Editor's note: This is an updated version of a story that ran in 2015.
Every summer, dozens of bands pass through Arlington's Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts as part of an annual free concert series originally founded to bring vibrancy to the downtown area. Now in its 11th year, the series attracts an estimated 127,000 people to its outdoor space from late-May to mid-July with a mix of popular names and up-and-coming indie bands.
"For decades, literally decades ... Arlington was looking for a way to revitalize its downtown area," recalls Cathy O'Neal, communications director for the Levitt Pavilion, which is part of a nationwide network of music venues built by the Mortimer and Mimi Levitt Foundation.
And there was clearly local demand for it.
Once the foundation settled on Arlington, local organizations and residents raised $1.2 million in a year to make the pavilion a reality, O'Neal says. The 3,500-person venue opened in 2008 and remains the only one in Texas.
Much has changed since that first 16-show run, says O'Neal. For instance, the event's growth has increased infrastructure in the surrounding area.
"This was really to help jump-start that revitalization of downtown Arlington and it clearly has because new restaurants pop up around us every year," she says, citing a new Mellow Mushroom, Twisted Root Burger Co. and Flying Fish.
Additionally, organizers have upped the ante in talent booking. Local a capella sensation Pentatonix has played twice, drawing an estimated 12,000 people each time. When Jimmie Vaughan performed in 2014, 10,000 people crowded the pavilion's lawn and spilled out into the blocked-off street and an adjacent parking lot, according to O'Neal.
Staff has also begun recruiting newer and hipper bands by watching which ones play Granada Theater and Kessler Theater in Dallas, and by attending music conferences such as South By Southwest.
That's how they found MarchFourth, a 13-person collective of musicians, stilt walkers, dancer and acrobats, that played at the Levitt Pavilion in 2015.
Notable bands on the calendar this year include folk-rock outfit Delta Rae, which performs with singer/songwriter Liz Longley on June 10; reggae artist Cas Haley, who was also runner-up on the second season of America's Got Talent, on June 15; blues legend Marcia Ball on July 6; and country singer Cory Morrow on July 22.