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Fans return as Pine Knob hosts first concert after return to old name

Erica Hobbs, Special to The Detroit News
Special to The Detroit News

Independence Township — Pine Knob opened its 50th anniversary season Friday, the first under the return of its original name, following 20 years as DTE Energy Music Theatre.

Thousands of people came out to hear American indie pop trio AJR, known for songs like “The Good Part,” “Bang!” and “World's Smallest Violin.”

The crowd included a range of ages, including young couples and families sharing the experience with their children. And while most were happy about the venue’s name change, for many it didn’t matter that much.

The crowd grooves on the sounds of opening act BoyWithUke at the season-opening concert at Pine Knob Music Theatre near Clarkston on Friday, May 27, 2022.

Rochester Hills resident Izabela Stachura, 42, was there with her husband Mikolaj, 43, and their two daughters. She said her daughters were big AJR fans, and she was excited to take them to their first concert.

“I don’t care about the name to be honest,” she said. “I’m just happy that it’s here.”

Mikolaj Stachura, however, was happy for the venue to go back to its roots.

“I don’t like whenever there’s any space like this where it has a sponsor name,” he said. “I think it should be always related to, you know, how it was originally created, the local name, whatever the community used to call it.”

Rochester Hills resident Madi Boyle, 21, echoed the sentiment. She said the change represents a different feeling.

“I think it’s going to be really fun; it’s going to be less commercial, more homey,” she said. “I think it’ll be really nice.”

For others, the name change was irrelevant, though for different reasons.

“Even when it was called DTE, I still called it Pine Knob,” said Tecumseh resident Ed Gerten, 59. “That’s the way I remember it from my youth, and that’s the way I always think of it. I wasn’t ecstatic about (the name returning), but I thought, yeah, finally, it’s going back to what it should be.”

From left, Abigail Emmi , 8, and Elise Allen, 9, both of Richmond put on their rain ponchos with Abigail’s mom, Anna Roberson as a few raindrops fall during the opening act BoyWithUke at the season-opening concert at Pine Knob Music Theatre near Clarkston on Friday, May 27, 2022.

Liberty Tice, 14, of Belding had been to Pine Knob twice before, though had never known it by that name. She was attending the concert with her parents, brother, aunt, uncle and cousins.

“It’s just confusing, because they’re like, ‘We’re going to Pine Knob,’ and I’m like ‘Where the heck is that?’” she said. “I don’t really care, it’s just a name, it’s the same place.”

William Carter, 22, from Farmington Hills, is a big AJR fan. He had attended one concert at the venue before, and though he had no personal memories of its time as Pine Knob, he said he recognized its positive move for the community. But for him, he was happiest to see his first concert since the start of COVID.

“I’m ecstatic,” he said. “Just bringing people back together, it’s just great to see.”