Suffolk Downs Concert Series Discussed at Community Meeting

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

Two weeks ago, the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services (ONS) invited residents to participate in a meeting in which the plans for this year’s rendition of the Suffolk Downs Concert Series were outlined.

As part of the presentation, Josh Bhatti of The Bowery Presents, the venue’s Operator, reviewed some general information about the venue, reviewed last year’s series, and discussed changes coming this year.

The venue, dubbed the Stage, will hold 8,500 people and will have a season from May through October.

Bhatti went through a typical show schedule for this year, which indicated soundchecks would be early in the afternoon, with parking lots opening at 4:00 p.m. and doors opening at 5:30 p.m.

Moreover, concerts are typically scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m. and end at 10:30 p.m., with the parking lots emptying by 11:30 p.m.

“A little different than 2023, where those were more festival-based events where the gates opened earlier in the day. Music started around 3:00 p.m. for those and ran til 10:30 p.m.,” said Bhatti.

“This is kind of looking for a more typical concert schedule with a headliner and a support act or two,” he added.

There are also plans for a live event hotline that people can text or call, which will be monitored during events. The hotline is 617-945-4208.

After outlining general information about the venue, Bhatti reviewed improvements slated for the concerts this year. “We’re always continuing to improve our operations at our venues,” said Bhatti.

While Bhatti thought that the concerts held last June “went well,” regarding noise complaints, he acknowledged that during a Friday concert in September, there were “a number of” noise complaints that were then addressed at the following day’s show.

Regarding sound mitigation for 2024, the venue’s decibel limit is being lowered, the sound will be monitored in the venue, and a sound engineer will record sound readings in the neighborhood.

As for access improvements, paved paths will be added throughout the venue. Regarding traffic, Bhatti spoke about the continued use of a comprehensive traffic management plan and working with departments such as Boston, Revere, State, and MBTA police.

He also discussed continuing to work with companies like Lyft and Uber to improve geofencing so that GPS sends drivers to the correct pick-up and drop-off locations.

“We had problems with some drivers picking up riders outside of the geofenced area, so we’re really working with them [Lyft and Uber] to drill that down as well as within the site once the drivers get into the site,” said Bhatti.

Other changes include improved lighting around roadways and parking lots. Improved lighting on Tomasello Way was specifically mentioned in the presentation.

Moreover, there are plans to stop selling alcohol 30 minutes before a concert’s scheduled end time.

Finally, regarding security and the venue’s emergency response plan, there will be more monitoring at entry points and more EMS and ambulance services. Bhatti also mentioned working with Boston Police to improve its security plan.

As for the 2024 concert schedule, there could be up to 12 this season. The projected schedule displayed at the meeting, which is subject to change, was as follows:

May 18th – The Avett Brothers

June 7th – Tentative/TBD

June 28th – A Day to Remember

July 27th – Faye Webster

August 9th – TBA

August 17th – TBA

August 19th – King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard

August 29th – TBA

August 30th – TBA

September 6th – Tentative/TBD

September 7th -Tentative/TBD

September 14th – Tentative/TBD

“Some of these are tentative concerts that may or may not happen — especially the ones in September — we’re still in the planning phases there but wanted to put those out there,” said Bhatti.

After the presentation, the floor was opened for the audience to ask questions and provide comments.

One attendee had asked if the team had considered other venue layouts, such as where the stage and other amenities are located.

Tom O’Brien of the HYM Investment Group, Suffolk Downs’ owner, indicated several options were considered.

Specifically, O’Brien listed several factors in developing the site layout, such as sound, emergency access to the site, and access to the stage for equipment, and said, “We did think carefully about a lot of different ideas, and this we believe is the best.”

Another attendee spoke about sound concerns and said that his son was hearing the concerts from Winthrop.

O’Brien acknowledged that friends of his in Winthrop had told him they could hear the sound on the aforementioned Friday concert last September and apologized.

“I think the problem was that one September 15th show, and again, lesson learned, we’re posting more in the way of sound monitoring, we’re going to try and direct the sound a little bit better,” said O’Brien.

Another attendee spoke on behalf of the Friends of Belle Isle Marsh, indicated the importance of animal species at the marsh, and asked if there was consideration to directing sound onto route 1A instead of the marsh.

In response, O’Brien in part, reiterated his previous point about all the factors considered in developing the layout and pointed out working with Friends of Belle Isle Marsh and making investments to help the marsh.

“We like to consider ourselves as people who have been allies of the people who care about the marsh as well,” said O’Brien.

District A-7 Police Captain Dean Bickerton also had some questions about the concerts. First, he asked about sound mitigation during weekday concerts, especially if they fall on a day when school is in session.

Bhatti had indicated they thought they avoided concerts on school days this year. They are working to identify sound impacts on schools and will use that information in the future for concerts that might fall on school days.

It should be noted that Manuela Villa Gomez, East Boston’s Neighborhood Liaison, mentioned that some of the Charter Schools in the neighborhood start school in August.

Bickerton also asked about parking on Waldemar Avenue, the issue of concertgoers parking there, and whether there has been progress in working with the Transportation Department to make the area resident-only parking.

Bhatti responded, “I don’t think we have a final discussion. Obviously, we have no opposition to that — I think that would be desirable if BTD (Boston Transportation Department) is in favor of it.”

As the discussion continued, several union representatives spoke in favor of the concert series.

Additionally, one attendee had asked if concerts could be added to the list shown, to which the answer was no. The attendee also emphasized the importance of trash pick-up.

Ultimately, several other topics, such as the timing of sound checks, especially when school is in session, were discussed before the end of the meeting. O’Brien made the point that in the future if there are concerts during school days, sound checks will not occur until after school has been dismissed. 

Following this meeting, The Bowery Presents had an Entertainment Application hearing that Thursday for the concerts. The matter was said to be under advisement, and a written decision would be issued.

As of Monday afternoon, the Mayor’s press office indicated a decision has yet to be made.

For more information about this year’s concerts, visit

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