Konocti closure bad news for music fans

  • The music venue at Konocti Harbor Inn Resort and Spa, Wednesday September 9, 2009 has drawn many top name acts. The resort, long a main stay of Clear Lake, may shut it's doors in November. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2009

The closure of the Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa in Kelseyville will mean longer drives for most North Coast music fans who want to see big concerts.

With its 5,000-seat outdoor amphitheatre, Konocti could book country star Tim McGraw, &‘70s rockers KISS and other acts that otherwise played only big-city stadiums.

The Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, with a auditorium seating 1,600, does book some of the same acts that as Konocti, such as Heart or Cheech and Chong, but other Konocti stars will need a bigger venue. Wells Fargo Center fills its hall with smaller-scale concerts by Sheryl Crow, Elvis Costello and Diana Krall.

"Konocti's capacity is huge," said Rick Bartalini, the Wells Fargo Center's director of entertainment programs. "The capacity of its outdoor space is four times that of our auditorium, so we're really not doing that many of the same shows ... We can't."

Booking bigger, more expensive acts into smaller venues means having to charge higher ticket prices, he explained.

"If you have Brooks and Dunn or KISS or Tim McGraw, who are typically selling 10,000 and 15,000 tickets, and you're squeezing into a space that seats even 5,000, you could be charging three times the price per ticket."

Occasionally, bigger acts have used venues not normally set up for concerts. Bob Dylan, for example, performed at Konocti in 2003, but when he played Santa Rosa in 2006, it was at the Grace Pavilion at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. The Wells Fargo Center presented a Dolly Parton concert at the fairgrounds in 2007.

For most of the bigger shows, local music fans will have to drive to the East Bay or South Bay now, or even farther.

"If you're looking for something around a 5,000-seater, there isn't much in that range," Bartalini said. "KISS played Konocti last year, and then they played Lake Tahoe and Vegas."

At the other end of the scale, the closure of Konocti's 1,000-seat, indoor concert room may give smaller North Bay venues a better shot at booking some of the acts that played there.

"Their closing is a shock, but we'll probably get some more shows," said Ken O'Donnell, owner of the 500-seat Mystic Theatre in Petaluma. "It was hard to compete."

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