Portland-based, progressive rock band Floater will perform this weekend at the Rogue Theatre in Grants Pass. Medford metal band TallBoy will open the show.

The Rogue Theatre's summer lineup

Greg Tressel is the first to admit that Floater is not your usual Rogue Theatre band. The Portland-based progressive rockers appeal to an 18-to-30-something audience that's noticeably younger that the Grants Pass theater's typical classic rock audience.

"They've played here several times," says Tressel, who founded the present incarnation of the Rogue as a concert hall in 1999.

"They usually sell it out. A bunch of kids told me about them. They're very nice guys, and they sell a ton of CDs."

Floater opens the Rogue's summer season at 8 p.m. Friday, May 29. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door.

And Floater is just one band in a season that mixes classic and progressive rock, blues, pop and funk. Also on tap this summer: legendary guitarist Robin Trower, blues/rockers The Fabulous Thunderbirds, pop stars Pablo Cruise, eclectic rockers Smash Mouth and New Orleans' first family of funk The Neville Brothers.

The show testifies to the eclecticism of Tressel's programming, and to the sense of his audience he's garnered in a decade of presenting big-name acts in a small-town venue.

One show Tressel feels lucky to have put together is a performance by guitarist/singer Peter Frampton Aug. 4. Tressel met Frampton in Las Vegas through mutual friend Gary Mallaber, a drummer who has played with everybody from Bruce Springsteen to Van Morrison.

"It's more of a vanity show, not really a money maker," Tressel says of the still very much in demand Frampton. "We're a small room (500 seats). We weren't sure it would pencil out."

Frampton tickets start at $55 and top out at $95, about three or four times the Rogue's normal ticket price.

Tressel's goal in opening the doors of a former movie house in little Grants Pass was to provide arts and culture at a reasonable price in a rural area where people don't expect to find it. He says he didn't know when he started that he'd still be doing it a decade later.

"And we don't know if we'll be here in another decade," he says with a laugh. "Everybody's having a hard time with the economy right now. But we're small. If I lose money, at least it's not on the scale of (2,200 capacity) Britt.

"I don't have a big staff. There's just two people counting me, and some good volunteers."

In the Rogue's early days, people would sometimes see a Rogue Theatre ad or a name on a marquee and not believe the artist was actually coming to Grants Pass to perform.

"One of the first big acts I had was Tower of Power," Tressel says. "People would call and ask what it meant. I'd say it meant they were coming here."

One year Kris Kristofferson made the Rogue one of just four venues he played on the West Coast.

"About 10 people flew out from New York City to see him here," Tressel says.

He says he regularly draws audiences from Portland, Ashland and the Oregon Coast.

He says the best part of his job is meeting performers he's admired who turn out to be nice guys.

"Like Billy Bob Thornton," he says. "What a great guy. He'd just played for a really sedate audience, and here people were just freaking out, and he loved it. He told me he was going to call Tom Petty, Dwight Yoakam and all these guys and tell them about the Rogue."

The worst part of the job is when somebody whose music you love turns out to be a jerk.

"It ruins it for you," he says.

But that's not too common.

He'd heard Roger McGuin could be difficult, but instead he found him merely shy.

Atop his list of artists he'd most like to present is Gordon Lightfoot. He's hoping for a Lightfoot show this fall.

The Rogue Theatre is at 143 N.E. H St. in Grants Pass. See roguetheatre.com or call 471-1316 for tickets and information.

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