Angela Daddabbo remembers when she first heard Rhiannon Giddens in 2010. Her and the Carolina Chocolate Drops raucously covering Blu Cantrell's "Hit 'Em Up Style" with a banjo and fiddle isn't the only thing Daddabbo remembers, though. The performance made such a mark on her that she remembers where she was and what she was wearing, Daddabbo said Wednesday.
She's been trying to book Giddens in Auburn ever since. And in July, Daddabbo's efforts will finally come to fruition.
The Grammy Award winner and MacArthur Fellow will perform July 11 at Cayuga Community College in a show produced by Auburn Public Theater, where Daddabbo is artistic director. Even though the concert was moved to the college's auditorium because of its greater capacity than the downtown venue, tickets are still moving fast, Daddabbo cautioned.
"It's a history-making show," she said. "People are going to be able to say, 'I saw her when ...'"
Giddens will also cap off three months of some of the most eclectic and elite musical talent Auburn Public Theater has brought to the area since opening in 2005.
The 12 performances the theater has scheduled prior to Giddens include Neyla Pekarek, former cellist for The Lumineers, on Thursday. Daddabbo recalled taking her daughter to see the popular folk rock band at Madison Square Garden as a 16th birthday present. Pekarek left the band last year to pursue a solo career, which brings her to Auburn in support of her debut, "Rattlesnake."
Daddabbo said acts like Pekarek come to the theater through its partnership with area promoter DSP Shows, which began in 2017. That partnership will also bring singer-songwriter and "American Idol" runner-up Crystal Bowersox to the theater April 24, jazz duo Tuck & Patti April 26 and Buenos Aires-based four-piece string band Che Apalache May 2. Additionally, Tuck & Patti will conduct a music workshop on April 25 where performers are invited to meet the inventive duo in an informal atmosphere, ask questions and take part in demonstrations.
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All those performers will be new to the 199-seat Main Stage at Auburn Public Theater. Tuck & Patti, however, isn't new to the area. Daddabbo recalled seeing them at a Skaneateles Area Arts Council fundraiser at Stella Maris in 2013. But even then, she said, the duo seemed too big to book at her theater. That that's no longer the case, she continued, suggests "something's happening."
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That "something" is probably due to a combination of things, Daddabbo said. First, she believes Auburn's location makes it appealing to artists traveling itineraries like New York City to Toronto, for instance. Since they're on the road anyway, some of the costs of performing have already been incurred, which allows them to knock their fees down for additional dates, Daddabbo said.
The Auburn theater also maintains a consistent dialog with its audience about what they want to see there, she continued. Their appetite for blues led her and Executive Director Carey Eidel to bring 23-year-old Jontavious Willis to the theater in February. Though presales were slow, about 50 paid at the door to see "one of the most rockin' events we've ever offered," Daddabbo said. The theater plans to bring Willis back in August, and Daddabbo expects every one of those 50 audience members to return, and probably bring a friend or two.
She and Eidel also do what they can to coax return performances from musicians like Willis, as well as theater regulars Professor Louie and the Crowmatix April 13 and Americana trio Red Molly June 14. In addition to providing intimate acoustics that several theater performers have praised, Daddabbo said, the downtown venue's staff simply treats them well, too.
"We take their riders very seriously," she said of the customary list of requests performers make of their hosts. "We try to make up in hospitality what we don't have in size."
Still, that size limits whom Auburn Public Theater can book — and when. Daddabbo noted that she and Eidel have to say no to "a lot" of acts because seven concerts a week isn't sustainable there.
But the acts the theater is able to bring to downtown Auburn continue to carve out a bigger and bigger reputation for live music there.
"It's about being eclectic and trying to please all the people all the time as much as possible," Daddabbo said. "So there's something literally for everyone."