The annual Rock Fore! Dough concert just celebrated its 8th birthday, and like most 8-year-olds, it’s probably starting to consider what it wants to be when it grows up.
Early on, the charity concert succeeded because the concept was strong and there was an audience aching not only for something new to do during Masters Week but also for the kind of concert experience that had been lacking locally.
In the years that followed, the concert flourished and, on occasion, floundered. It became understood that there were certain things that worked – acts associated with original headliner Hootie and the Blowfish became a staple – while others did not. And while the formula continues to be tweaked from time to time – this year an additional stage was added.
But the truth is, the Rock Fore! Dough concert is the product of another time, and I have to wonder if, like so many local events that have come before it, it has come to the point where we might see some diminishing returns.
I certainly hope not, it’s an excellent party after all, but I fear that changing times will require an event that evolves more than Rock Fore! Dough has in the past.
The concert, for one thing, is no longer a novelty. The ascension of Global Spectrum at James Brown Arena, Bell Auditorium and the USC Aiken Convocation Center means that acts that might have only played Rock Fore! Dough eight years ago have now become the bread-and-butter of local venues.
Instead of attracting audiences with acts that seemed audacious when the event began, Rock Fore! Dough is succeeding because people have begun to feel a certain nostalgia for it. Sure, there are still a lot of Darius Rucker fans out there who buy a ticket because he’s on the bill, but those numbers are decreasing as more and more people see his act. It’s good, but you can only eat so much ice cream.
So what’s the solution? Is a radical change required?
I don’t have the answers.
I do believe that the concert has become a Masters Week tradition, and therefore extraordinarily hard to change. But I also believe that, as the years progress, the crowds will start to thin in the face of similar – or even the same – acts year after year. So fresh blood and fresh acts, perhaps in support of Rucker initially, might be a start.
There’s evidence to support this idea. Popular events of every stripe – from the Morris Museum of Art’s annual gala to Arts in the Heart of Augusta – have seen the wisdom in evolving, if even a little, every year. Those that refuse to change flounder.
I, for one, would hate to see Rock Fore! Dough flounder.
So it might be time for a change.