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According to Fey, he's been quietly pushing along Ascent-related ventures since June 23, well over a month before the August 11 announcement that he had sold his share of his promotions company, Fey Concerts, to Universal Concerts Inc. (Fey will remain a Universal consultant for the next five years.) "There are six different projects with the Nuggets and two with the Avalanche that I've come up with," he says. "The Avalanche things don't happen until later in the season, and I'm more limited with what I can do with them because of the amount of room you've got. You have ice, and then boards and then seats--and between periods, you have a Zamboni taking center stage." By contrast, the Nuggets enterprises begin on October 31--opening day--and while Fey declines to offer specifics at this time, it's clear that they are of far more immediate importance to Ascent. After all, Nuggets fans are disgruntled about the collapse of the franchise and are looking forward to another year of rebuilding with all the good humor of Tipper Gore at a Slayer concert. Fey concedes that "I'm not going to be doing anything that'll be worth the price of admission. It's still going to be about basketball. But they'll be fun. It's a sports cliche that teams are in competition for everyone's entertainment dollars, so you'd better make sure that it's entertaining. But it's the truth."
Music will be only a small part of Fey's brainstorms due in large part to a non-compete clause he signed when making his deal with Universal. But that doesn't stop him from suggesting that the National Basketball Association would be a lot better off if it operated more like the concert business. "When I heard Juwan Howard was getting $90 million, I thought, this is crazy. I mean, the Rolling Stones don't get paid $3 million for playing in Las Vegas if nobody shows up; they get a percentage of the gate. So what the NBA ought to do is, at the end of the season, take the actual expenses off the top of the gross and then give the players 90 percent of what's left and the owners 10 percent. To me, that's a lot more fair."
By the way, the same day Fey joined the Nuggets organization, star forward Antonio McDyess was given a one-way ticket to Phoenix. Basketball buffs out there may not see that as trading up, but Fey implies that it's not as bad as it sounds. "I still have my jump shot," he says.
In another Fey-related item, Universal disappeared eight employees last week, and a ninth jumped before being pushed. Among the victims are numerous members of the accounting department, whose tasks will now be handled by drones at Universal's Los Angeles headquarters, and longtime press person Michelle "Mel" Gibson. This last dismissal is probably the biggest surprise, given the high esteem with which Gibson is held in the Denver concert community. Local Universal types declined to comment on the move, and the only response offered up by L.A.-based representatives was a written statement that reads, in part, "Universal has carefully reviewed its local resources and how best to utilize such resources as part of its national concert operations. This required some restructuring and reorganization, which we believe will result in the most effective and efficient operation possible." Which, in case you were wondering, is a technocratic way of saying that the pink slips were handed out in order to save money. That's life in the Nineties.
Despite a reunion gig at Herman's Hideaway last week, Furious George and the Monster Groove is not a regularly going concern. Moreover, the reasons that the band is not together remain the same as they were when Westword disseminated the news of the combo's impending breakup last year ("The End of the Groove," December 19, 1996). "Our bass player [Luke Davis] is going to school out of town," says James Elias, George's onetime lead singer. "We can really only play when he comes back." However, Elias is hardly sitting around waiting for Davis's next vacation. He's put together a new combo, Bad Rufus and the Ambassadors of Soul, which he describes as "a cleaner, leaner soul band. We're doing more of a fusion of reggae and soul. We sometimes still do funk, but we're not hitting the Bosstones style like we were with Furious George. It's a five-piece with a really sweet sound."
In addition, Elias runs Euphoric Productions, a firm that he founded following Furious George's demise. "I did it basically to keep my name out there and my new band going," he points out. "But when I realized how many numbers and connections I had and how many club owners and bands I knew, I realized that I could do more with this." Hence, Euphoric has put together a regular series of events Wednesday and Friday afternoons at the Snake Pit. "Basically," says Elias, "we're concentrating on providing a stage for newer, smaller local bands that are still a little wet behind the ears so that they can get working. And we're also promoting camaraderie between the newer bands and older bands by pairing them up together. That way, the newer groups will be able to learn, pick up some tips and be able to compete at some of the larger rooms." Examples of this concept can be seen this week: At the Snake Pit on Friday, October 10, Bad Rufus opens for Brethren Fast, while Wednesday, October 15, finds Mean Old Man in the company of Tequila Mockingbird. And come December, Euphoric will put on a string of Monday night showcases at Herman's. "I'm really excited about that," Elias says. "I'll be able to do twenty bands a month there, and a lot of them will be groups that have never been able to get on a stage like that one--but on Monday nights, they will."