Late last summer, when The Beach Boys and Kenny Wayne Shepherd came to rock out in Rhode Island, they didn’t come to Providence or Newport, they came to East Providence’s Bold Point Park, kicking off a new summer tradition of big name performers playing under the 401 sun. The venue’s first full season as the state’s newest outdoor concert space started on Memorial Day weekend, and the organizers behind this unexpected waterfront destination are pulling out all the stops and kicking out all the jams through the end of the summer.
Bold Point Park fills a void in music lovers’ hearts the size of the Newport Yachting Center – which makes sense since it’s run by the same people. It might have seemed like an unlikely place for a concert venue, but Michele Maker Palmieri and her team at RI Waterfront Events have nothing if not vision. The Newport Yachting Center was the home of beloved annual festivals and summer concerts like the Reggae Festival, Oktoberfest, and the Chowder Cook-Off. The center’s stage hosted big names in music and comedy, including BB King, Alanis Morissette, and Amy Schumer. But in 2014, the Yachting Center was sold, leaving these annual events without a stage and the team that pulled them together out of work. Palmieri, the Yachting Center’s general manager at the time, suddenly found herself with a roster of summer events, a good working relationship with the booking company Live Nation, and nothing to do with either of them.
“I knew that we needed to find a new home,” Palmieri says. “So I went to my event team and they said, ‘We’re on board if you want to do it,’ so crazy me created a company and we took the show on the road.”
For two years, Rhode Island Waterfront Events set up stages wherever they could find them. The Chowder Cook-Off took root at Fort Adams in Newport, while the Reggae Festival moved to Providence’s India Point Park in 2015 and 2016. The company also launched a Latin music festival and hosted classic rockers the J. Geils Band at India Point. The whole time, though, they were looking for a place they could call their own.
“We were at the Reggae Festival [in 2015], and when we looked across the river we saw all of this undeveloped waterfront,” says Palmieri. “We came to East Providence and talked with the city manager and city planner, and got the discussions going to see if we could set up a seasonal concert venue.”
As soon as Palmieri and her team saw Bold Point Park, they knew it had the makings of the seasonal, outdoor music venue that they’d been looking for – and that Rhode Island had been missing since the sale of the Yachting Center. Live Nation had imagined the Newport Yachting Center as a smaller version of Boston’s Blue Hills Bank Pavilion; Bold Point Park fits that same template.
This summe’s lineup of performers includes Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly (June 16), The Roots (July 1), Halsey (July 11), and Michael Franti & Spearhead (July 18). For the little rockers in your life, Kidz Bop Live (August 24) will be belting out kid-friendly renditions of pop hits.
We’re not picking a favorite, but The Roots almost seems too cool to be true, but it is, and we can’t wait. You’re definitely going to want to keep this spot on your radar. East Providence