Since its first show back in 1972 — a matinee concert with teen idol David Cassidy — Pine Knob Music Theatre has become a rite of passage for many in southeastern Michigan over the past five decades.
This summer, the 15,000-capacity shed and lawn venue will celebrate its 50th season, and the first with the original name back in place after 20 years of being called DTE Energy Music Theatre.
Music fans can expect a celebration of both the anniversary and the return of the OG name throughout the 2022 season with giveaways, updated facilities and new places to eat.
Howard Handler, president of 313Presents which owns and operates Pine Knob, said when they announced the name change in January they thought it would grab some attention but they didn’t realize how much.
“The response was way beyond our expectations, it was the number two trending topic nationally on Twitter, a true testament to the equity of the Pine Knob name,” he said during a media preview at the venue Friday. (Wordle was the number trending topic one that day, he said.)
“The rebranding couldn’t come at a better time because it is the 50th anniversary of Pine Knob Music Theatre and we’ve got some great programming on tap. We’ve got 50 shows, the lineup is jam-packed, everybody’s coming.”
Representatives from Pine Knob’s partners also spoke to the venue’s storied history and bright future.
“When you see this venue from the inside, the joy and the community that this place brings for concert goers and staff and for the talent, it’s easy to see how genuinely special this place is,” said Sarah DeCiantis chief marketing officer for United Wholesale Mortgage.
Celebrating the golden anniversary
Before fans even enter the Clarkston amphitheater, they’ll notice new signage featuring the new corporate partners: UWM, Trinity Health and Ally Financial. More interestingly, near the UWM West Entrance, fans can browse a 50th Anniversary Photo Retrospective Exhibit.
Presented as one long banner that covers a wall on the outer west side of the venue, the retrospective includes quotes from headliners, editorial content from music journalist Gary Graff and concert photos through the years. It starts with that first Cassidy show and runs through the late 1970s, fashionable ’80s, grungy ’90s, poppy 2000s and into more recent years.
“It’s a real treasure trove,” said Handler. “There’s 135 photographs provided by 17 photographers … that’s very special for us and we really appreciate your contributions and sharing your art and what you were able to capture.”
The exhibit includes works by photographers Chris Balow, Mike Ferdinande, Andy Freeberg, David Griffith, Mirak Habbiyyieh, Scott Legato, Ross Marino, Marc Nader, Darryl Pitt, Sue Plummer, Steve Galli, Ken Settle, Brian Sevald, Chris Schwegler, Tom Weschler and Steve Wiseman, many whom were at a media event Friday to preview Pine Knob before the opening concert May 27 with indie pop trio AJR.
Fans at that concert will get a static sticker of the new venue logo. Those who attend the 99.5 WYCD Hoedown with Brooks & Dunn on June 25 will get a commemorative 50th anniversary poster, which lists all the acts booked to play this season. New, retro-looking Pine Knob T-shirts and other merchandise will be available for sale at every show.
Pose for a pic or take a selfie at a giant Pine Knob Music Theatre logo, crafted by Detroit’s Prop Art Studio. Post the photo to social media and use the hashtag #PineKnob50 and find special Snapchat filters and Instagram GIFs.
Grazing on the lawn: what to eat and drink
If the pre-show tailgating doesn’t fill you up, Pine Knob has plenty for fans to munch on.
Season ticket holders and other VIP guests can enjoy the Trinity Health Ivy Lounge, which is open before, during and after concerts. (Chill here and enjoy some food after the show while the traffic clears.) The menu has a sweet, Michigan summer salad, loaded tater tots that are smoky, crispy and crunchy, Rueben sliders and a Southern-fried chicken sandwich.
The Coppercraft Club is another restaurant within the venue that is open before and after Pine Knob concerts. Executive chef Scott Johnson recommends this for music fans that are looking for more than a quick snack.
“We have our own smoker pit down there, we do all of our own brisket in-house, our pork butt in house. It’s open for all guests,” said Johnson. In addition to barbecued meats, Coppercraft Club has a full bar with beer and cocktails and dessert, including the smokehouse banana pudding cup which travels easily.
The Honcho Outpost returns to the music venue for a fifth season with Latin street food and margaritas. Pine Knob also has a sandwich stand called Planet Sub, Detroit Grille House with gourmet pub grub and the Tree House by Lume, a breezy area to enjoy food and drink.
New to sip on: made-to-order mango and strawberry smoothies served in color-changing cups and Pine Knob Classic Pils, a German-style pilsner from Rochester Mills Beer Co.