In what is being called a “family reunion” of sorts, Alabama will kick off its Back to The Bowery tour Thursday with a fan appreciation concert at the venue where it got its start 40 years ago.
Doors for the invitation-only event are scheduled to open around 7 p.m. and event organizers are expecting a crowd of Alabama fans –who aren’t among the 200 to 225 granted entry to the party – to gather around the beer bar and performance venue. Alabama got its start playing as the house band at The Bowery from 1973 to 1980.
Those working to organize the concert aren’t sure what type of crowd will show up Thursday.
“We don’t have any real good idea, but we’re planning so we’ll be prepared,” said assistant city manager John Pedersen.
The Myrtle Beach City Council passed a motion last week to approve a variance to the noise ordinance and authorize the city manager’s office to work out any logistical issues that come up due to the band being in town. Alabama also will play two sold-out shows Friday and Saturday at the Alabama Theatre.
The city is working with event organizers at The Bowery to provide a space on the old pavilion site between Ocean Boulevard and the boardwalk to allow Alabama fans to gather, listen to the music and try to get a glimpse of the band.
“The doors are going to be open,” said Peter MacIntyre, who is helping to organize the event. “Anyone who wants to come congregate ... can come. They can see in from here. And there will be speakers set up to get the sound outside.”
MacIntyre, who worked at the venue as a server for 17 years beginning in 1977, said the crowd will consist of about 60 Alabama fan club members, family members of the band and guests of The Bowery. As of Tuesday afternoon he still was waiting for a final list from Alabama.
“It’s a family reunion in many ways,” MacIntyre said. “We’re putting together a list of people who worked here [when Alabama played] and new friends.”
He said he’s slowly been contacting former employees to extend invitations to them and hopes to finish notifying everyone on Wednesday.
The Bowery owner Victor Shamah said he expects the event to be a lot like the Alabama song “Down Home.”
“‘Where they know you by name and treat you like family,’” Shamah quoted from the song.
There will be a barricade set up along the street end in front of The Bowery and other businesses that extend from Ocean Boulevard to the boardwalk, Pedersen said. Spectators will be asked to stay on the south side of the barricades and onto the pavilion site. There will be a walkway to allow people to enter other nearby businesses, he said.
Chris Walker, president of the Oceanfront Merchants Association, said he is unaware of any businesses planning to gear specials toward Alabama’s concert.
“Right now is our busiest week of the past nine months so people are just busy with that,” he said. “We’re glad to have them here and they haven’t asked for any help. They want to keep it low-key so we’re just going to go along with their wishes.”
Members of the Alabama fan club are expected to operate a booth selling merchandise outside in the area designated for spectators, Pedersen said.
Pedersen said city police officers would be assigned to patrol the around The Bowery, but wasn’t certain how many would be working to ensure the crowd doesn’t get out of control.
While they don’t know how many spectators will show up on Thursday, MacIntyre said they’re working with the city to make sure they’re prepared.
“It’s spring break,” he said. “It’s the center of town. It’s going to bring a lot of people whether they’re Alabama fans or not.”