By Noah Hubbell
By Leslie Simon
By Brad Lopez
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Inkoo Kang
By Dave Herrerra
By Josiah M. Hesse
Presiding over a press conference in the mayor's office last Tuesday night, Theaters and Arenas director Fabby Hillyard gushed that she was "pleased to see that we're all sitting at the same table." It was quite the understatement, considering the congregation she was addressing: Seated around a large table were representatives of three promotional firms whose interprofessional conflicts have taken on warlike proportions over the past year. On one end, Nobody in Particular Present's Jesse Morreale sat next to House of Blues attorney Mark Grueskin, just one rotund mayor away from Clear Channel's Chuck Morris, with whom House of Blues head Barry Fey has been feuding for years and who is named in a lengthy anti-trust lawsuit filed by Morreale's company earlier this year. (Fey, who was home with a bad cough, shocked everyone by missing a chance to be on TV.)
The purpose of this odd grouping was the announcement that the City of Denver had finally settled on a deal to insure the viability of Red Rocks Amphitheatre, which, at sixty, is in massive need of repairs and undergoing a $26 million restoration project. Though portions of the seven-year deal still require the approval of the city council, the pact guarantees that each of the participating entities -- House of Blues and NIPP in one partnership, Clear Channel and Kroenke Sports in the other -- will book at least ten shows into the venue every year for seven years and generate at least $525,000 for the city.
Hillyard, more than anyone else, appreciated the uniqueness of the gathering. For the past couple of months, she's been working to modify the deal from its original version, when it extended to Clear Channel only and stipulated that other promoters hoping to access the venue would have to have their dates approved by Morris and his staff -- a notion that Morreale and Fey responded to with caterwauls audible in Omaha. Such an arrangement, they said, would undermine their ability to keep their business dealings private -- a necessity in such a competitive industry. So on Tuesday, the relief of actually having the thing finished and on the mayor's very large desk was palpable, especially considering the conditions under which the deal was finally made: The promoters and their legal teams were reportedly in the City and County Building until well past midnight on Monday; Webb said he was unwittingly pulled into the negotiations when he "came back to get my tie."
Morris spoke with genuine affection for Red Rocks, describing it repeatedly as "Denver's crown jewel," and said he welcomed the other promoters in the quest to "keep it alive...and help contribute to its continuity." And although the new terms of the deal mean Clear Channel has lost the exclusionary aspects of the first draft, Morris still has plenty of reasons to feel tingly. The day before inking the Red Rocks contract, the firm received the city's approval for City Lights Pavilion -- a temporary, tentlike concert venue modeled on a facility in Boston -- which is expected to be ready in time for the outdoor-concert season next spring. The company can also expect to reap the benefits of an additional clause that offers rebates on concessions and parking to savvy promoters who book Red Rocks more than fourteen times a year. If history can be our guide, that will benefit Clear Channel most, at least at first: Last year the company used the venue more than twenty times, outperforming all other local promoters combined.
House of Blues and NIPP may not fare quite so well: If the two promoters are correct in their accusation that Clear Channel's dominance of the Denver market makes it difficult for them to snare artists, it follows that they could have a tough time simply making their Red Rocks quota, much less exceeding it. House of Blues, after all, still has the stage of Fiddler's Green -- Red Rock's closest competitor in terms of capacity and structure -- to occupy.
So while Denver's concert bigwigs came together momentarily to smile for the cameras and celebrate the new contracts, don't expect the good vibes to last. We can only imagine how fierce the bidding for Red Rocks-worthy artists and tours will be this time around, given how much incentive -- and contractual obligation -- each of the parties has to keep the place full. And we can only hope that the mayor is right in his statement that Red Rocks -- as well as the concertgoer, positioned to have more live music than he knows what to do with to choose from next summer -- is the ultimate beneficiary in all of this sleek negotiating.
Earlier this year, the operator of a George Harrison fan site asked people all over the globe to observe a moment of silence and direct a "Hare Krishna" in the direction of the former Beatle/practicing spiritualist who at the time was suffering from throat-cancer treatments in London. Now we can only imagine that George has found his way to Nirvana, where he is seated on the right hand of Krishna, Ganesh and whatever other deities he fancied, and where an extra pair of newly sprouted spirit limbs is enabling him to strum the guitar with one set and pluck the sitar with the other.