the outpost has gone through many changes over the years.
For more than half a century, the Kent Concert Hall has hosted performances – usually metal and country bands in recent years.
Now it’s expanding its offerings, partnering with a food supplier, and upgrading its facilities and equipment to try to diversify its audience and thrive during a tough time for live music venues.
Manager Fran Bishop said the company is doing everything it can to be one of the best locations in Greater Akron.
“We have hip hop now. It’s not something we did before,” Bishop said. “We have a lot more indie and alternative rock. Like when you have metal and hard rock, you kind of have a certain audience, but indie and alternative broadens that up a bit.”
Bishop officially began managing the site in May after working as assistant outpost manager from December last year. Before that, he booked shows at his home in Kent and at the Roy Smith Shelter.
He worked to help the outpost bounce back after the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sites across the country.
But getting audiences to attend shows has been difficult lately, he said.
Initially, people were eager to get back to events after the pandemic shutdowns, he said. But the ongoing economic hardship facing average people is keeping the public at home.
“Right now we live in a time where you’re being charged ridiculous amounts for eggs and bacon,” Bishop said. “It’s hard to get people out and distracted from their daily lives, but if we can just keep delivering more and more and better live entertainment, we can keep it that way.”
Food, club nights among new offerings
To attract more customers, the Outpost — located at 4962 State Route 43 — now has Tasty Encounter Catering Company that serves food Tuesday through Saturday at events.
It also recently started offering monthly club nights, complete with DJs and new black lights.
The schedule also includes a once-a-week showcase of local bands aptly named Local Band Thursdays, as well as Emo Night and Disney Night for concert-goers who want to savor the nostalgia conjured up by the music of their younger years.
The club night was particularly popular.
“We literally sold out the first two weeks,” Bishop said, adding that there were 500 tickets available each week. “After that we decided to continue. It was a good choice.”
Licensed party buses were sent downtown, to dorms and apartments, bringing the people they picked up back to the outpost.
At first the Outpost did this weekly, but it became expensive to charter the buses and pay for a quality DJ.
“It was a lot,” Bishop said. “This time around we’ll probably do it once a month. It’ll probably be back on September 1, actually.” The event is restricted to ages 18 and older, but anyone under 21 will need to pay a $10 entry fee.
Of course, the Outpost has also stuck with their more recent heavy metal offerings. On Saturday, a band called the Four Horsemen plays at the Outpost. Bishop said it was an album-quality Metallica cover band.
“Our tributes are some of the best you can give here,” Bishop said.
Along with the work being done to expand the outpost’s clientele, the physical space is also being upgraded.
The venue has replaced some of its subwoofers, and Bishop said staff are also experimenting with interior stage lighting.
“We’ll probably have six moving heads and a bunch of front wash lights. We’re trying to do some kind of spotlight effects,” Bishop said. The black lights suspended above the ground are also new, installed specifically for club nights.
New lights have also been installed on the freshly painted outdoor patio. Behind the patio is a stage built in a fenced area similar to a courtyard. Bishop said they are currently working on putting a roof over the outdoor stage, a project he says will be completed in time for the Four Horsemen show.
All of these changes are a way to tap into what Bishop sees as The Outpost’s untapped potential. It can hold almost as many people as the Kent stage, he said. The Kent Stage has a capacity of 660 people, while the Outpost can only accommodate 500 people. However, with the outdoor patio and stage, Bishop said they could increase their capacity to 600 or even 700 people once they install a few more bathrooms.
“We’re two miles from one of the biggest public schools in Ohio, and we have a pretty big capacity, so we should definitely get better and bigger here,” Bishop said.
Going forward, there are no genres or acts the Outpost will stray from the reservation, according to Bishop.
“It’s really anything and everything,” Bishop said. “If there’s something people like, we’ll try to get it here.”
Contact journalist Derek Kreider at email@example.com.