The 600 seat Sharon Jones Amphitheater recently opened in North Augusta at Riverside Village. Located next to Southbound Smokehouse at SRP Park, the new amphitheater offers an impeccable view of the Savannah River. The city even plans on adding a boat dock for personal watercraft at some point next year.
Funk You performed the first concert at the venue the night before Halloween. “It felt like we were crossing a barrier, from seeing no music to seeing some music safely,” said George Claussen, co-owner of Southbound Smokehouse and founder of Friends with Benefits, a concert promotion company.
The funk band was followed by sold out shows featuring Goin’ South, Drivin and Cryin November 6th, and the Futurebirds this past Saturday night. These socially distanced shows use tables to ensure safe spacing between guests, and as Claussen said, “This is the new normal for now. If you want to go out and see and support live music, this is the best way we’ve seen.”
While the socially distanced tables give guests a feeling of safety, it adds a considerable expense to putting the show together as well as limiting choices for concert goers. “You can either see a live show sitting in your car, spread out on a lawn in a pod somewhere, or by using this setup. It’s not the ideal, but for live music fans, this is the best choice,” Claussen said.
The added expense of putting on safe, socially distanced shows is something fans must consider when purchasing their tickets, Claussen said. “We can’t just offer single tickets right now. We have to sell in four and six packs, so ticket buyers have to round up friends to go with them.”
When the venue is attached to an upscale BBQ joint, there are built in perks however. “We weren’t thinking we would do in and outs at the shows,” Claussen said. Usually when you arrive at a venue, you can’t leave and come back in. “We allow our concert guests to go into the restaurant and back to their seats,” Claussen said. Beer, wine, mixed drinks and BBQ sandwiches are for sale inside the venue as well.
This Friday night is your last chance to check out the new digs as Friends With Benefits, along with Southbound Smokehouse, welcome Band of Horses lead singer Ben Bridwell, along with bandmate Ryan Monroe. Justin Osbourne of SUSTO will open.
“Everyone in Augusta has been trying to book them here forever,” according to Claussen “Ben is from Charleston, so we always seem to get radiused out here since they choose to play for their hometown fans when they perform in South Carolina.”
According to Rolling Stone Magazine, the band formed in 2004 in Seattle, after lead singer Ben Bridwell felt he needed to leave Charleston. In one week, Bridwell had burned down his house after a candle lit his mattress on fire, been hit by a car while delivering burritos on his bike, then landed in jail for a fistfight. He wound up in Seattle, where the band was originally formed.
Their 2006 debut, Everything All the Time, was the quintessential choice of hipsters and classic-rock fans alike, according to Rolling Stone. More recently, the band has found themselves touring with Neil Young, opening dates across the country. Pretty tight street cred there.
With the full band fetching over six figures per date, a promoter could never expect them to perform at the small venue on the river, no matter how charming. But with the pandemic shutting the world down for performers, opportunity arose. “My partner Ean is good friends with Ben, so it helped pave the way for us to get them here.”
“It’s like the best show ever, a huge bucket list for Augusta to have them come here and end the run of five shows we were able to cram in in three weeks,” Claussen said.
“This is the last show of the year for us there. Fortunately, the weather is going to be perfect!” Claussen said.
Ben Bridwell & Ryan Monroe of Band of Horses, joined by Justin Osbourne of SUSTO
Friday, November 20th
Show at 7