phish bassist Mike Gordon. Phish returned to the venue May 31 and June 1, 2011 for a two-night stand during the their summer tour, and again on July 10, 2013.
2007 OzzFest incident
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At the 2007 show on August 16, controversy was generated as 83 attendees were arrested at the show, most of them underage, and most of them arrested prior to the 8:00 hour, reasons cited for underage drinking and distribution, and "aggressive dancing"; In addition, two men died, one after ingesting significant amounts of alcohol, marijuana and cocaine.
On May 18, 2007, Gwen Stefani performed the opening show for the 2007 season at the venue. The show gained a lot of local media publicity due to the large amount of underage drinking that took place in the parking lot before the show and lack of police to maintain it. At least 27 people, mainly minors, were taken to two area hospitals. The venue announced a zero-tolerance policy to underage drinking, and it was also announced that for the next concert held at the arena, Fall Out Boy on June 6, between 60 and 80 state troopers would be on hand, up from the usual 10-15 and mostly undercover and plain clothed, to detain underage drinkers. Residents of the area say that underage drinking has always been a problem at the venue, but gets worse every year.
In response to issues with underage drinking and in the wake of a number of alcohol-related injuries and deaths, drinking in the parking lots was banned at the PNC Bank Arts Center as of August 17, 2007. This policy has been since changed to allow tailgating and alcohol consumption in the parking lots for specific events.
For the upcoming summer concerts, a list will be published by PNC authorities stating which concerts will allow tailgating and which will not. Shows drawing a younger audience such as Fall Out Boy will have no tailgating while shows such as Kenny Chesney will allow it.
- Foderago, Jane (13 June 1968). "Arts Center Preview Impresses 4,000" (PDF). The Daily Register 90 (244): 1, 3. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
- Biese, Alex (15 December 2014). "Holiday Lights Spectacular returns to the Arts Center". Asbury Park Press (app.com). Retrieved 5 July 2015.
- Herget, Alison and Biese, Alex. "Officials ban booze in arts-center lots", Home News Tribune. August 18, 2007. Accessed August 18, 2007. "Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, R-Monmouth, who brought the issue to the public's attention earlier this year, said a zero-tolerance policy is the only way to go."
- , NJ.com. March 21, 2008. Accessed May 18, 2008
- Garden State Arts Center 25th Anniversary season program, 1992.
- PNC Bank Arts Center on Live Nation
- Holiday Lights Spectacular to PNC Bank Arts Center
- PNC Bank Arts Center Seating Chart