Jun. 19—LAMPE, Mo. — An outdoor amphitheater is open for business after a long hiatus that had little to do with the pandemic.
On May 28, a soft opening was held at the Black Oak Mountain Amphitheater, in which 1,100 people turned out to cheer on local tribute bands Hairball and Lytyl Skynyrd.
Owner John Stauffer said everything went as planned and that a few kinks were discovered and quickly ironed out. That helped pave the way for the first of four concerts planned for the summer and fall, starting off with country singer Chris Young on July 1.
This will be the first full concert held at the 9,000-seat venue after it suddenly closed in 2013. Stauffer, a Branson native, purchased the facility in 2019. As a young man, he attended a number of shows at Black Oak Mountain Amphitheater during the 2000s, including Journey and Tim McGraw.
"Let me tell you, I appreciate it way more now than when I was going to concerts before," he said with a chuckle, "because I didn't know all the stuff you had to do" to put on a successful concert.
He's spent money giving the entire facility a facelift after years of neglect.
"Over the years, it's sat here, and there had been a lot of vandalism; every piece of glass was broken out of the concession stands, ticket booth and dressing rooms and offices, so we had to replace all of those," Stauffer said. "All the electrical and copper were stolen, so we had to pretty much gut every building down to the studs and replace the electrical. Rodents had eaten through several water pipes, so we had to replace much of the plumbing."
But the hard work was worth it, he said, because no other outdoor music venue is quite like it.
"It's beautiful ... nestled in the side of a mountain, right between the valley and with Table Rock Lake on the back side — in the winter you're able to see (the water). In the spring and summer and fall months, you just get this beautiful view of the trees that overlook the entire valley," Stauffer said. "It's a completely different atmosphere than when you go see a concert in a larger city or even an indoor arena."
The site first opened in 1983 under a different name — Swiss Villa Amphitheater. From the mid-1980s to 1999, it hosted a number of big-name acts, including B.B. King and Bob Dylan.
"There's really not a bad seat in the venue," Stauffer said of Black Oak Mountain Amphitheater, adding that parking during concerts is free. "Whether you're in the grass section or at the top of the bowl or bottom of the bowl, there's simply not a bad spot. The artists who come here say they love the acoustics because of how we're nestled down here in the valley."
The remaining 2021 concerts are country singer Trace Adkins and actor-singer Billy Bob Thornton on July 30; country singer Dustin Lynch and friends on Sept. 10; and rapper-turned-country singer Nelly, who hails from St. Louis, on Sept. 17. More shows could be booked between now and September, Stauffer said, and he hopes to have 12 to 15 concerts ready to go for the 2022 season.
While nearby Branson may forever be linked to country music, Black Oak won't be, Stauffer said.
"The rock crowd, we hear you," Stauffer said. "We hear you very loud and clear. ... We're trying to book (rock bands) right now. They are the toughest acts to get right now; I don't know if (it's) because of COVID they're not quite ready to come back out and play, but we are trying. We're open to all genres."