SHELBY, N.C. -- National Christian recording artist MercyMe cancelled its concert at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds Saturday after the stage for the band’s show blew down in a strong line of storms.
The band’s opening act, The Afters, was doing a sound check around 3:30 p.m. when the wind picked up and the stage started shaking.
“This storm suddenly came in and suddenly I hear 'get off the stage!'” said The Afters’ lead singer Josh Havens, in a cell phone video shot by MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard. “And we're running, jumping off the stage.”
MercyMe’s stage manager witnessed the collapse. Joel Bench is used to setting up and taking down stages – just not like this.
“The wind just picked up, the roof lifted a little bit,” said Bench. “Then it started tilting and just kind of eased down.”
“Luckily we had people watching and eyes on it, and they started screaming and everybody started running and took off safely,” he said.
The damage to the temporary stage was too great to put on the show, which was a huge disappointment to fans. The concert kicked off a week of events for the American Legion World Series at Shelby High School next weekend. Seven teams from around the country will travel to Shelby for the national championship tournament.
American Legion organizer Eddie Holbrook said it took 8-9 months to book the acts for the concert, and getting them back together to play would be “nearly impossible.”
“This was a very big event for the community and the region, for three outstanding artists here,” said Holbrook.
The American Legion expected roughly 10,000 people to attend the concert, with tickets costing $20. He said it was a “break-even” event – costing the American Legion almost as much to put on as would be make in gate receipts.
Refunds will be available starting Monday. Sponsors and insurance will help defray some of the cost, but not all of it.
“We won't make any money, hopefully we won't lose a whole lot,” said Holbrook.
Despite the disappointment, everyone was grateful no one was injured and only a few pieces of equipment were damaged.
“Thank God nobody was hurt,” tweeted Millard, along with pictures of the stage. The band has already moved onto its next venue in Cincinnati.
Bench hopes they’ll return – maybe next year.
“I hope we get a chance to come back and see these folks who were planning to be out here tonight,” he said. “Great event, enjoy the people here, catering is amazing -- can't say anything bad about it, for sure.”