Germany bases to rock with free concerts
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — It’s going to be a wild few days for music fans, with major free USO/MWR concerts at three U.S. Army bases in Germany.
Kentucky-bred country duo Montgomery Gentry are scheduled to play at 7 p.m. Monday at Wiesbaden, 1st AD headquarters. Alternative rockers Staind are taking a detour from a European tour to play in Kitzingen at 9 p.m. Thursday, then in Baumholder at 8 p.m. Friday. Of the two, Staind may have the most devoted following.
As Baumholder gets ready for a second major concert coup — country star Dierks Bentley was in town a few weeks ago — there’s only one way to describe the feeling.
“Hysteria,” said Jonathan Watson, who helped put together the Baumholder concert.
The scramble for one of 700 seats at Baumholder’s Wagon Wheel Theater had Watson’s phone ringing relentlessly Friday afternoon.
When news of Staind’s appearance started getting out earlier this month, “I got 200 phone calls in one day.” said Watson, special events coordinator for Morale, Welfare and Recreation in Baumholder, holding up notebooks full of call-back numbers. “I don’t think we realized what kind of response they would get.”
One caller “said he was getting married that day,” but would still make the concert, Watson said. “I said, ‘Aren’t you going on a honeymoon?’ And he said the concert would be better than a honeymoon.”
The plan in Baumholder is to parcel out tickets at several locations at H.D. Smith Barracks:
On Monday from noon to 1 p.m. at Strikers, the bowling alley in the Hall of Champions complex at the center of H.D. Smith Barracks, and 5-6 p.m. at Rudy’s at Strassburg Kasern in Idar-Oberstein.On Tuesday and Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. at Strikers and 5-6 p.m. at the Rheinlander, the main base club at H.D. Smith Barracks.Staind will play Harvey Barracks Army Air Field in Kitzingen on Thursday, with SOLACZ, a reggae/hip-hop band, opening at 9 p.m. In Kitzingen, the concert — scheduled to be held in a fest tent — is a welcome home party for the 17th Signal Battalion, which returned from Iraq in late 2005. There will be no tickets, and any seats not claimed by 17th Signal soldiers will go to Department of Defense ID card holders, according to Gary Oliver, with MWR.
Montgomery Gentry is playing just one date, though they may be arriving from playing for troops downrange, said Cassandra Kardeke, a Wiesbaden deputy public relations officer, who had no additional information. The Wiesbaden concert “is just something they could squeeze into their schedule,” Kardeke said.
The country duo is scheduled to play in Hangar 1036, “so there should be plenty of room,” she said. The gates open at 5 p.m. Monday, with the concert at 7.
In Baumholder, Staind fans are anticipating a memorable night — a concert in the relatively small, intimate base theater rather than the usual giant auditorium.
If he can score tickets, the concert “is going to be my birthday present to myself,” said Spc. Nick Rapela with 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, whose birthday is Wednesday. Rapela called Staind “awesome,” adding that he thinks it’s a huge deal for Baumholder to get a major act, and for free. “I want to go so bad.” he said.
The band is on tour promoting its latest album, “Chapter V,” in Europe, including a Saturday show in Mannhein and a March 20 show in Stuttgart, according to the group’s Web site.
Baumholder MWR has bagged big acts
Jonathan Watson, Baumholder’s special events coordinator for Morale, Welfare and Recreation, monitors which acts are touring, then goes into his Rolodex and contacts record companies and promoters about open dates.
After Watson noticed last summer that rising country star Dierks Bentley would be playing in Europe in early 2006, he started calling around.
Michelle Hall, senior manager of Creative Services/International for Capitol/EMI records in Nashville, Tenn., said Watson was pitching a Baumholder detour for Bentley and other big country acts.
He was patient, persistent, but not pushy, she said, laughing. As a result, Bentley took a break from touring Great Britain to play a show in Baumholder.
Being pushy doesn’t work. Building a knowledge and source base about acts and entertainment world jargon does work, according to Watson.
“Everyone wants information now. You have to get the answers they need,” he said.
Questions most often center on the performance venue, with concerns ranging from reliable electrical sources to whether local contractors are available for sound and production needs, Watson said.
It also takes “a top down commitment” at each base, he said. Watson credits Baumholder’s ability to land acts to quick responses by Lt. Col. James Larsen, U.S. Army Garrison Baumholder commander, and Bob Baumgardt, Department of Public Works director.
“It’s a total group effort,” Watson said.
The result has been a “role reversal” of sorts, Watson said. It used to be that one community — the giant air hub around Ramstein, 40 miles south of Baumholder — got the bulk of shows.
“Now, I have people calling me from Ramstein, asking if they can get tickets.”
— Terry Boyd