Since 2001, only Pine Knob’s name has escaped the soul at the venue, which has been renamed the DTE Energy Music Theatre, evoking old-summer charm to the raucous and festive music nights north of Detroit.
Now, that classic name is back in the marquee: Pine Knob Music Theater is once again the official designation of the beloved Clarkston Amphitheater, which routinely ranks among the highest-grossing in the country.
The renaming of Pine Knob was revealed Friday morning by the site’s operator 313 Presents, after the 20-year DTE Energy naming deal expired in late December. New partners United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM) and Trinity Health were also announced as part of a multi-year agreement that will keep “Pine Knob” safe for some time to come.
The company also revealed a logo dating back to the original Pine Knob — including the vintage ’70s-style font — with a fresh take on its woody summer theme.
The revival of the Pine Knob name, which comes as the runway begins in celebration of the 50th anniversary, will be music to the ears of Michigan music fans, many of whom have continued to use the old moniker after years of switching.
For concertgoers coming of age in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, it may also be a snapshot of nostalgia after nearly two years of pandemic-induced turmoil in the world of live music.
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Passion deepened with the old name, and it became a badge of authenticity for performers and audiences: one of the easiest phrases of applause for the visiting artist was the phrase “Hello, Pine Knob!” From the stage, while dressmakers found a cottage industry with T-shirts and other things with the slogan “I still call it a pine handle.”
The revival of a classic name is a rare reversal in the modern world of entertainment and sports, where corporate naming sponsorship has become a major source of revenue and billions of dollars. A handful of A-list concert venues have withstood the renaming trend, among them Madison Square Garden in New York, Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, and Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado.
And now, Pine Knob, one of the oldest and most successful American stands designed specifically for folk music, will return to join the list of esteemed names.
313 presents the renaming of Pine Knob as a nod to the past and a new vision for the future. The company is a joint venture between Ilitch Entertainment Operations and Tom Gores, and also oversees shows at Little Caesars Arena, Fox Theater, and many other venues. The Gorges acquired the runway in 2011 when they purchased the Detroit Pistons, Auburn Hills mansion, and related interests from the Davidson family.
“It’s a great landmark. It’s perfect for a 50th anniversary celebration. Summer music season is a ritual for people in our part of the world,” said Howard Handler, president of 313 Presents. “This is where you spend a lot of great summer nights. We’re really excited for season 22 and the future of this whole thing. “
Handler said the journey to reclaim the Pine Knob name began in 2020, when “we realized the potential to reimagine the partnership model.”
Handler, a metro Detroit native who headed into executive marketing business with the NFL, Madison Square Garden and Major League Soccer, returned to Michigan in late 2019 to take over at 313. He said he was shocked by the perpetual resonance of Pine Knob’s name after nearly Two decades after his retirement.
“We realized that it was unlikely that DTE (as sponsor of the label) would return, that their priorities had changed, and that we were in a position to have some different conversations,” Handler said, citing conversations with UWM and Trinity Health. “We told them our basic idea – ‘Hey, we’re thinking about bringing the original name back again’ – and they were both really excited. They thought it was the smartest thing, and they wanted to get involved.”
It involved what Handler called an “extensive process of brand updating,” including research that revealed that younger audiences were familiar with the name Pine Knob. 313 Presents officials also interviewed hundreds of venue guests, vendors, and artists.
Recruited to design the new logo, Troy Simons-Michelson-Zieve was tasked with tapping into Pine Knob’s emotional connection to the region while giving the logo a modern twist.
“We hit the obvious favorites that hit the right buttons in terms of music, summer, fun and the outdoors,” Handler said. “We hope it strikes the right balance between tipping our hats on rich memories and nostalgia, while being a contemporary take on the idyllic landscape that symbolizes our summer party destination.” The first in Michigan. It’s old, but it also aims to look ahead and be very much a brand of the 21st century.”
The rebranding of Pine Knob comes as part of an anniversary season that will officially celebrate 50 years on June 25 – the date in 1972 when David Cassidy opened the venue with an afternoon concert. The Clarkston Amphitheater, opened by the Needlander family and acquired by Bill Davidson in 1990, became a summer venue for local tours and bands such as Bob Seger, who eventually played 33 dates at the venue.
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As summer terraces – “sheds” in industry parlance – increasingly became the backbone of the tourism business, Pine Knob rose. By the 1990s, it regularly ranked first in terms of attendance among North American stands, at times drawing close to a million attendees annually.
The throne was re-placed in 2019, the last full year of performances before the pandemic, as she led the country with an attendance of 598,617, based on data compiled by trade magazine Polestar.
DTE Energy purchased the naming rights to Pine Knob prior to the 2001 season in an initial 10-year deal worth $1 million annually. This was followed by the merger of Detroit Edison and Michigan Consolidated Gas, with DTE becoming the company’s public facing name. The company embarked on a high-profile promotional campaign across the region, placing its logo at the Ice Center at Joe Louis Arena and behind Centerfield in Comerica Park.
DTE renewed the runway deal in 2010 with another 10-year contract, though new terms were not disclosed.
DTE Energy said in a statement Friday that it bought the naming rights in 2001 “to solidify the company’s name among consumers in its service area.”
“After we achieved our objective, we made the decision to let the contract expire and return those dollars to DTE operations,” the statement read.
New Pine Knob partners will be prominently featured at the venue: United Wholesale Mortgage will take over the exclusive naming rights at the western entrance and car park. Trinity Health will do the same at the VIP entrance and parking lot.
Dave Clark, president of the Michigan division at Live Nation, said the 2022 anniversary season is shaping up to be among the busiest Pine Knopp seasons in many years. Live Nation books and promotes the bulk of Clarkston’s schedule.
Clark said this summer’s calendar already includes a slate of shows initially scheduled for 2020 and 2021, but has been pushed back amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, and the coming weeks will bring a barrage of new show announcements, including Pine Knob mainstays and titles main for the first time. .
Clarke celebrated the revival of the Pine Knob name as a move that will appeal to older music fans while serving as a dose of “cool retro” for younger patrons.
“This place has proven to be the glue that holds artists and fans together,” Clark said.
Contact Detroit Free Press music writer Brian McCollum: 313-223-4450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.