KHAK radio is lighting its 50th birthday cake with stars, not candles.
Alan Jackson, Phil Vassar, Joe Nichols and a slew of rising stars will be shining brightly, even in the daylight June 9. They’ll parade their hits from 1 to 10 p.m. on an outdoor stage in a new location for downtown Cedar Rapids concerts.
The Alliant Energy Tower will be the backdrop for the stage on First Street SE. That spot will see plenty more outdoor action when Weezer heads up the Rockin’ the Rapids concert there the next day, June 10, followed by RAGBRAI’s 40th Birthday Bash with Counting Crows on July 26.
KHAK’s concert features 500 VIP spots and 900 sold-out Gold Circle seats front and center. General admission concertgoers can set up their chairs and blankets in the parking lot that once housed the spiral ramp parkade, as well as on May’s Island and the Second Avenue Bridge, where food and beverage vendors will share the space.
“We wanted to be outdoors,” says KHAK Program Director Bob James, 42, of Cedar Rapids. “We knew the Cell Center wouldn’t be open and there’s no other place in town big enough.”
In years past, outdoor concerts have been staged on May’s Island, but with flood damage to the underground parking garage there, organizers weren’t sure the renovation work would be done in time to accommodate a big concert.
So James said they looked around and landed on the space in front of the nearby Alliant Tower.
“We thought with the (spiral) parkade taken out, that gave us a large chunk of space where people could congregate,” James says. “With no obstruction there, they can bring their lawn chairs and blankets” and be “25 to 30 feet from the stage.”
Watch a video explaining where the stage and seating will be:
An outdoors site also gives concertgoers plenty of space to get up and walk around, he says, which is important for a nine-hour event.
“And the second weekend in June, the weather is typically very nice around here, so people don’t want to be inside,” he adds.
The concert has been more than a year in the planning, factoring in who’s available, who’s a good fit and who’s affordable.
“With Alan Jackson, we’ve got a guy who without question, is going to be a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame someday. He has over 40 Top 10 hits,” James says. “Whether you’re a fan of country music or not, everybody knows who Alan Jackson is.”
Others in the lineup range from hitmakers to local and regional favorites, including Joe Nichols, Phil Vassar, Steve Holy, Craig Campbell, The Last Ride and Jason Brown. Cedar Rapids band Lonesome Road will open the event, winning that slot through KHAK’s Battle of the Bands this spring in Cedar Rapids.
KHAK 98.1 FM hit the airwaves July 1, 1962, previously owning an AM station that started Sept. 10, 1961. Over the years, headquarters have moved from the Coe College vicinity to the Cedar River Tower and the current location in the Cumulus Media center at 425 Plaza, 425 Second St. SE.
“It’s going to be a great time. I hope lots of people join us,” James says.
— Diana Nollen
A closer look at the acts performing on June 9.
- Lonesome Road:1 p.m. Local KHAK Battle of the Bands winner May 10 at Hazzard County Saloon in downtown Cedar Rapids. High energy Top 40 country act, based in Cedar Rapids. Rob Carnahan, drums; Danny Whitson, vocals and guitar; Chad Chopard, bass; Jeff Mattison, vocals and lead guitar.
- Jason Brown: 1:30 p.m. Iowa farmboy and Pella native who moved to Texas in his youth, then back to Pleasantville, now splits his time between Iowa and Nashville.
- The Last Ride:2 p.m. Minneapolis band with a Midwest Country vibe. Cedar Rapids native Tony Winkler is the lead vocalist, executive producer and songwriter.
- Craig Campbell:2:40 p.m. Georgia native and Nashville recording artist with a style he calls “traditional, back-to-basics, true country music.” Hits: “Family Man,” “Fish,” “When I Get It.”
- Steve Holy:3:45 p.m. Dallas native blends ’50s rock ’n’ roll, pop and traditional country. Hits: “Good Morning Beautiful,” “Brand New Girlfriend,” “Love Don’t Run.”
- Phil Vassar: 5 p.m. Virginia native, debuted in the late ’90s, cowriting songs for Tim McGraw, Jo Dee Messina, Collin Raye and Alan Jackson. Solo artist known for piano-based, R&B-infused, buoyant music. Hits: “Carlene,” “Just Another Day in Paradise,” “Six-Pack Summer,” “In a Real Love.”
- Joe Nichols: 6:30 p.m. Arkansas native with a string of hits: “Brokenheartsville,” “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off,” “Gimmie That Girl,” “The Impossible,” “Size Matters,” “I’ll Wait For You.”
- Alan Jackson: 8 p.m. Georgia native turned superstar, blending traditional honky tonk and mainstream country sounds. He has 35 chart-topping hits, 50 Top 10 hits, numerous awards. Hits: “Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” “Love’s Got a Hold on You,” “Chattahoochee,” “Country Boy.”