Dayton Masonic Live launches tribute series this weekend

Dayton Masonic Center hosts family-friendly acts.



As a locally owned business still trying to build a local audience, Dayton Masonic Live is always working to find ways to expand its offerings. The latest venture is a new family-friendly tribute series launching with ABBAmania on Friday, Sept. 16 and Desire: The International U2 Tribute Act on Saturday, Sept. 17 at Dayton Masonic Center.

The series continues with Purple Madness: A Tribute to Prince on Sunday, Oct. 9, Fleetwood Macked on Saturday, Nov. 5 and Satisfaction: A Tribute to the Rolling Stones on Friday, Dec. 9.

“The building management wanted to do something family-friendly and accessible,” concert promoter Brian Johnson said. “We had just gotten off the Drive-By Truckers show, which isn’t really lofty but something a little more curated, I suppose, and they wanted to try something fun over the winter. We all worked together with the booking agent and lined up five acts over four months. It’s going to be something that will work out really well as we start to exit festival season into more of the indoor wintertime situation.”



A global phenomenon

One look at the summer schedules for Fraze Pavilion and Rose Music Center reveal the popularity of tribute acts. Those venues had multiple shows this year, including each with its own internationally touring tributes to Pink Floyd. However, it’s not just local. These same bands perform at iconic venues like California’s Hollywood Bowl and Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

Some music fans are snobby about the tribute concept, but the bottom line is many concertgoers adore these acts dedicated to classic acts of yore. It’s a chance for audiences to hear beloved songs performed well. For venues and concert promoters, it means butts in the seats.

“There’s this generational thing where it’s very Gen-X,” Johnson said. “At the same time, it’s something parents, kids and grandparents can all share. We’re in the business of entertainment so what gets us to the end justifies the means, especially in this regard with making sure there are $10 tickets on all of these shows. It’s completely accessible to anyone interested. A family of four can see a show for $40 and enjoy music they find nostalgic. Entertainment is entertainment and these are really fun bands. We’re here to bring people joy and help them forget about the stresses and worries of life. Even if it’s just a few hours, you get together with the community and your family and friends and get away a little bit.”



Rebranding the venue

Dayton Masonic Center, formerly known as Masonic Temple, was completed and dedicated in April 1928. The facility’s main auditorium has a seating capacity of about 1,700 and has hosted meetings, conferences, dinners, concerts and other events. The Masonic Center completed a more than $2 million renovation project in 2018 and once again began opening up its spaces for public events. Johnson and his local independent promotions company, Dayton Masonic Live, was enlisted later that same year to help the venue build a bigger presence in town.

The grassroots team booked several big shows, including a Rush tribute and the Oak Ridge Boys, before big plans for 2020 were dashed by the coronavirus pandemic. However, Dayton Masonic Live is finding its way back. The latest show was the Drive-By Truckers on July 23.

“We have a lot of work to do to get to our goal of 50 to 100 shows a year,” Johnson said. “We just have to keep booking. This year, we’re going to be doing 17 shows. We’re going to be ratcheting that up year after year. One of the most important things for people to know about this project is we’re a local production company. I don’t have the budget of Live Nation to drop a million dollars on a season.”



Building a culture

Johnson hopes to make Dayton Masonic Live as well known and respected as Live Nation or Dayton Live, but he knows you have to earn that status.

“It takes time to build this thing,” he said. “It takes time for a venue to build its purview and for people to get to know Dayton Masonic Live parking is always free. The beer is always $6. The ticket fees are never to exceed $5. We always try to keep ticket prices reasonable. These are the types of things people just don’t know until you start going to shows. People have busy lives so it’s our job as promoters to explain to them why they should spend their hard-earned money on an event. It’s about building a culture and a scene of people who are hungry for this type of thing. It’s about creating these unforgettable experiences people definitely want to see.”

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at


What: Dayton Masonic Live presents tribute shows

Where: Dayton Masonic Center, 525 W. Riverview Ave., Dayton

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 16 and 17; Doors open at 6:30 p.m. each night. Music begins at 7:30 p.m

Cost: $10-$28

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