There’s nothing like that moment before the headliner hits the stage, the lights go down and the entire audience cheers wildly for their favorite artist. It’s moments like those that keep Becca Watters with Spokane Arena going each day.
“Everything we’ve done – the announcement, the on-sale, the promotions, the load-in and set-up – has all been building to that moment,” the marketing manager told Amplify. “It’s my absolute favorite part of every show. I’m lucky if I get to see one or two songs a night, but I always try to be in the bowl when the lights go out. I want to hear that roar and feel the energy in the room. It’s a simple thing, but it reminds me that I’m part of something much larger.”
Watters got her start at Spokane Arena eight-and-a-half years ago as an intern and a runner.
“I worked every show during the first four months of my internship, and I will always remember the last show I ran for,” she said. “I’m not going name the artist or share the gory details, but let’s just say my day started at 7:00am and ended the following day at 6:00am. It was doozey and I never ran again.”
After that show, she worked her way up the career ladder, first as a marketing assistant, then a coordinator and in 2012 the Gonzaga grad became marketing manager for the Pacific Northwest venue.
“I might market, plan and run events, but at the end of the day I get to work at a place that creates magical moments,” she said. “Moments that people remember forever; first concerts, engagements, and 12,500-person singalongs. It’s a place that holds so much cultural and personal significance for so many people in my community, and that’s what I love most about my job. I get to be a memory maker for the city of Spokane.”
We asked Watters to walk us through her career by recalling her five favorite shows in Spokane and beyond.
Eagles at Spokane Arena
I have seen many excellent performances in my career, so I say this with a great deal of weight: the Eagles performance at the Spokane Arena on May 29, 2015 is hands down, without question, my favorite show of all time. Thanks to my parents, I grew up a fan of the Eagles. Their music – even the solo albums – were always part of the mix in my home. And so, hosting them, in my building, was incredibly special.
The entire show felt like a conversation. The Eagles walked everyone in attendance through their entire history, peppering their monstrous set with funny anecdotes and stories. The structure of the event was unique – the band asked everyone to remain in their seats for the first act. They wanted the audience to pay attention and listen to their carefully crafted tales. The second act became a party. Everyone was on their feet, dancing and singing, and enjoying what was sure to be the last time the Eagles would ever play in Spokane. The significance of this moment wasn’t lost on all of us either. There was one directive for the night: finish your work and find a spot to watch the show. We were all going to enjoy these legendary performers. For me, I was able to watch the entire show, beginning to end, from the perfect spot: sitting next to my dad, who had made the trip up from Portland to see his favorite band. There was no one else I wanted to share that experience with and it will be an evening I will never forget.
Gentlemen of the Road Stopover with Mumford & Sons and Foo Fighters in Walla Walla, Wash.
In all honesty, I’m not a festival person – I avoid them at all costs. But, when Mumford & Sons announces one of their Gentlemen of the Road Stopovers in the heart of Washington’s wine country AND brings the frickin’ Foo Fighters, you go. If you’re unfamiliar with the GOTR format, the band selects small communities and towns all over the world and completely takes over, setting up mini two-day festivals featuring Mumford and other world-class bands and musicians.
Their stopover in Walla Walla was off the charts good. The main stage was set up on Whitman College’s field, the campground was set up on the golf course, and the small downtown core became the focal point for all day-time activity. Branding for the festival was everywhere – chalked on the sidewalk, painted on store windows, banners lined the streets. Restaurants featured specials, and the local brewery brewed a special beer just for the weekend.
The Foo Fighters headlined the first night. It was right in the midst of their “Broken Leg Tour” and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything more fantastic than Dave Grohl rockin’ out on his lit-up thrown, legged propped up on a stool. Talk about taking a bad situation and completing owning it.
Mumford & Sons closed out the weekend. Their set was a balance of their new electric sound and their folk-rock anthems. But the moment Winston brought out the banjo EVERYONE roared, including me. They blended high energy moments with quiet ones to perfection. Their light show was on point and played to the emotions of the crowd perfectly. Their show was beyond excellent, and my favorite performance of the three I’ve seen.
Pearl Jam at Spokane Arena
I was in the pit with the photographers when the band hit the stage. Because of my vantage point and the lighting in the bowl, I got one of the first glimpses of Eddie Vedder & Company as they made their way into position. It was unreal how quiet the arena was in that moment. Spokane had waited nearly 20 years for this show and it was almost like everyone was holding their breath and praying it wasn’t a dream. As Eddie made his way to the mic, carrying the magnum of red wine we had gifted him earlier that night, the lights came on and he addressed the crowd with, “well, we’re finally in the five-oh-nine.” The crowd erupted and I was left with goosebumps.
When people ask me about the best shows to ever play my building, Pearl Jam is definitely in the top three. The show wasn’t just fantastic, it was fun – just Google “Pearl Jam – Brain of J – Spokane” and you’ll see why. Eddie shared that magnum of wine with the audience, passing it around to those closest to the stage. The band played 30 minutes longer than expected and ended the show with a simple “we’ll be back.” It was like a party with 12,000 of your closest friends, and the best part was, it felt incredibly intimate. For one night it seemed we were able to do the impossible: capture lightning in a bottle.
Michael Buble at Spokane Arena
The Michael Buble show will always hold a special place in my heart for a very special reason. The show was simply fantastic. Michael is one of the most engaging and personable performers I have ever personally witnessed. He was incredibly chatty on stage and he had so many wonderful anecdotes about his time in Spokane.
I was standing at the front of house mix position with my house photographer. It was between songs two and three when Michael really began to talk to the audience. He was finishing up a great story about shopping at our local Nordstrom when he stopped mid-sentence and said, “Oh! Look at this…the building…the people that run this building are class acts, let me tell you…I had something special waiting for me when I got to my dressing room.” He walked to the back of the stage and picked up something that was wrapped in a black napkin. It was in that moment when I realized something magical was about to happen. I started jumping up and down, and hitting my photographer on the arm telling him he better have his camera ready. Michael looked at one of his production camera operators and said: “This is pretty cool. Get the camera on this, get real close.” He proceeded to unwrap one of the sugar cookies we had gifted him that night. Because he’s such a big hockey fan, and actually owns a team that competes against our Spokane Chiefs, his cookies were all themed around hockey and Canada. He held up a Spokane Chiefs jersey and the entire crowd erupted in cheer. He took a bite and then proceeded to break it up and hand it out to people in the front row. Everyone loved it. It was such a memorable moment for me because this was the show where we launched our now famous cookie-as-gifts promotion. We weren’t sure it was going to work, or how well it was going to be received, but I knew in that moment we had a hit. We’ve been dazzling artists with cookies ever since.
The Lumineers at Columbia City Theater in Seattle
I saw The Lumineers in a teeny tiny theater in Seattle one week before their new album dropped. My friend Tove had called me up a few days prior to the show and told me she had an extra ticket and it was mine if I wanted it. How could I say no?!
With less than 200 people in attendance, the evening featured a complete set including a preview of their new music, an on-stage interview with the band, and a special meet and greet for everyone in the audience. Phones and cameras were confiscated at the door – no photos or video recordings allowed. It was incredible to be completely present in that experience, to just listen and enjoy the music without any distractions. It was awesome.