By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
'Tis the season for the announcement of summer concerts--and usually by the time they make it into print, the details surrounding them are fairly firm. But that's not the case with KTCL's Big Adventure, set to take place on May 30, and the Fox's Seventies Saturday, scheduled for June 6. Rob Buswell, director of Jacor Concerts, which is putting on the gigs in question, swears that the KTCL festival, featuring the Foo Fighters and Ben Harper, and the Fox spectacle, with a bill that includes Heart, War and Leon Russell, will take place on the dates noted above. (The same cannot be said of a Harper turn in Vail on May 29 and a Foo Fighters-Harper performance in Colorado Springs on May 31; they've been canceled.) However, precisely where they'll happen is another matter.
Both of these shows were to kick off at Norlin Quad, near Norlin Library and Mackey Auditorium on the grounds of the University of Colorado at Boulder. But a university official says Chancellor Richard L. Byyny, who oversees CU's Boulder campus, denied a request to hold the concerts at the Quad on April 17. That's news to most people, though. As late as last week, Jacor ads still stated that the Big Adventure would occur at the Quad, and more than 5,000 people have already purchased tickets with that understanding; so, too, have 1,000 Fox fans. As for Buswell, who claims to have first heard about problems concerning the site late on April 24, a full week after Byyny rendered his decision, he says, "This all totally caught me off guard. I don't understand why this happened, and I can't believe it took them so long to tell us about it."
In trying to sort out the details of the dispute, time is an important factor. According to a knowledgeable source, Norlin Quad was not Jacor's top choice for the Big Adventure. Instead, the mega-company (which owns eight Denver-Boulder radio stations, including KTCL and KRFX/The Fox) initially wanted to stage the bash at Mile High Greyhound Park Stadium in Commerce City, broaching the topic to the facility's overseers last November. But after the state racing commission said no to the show, Jacor settled on Norlin Quad. The fit seemed like a good one: After all, the Quad regularly accommodates large crowds during summer graduation ceremonies and has been used regularly for musical events like Fun in a Nuclear Age (FINA), which drew approximately 12,000 listeners in 1991. Moreover, Buswell wanted what he refers to as "a non-traditional venue" for the Big Adventure, which in past years had been headquartered at Fiddler's Green.
"At Fiddler's, you've got 7,500 reserved seats," Buswell points out, "and a lot of the people with those tickets don't bother to show up until six or seven in the evening. But before then, you've got people on the lawn seating area who get there early in the afternoon and who are there to see some of the newer bands. So rather than having a band like the Aquabats play to a bunch of empty seats, which is a little awkward, we thought we'd try something different. And the Quad was perfect for us."
Unfortunately, Jacor didn't make this discovery until late in the game. Brantley Dunaway, director of CU's program council, the body that promotes and coordinates music events at the university, reveals that he met with Jacor representatives on Tuesday, March 31, and at that time, they told him they needed to get a yea or nay about the Quad within four days. That presented difficulties, Brantley says. "The approval process for the Quad is kind of lengthy. It's an academic area and it's treasured by the university for its historic value, so there's several entities within the university that have to be consulted. First there's the program council, and then it goes to the vice chancellor of student affairs, and it also has to go to the heads of departments that might be affected by the concert."
The program council promptly gave the nod to the Big Adventure and the Fox's Seventies Saturday, in part because of financial considerations; Buswell estimates that the university would have received $80,000 from the shows. The next level of CU bureaucracy endorsed the shows, too, and with Buswell confident that final approval was a mere formality, Jacor began hyping the Big Adventure on April 3; tickets went on sale one week later. But Buswell didn't count on the actions of Byyny. While he knew that Byyny had to approve specific Jacor requests involving an extension of the university curfew from 10:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. and the sale of liquor, he says, "I thought the worst-case scenario would be that he'd tell us we had to stop at 10:30 and that we couldn't sell alcohol--and I would have been able to deal with that. But I had no idea he could refuse to let us use the Quad at all."
Why did Byyny turn thumbs down? The program council's Dunaway guesses that Jacor's rush to publicity probably played a part. "They put the show on sale with full knowledge that it hadn't been approved yet," says Dunaway, "and I think it upset some people in the chancellor's office. It was like, 'Why are you even asking us for approval if you're already advertising it?'"