Top-notch entertainment just down the road

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 9:35 am
By Denise Membreno
Gary Jackson, general manager of Rocky Mount’s new Harvester Performance Center, has promised entertainment for everyone, and from looking at the center’s first-month schedule, it looks like he will deliver.
Featured this month will be a singer/songwriter; a pop rock duo; bluegrass music; and Americana folk, as well as Americana rock music.
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The performers are not mediocre talents. Many are music legends who have helped shape the industry.
“The Embers [scheduled for May 1] this year are being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” Jackson said. “Dave Mason [May 10] from Traffic is in the hall of fame. There are a lot of great acts coming.”
Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, said she is excited about the Harvester for several reasons.
“The variety of music is incredible. I am interested in seeing the Indigo Girls and Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam. The prices are reasonable,” she said.
As head of the chamber, Gardner sees the center as beneficial to lake residents and businesses.
“It will certainly enhance the quality of life for people at the lake,” Gardner said.
“If you are going out, you will eat or shop along the way. People will come here from out of town for those special performances.”
And when they do, that may lead to an overnight stay at the lake, more boat rentals, shopping and dining, she pointed out.
“Once you’ve anchored yourself to a ticket, the rest just falls in place,” she said.
“As the eastern gateway to the Crooked Road, we’re a proven destination for live music and unique venues,” said Tarah Holland, Franklin County tourism development manager.
“The opening of the Harvester Performance Center will undoubtedly add to the diverse mix of things to see and do in Franklin County, and provide us with another great asset to market to visitors. The venue also has the potential to spur repeat visitation and maintain visitor interest in our community.”
The building that is now the Harvester Performance Center has been a part of the community for some time.
“It originally used to be the International Harvester Tractor building where they sold tractors, hence the name,” said Jackson. “Harvester can mean so many things. … It’s about gathering together.”
The Harvester will seat up to 475 people. It also will hold up to 700 people for a stand-up show. There is another music room in the lower level of the Harvester with seating for up to 200 or standing space for 350. The center houses two state-of-the-art meeting rooms, as well as a kitchen.
According to Jackson, the place has a good vibe.
“It’s stunningly beautiful; when people walk in, they will see the hardwood beams in the ceiling, the ambience, the color scheme and just how comfortable the chairs are going to be. Grand Home Furnishings is going to be a presenting sponsor so it is going to have warmth and style throughout the whole building. Audio- and video-wise, it is going to be second to none.”
Jackson and his assistant have more than 80 years’ experience in the music business. He started booking acts at The Cellar Door in Washington, D.C., and has been involved with sound for performers such as Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan in the late 1960s and early ’70s.
He also has experience in building venues.
“I can only speak from experience when I started Kirk Avenue Music Hall. Nearly 80 percent of the people that come to Kirk Avenue drive over an hour to see a show. They don’t live in Roanoke. Kirk Avenue has become a destination. For the Harvester, I expect the same thing,” he said.
Jackson said the target audience lives within 125 miles of Rocky Mount. In three to five years, he said he expects the Harvester to be nationally known.
The center’s nearly $3 million renovations are close to complete. Scheduled on April 11 is an intimate evening with singer-songwriter Levi Lowrey.
“I feel like I spent 40-some years of my life getting ready for this job; everything I’ve learned and done in the music business I can put to use in the Harvester,” Jackson said.
“Music affects your mood; it affects how you interact with other people. That’s my goal every night, no matter what type of music — to have people have their cup filled up. I want the Harvester to affect them emotionally and spiritually.”
Harvester Performance Center, 450 Franklin St., Rocky Mount. 483?0907,,

Reprinted from the Laker Weekly

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