It's enough to make Emmylou move downtown. When PineCone left Stewart Theatre behind this year for the Progress Energy Center (formerly the BTI Center), it opened up a new world of access for the roots music organization. More seats meant they could book acts like Harris, who plays Meymandi Hall next year on St. Patrick's Day.
"We feel like the move to the Progress Energy Center is going to give us more visibility," says PineCone executive director Susan Newberry. "It gives us flexibility we didn't have before, because it holds four different sized halls." Newberry cites advantages including state-of-the-art halls and convenient parking, which was an ongoing issue with the shows at Stewart Theatre. "We loved being at Stewart Theatre, Newberry says of the 800-seat venue the organization had called home, "but we've got double the seating capacity in Meymandi."
Although they're not negotiating with her right now, Newberry uses Alison Krauss as an example of acts that are back within reach. "We presented Alison Krauss the first time when she couldn't even drive a car, out in a field. Then we presented her many times at Stewart Theatre. As she became better known, then frankly, she outgrew us."
Newberry says that Krauss now will not play a play a venue with smaller than a 1,500-seat capacity. "That meant we could never have her back again."
Now the group has access to three performance venues: the 1,700-seat Meymandi Hall, home to the N.C Symphony; the 600-seat Fletcher Opera Center, which hosts the National Opera Company; and the 170-seat Kennedy Center.
Despite the larger venue and the bigger name stars, Newberry wants to maintain the homey, musical family feeling they have developed over the years. "We still want to have that intimate feeling as much as we can," she says.
Over the years, PineCone's mission to promote traditional music and arts has expanded to include world as well as regional music. "When PineCone was founded in the very beginning, it was really Southern traditional music, then it expanded to what is now called more Americana," Newberry says. "But we really felt like there was so much out there, especially with all the folks who had moved into the Triangle, we're presenting the traditional music of a lot of different countries," Newberry says.
The season begins this week when Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver bring their gospel-tinged bluegrass to town Oct. 7. Lawson, who began his career with Jimmy Martin, played with J.D. Crowe before spending eight years with the Country Gentlemen, forming Quicksilver in '79.
PineCone pays host to two world music representatives this season as well: the West African-based Gangbe Brass Band on Oct. 27 and Hawaii's Jake Shimabukuro, billed as the Jimi Hendrix of the ukelele, in February.
For the full schedule, go to www.pinecone.org.