At this point, it's impossible to know where the instrumentalists will land. Bowers has already created a new group, Molly Universe, and Helvey is drumming with Zeut and overseeing an open stage on Sundays at Market 41, while Achilles and Jackson are currently weighing their options. But all four remain committed to a Sweet Water Well goodbye show, tentatively scheduled to take place before year's end; watch this space for details. In the meantime, they are trying to prepare themselves for a world without Sweet Water Well. "Some people are more comfortable with it than others, but everybody accepts it equally," Achilles says. "Right now, it isn't exactly natural for us to be together. It's like we've been in a four-way marriage, and suddenly we're separated. But I expect that to fade. We're all ready to move on."
Good news: This column may be the last one for a while to include info about a key employee at Fey Concerts bolting in the wake of the firm's sale to Los Angeles-based Universal Concerts. Why? Because with the departure last week of Jesse Morreale, a booker who was brought aboard last June, almost all of them are already gone.
Morreale was enjoying success with Gess Presents, a promotions company of his own, when Fey Concerts' Barry Fey snapped him up. (Fey, who sold his portion of the firm a couple of months back, had a long history of eliminating his competitors by hiring them.) He subsequently worked on the 1996 and 1997 Summer of Stars schedule and booked an impressively large percentage of dates on the Fey/Universal calendar; by his count, he was responsible for setting up 17 of the 25 dates Universal has scheduled through the remainder of 1997. But at the same time, he kept Gess alive by booking concerts independently--and he's happy he did, because soon after Universal took complete control of the Denver operation, he realized that he didn't much like the way things were done at the company.
"The process by which you have to work with a large corporation like them is by its nature kind of anti-effective in booking clubs," Morreale says. "You have to be pretty quick, and an organization like this isn't quick. When Barry was here, I was working with a little more autonomy, but Universal doesn't necessarily share this management style. That's a big part of why I'm leaving. Besides, by my nature, I'm an independent person. Having run my own company for eight years, I'm used to being able to make a certain number of decisions myself, and I didn't feel I could be either effective or happy in an environment with that many constraints."
By the same token, Morreale swears that his parting is relatively amicable, and the fact that he made the aforementioned remarks from his office at Universal, where he was allowed to remain until securing office space of his own, tends to support this claim. He's also agreed to supervise the dates he's booked with Universal into November. According to him, rumors that he's planning to go head-to-head with Universal are overstated. "Hopefully I'll be able to carve out a little niche of my own," he says.
If Morreale's local competitors see his return to full-time indie status as threatening, they're not letting on. Dan Steinberg of To Be Announced Presents claims to be happy about the change: "Jesse will be buying the same shows, but he won't be buying with the type of money he used to have or all the power he had when he was with Fey," he says. "Actually, it's kind of a nice thing for me, because Jesse's back to square one. And he may have some hard times ahead with the agencies. They'll say to him, 'Hey, before you said it was better that we dealt with you because you were independent. Then you said it was better that we dealt with you because you were with Fey. Now you say it's better that you're independent again. Make up your mind.'"
For his part, Morreale envisions no obstacles of the sort Steinberg outlines. "I've spoken with pretty much all the agents that I work with in the nation, and I've gotten a very positive response. I was surprised, frankly, by the number of agents who said, 'We didn't figure you'd stick around this long.'" He adds, "We've built up some good relationships with a lot of bands, like Pantera and Oasis, and I think some of the other bands that we've booked over the past couple of years, like the Squirrel Nut Zippers, have the potential to grow. And I'm hoping a lot of them will stick with me."
Doug Kauffman, who owns nobody in particular presents, expects that many of them will: "This is a business of relationships," he claims. "Loyalty matters." But Kauffman also understands that in order to survive, promoters need to adjust to new realities. "When Jesse was an independent, we were cohorts. And then when he was working for a major company, he was trying to put me out of business. And now, suddenly, it's bingo--'Let's work together again.'" Kauffman confirms that he's already received calls from Morreale proposing the very sort of co-promotes that were forbidden in his Fey/Universal days, and that's fine with him. "I said, 'Fine. You betcha.' I have a very pro-business concept."