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The anticipated Denver concert-promotions war has not yet begun in earnest, but the field of battle is already crowded with potential combatants.

The January 22 Feedback column contained information about the new partnership between veteran Colorado promoter and manager Chuck Morris and Bill Graham Presents, a major San Francisco enterprise affiliated with SFX Entertainment, among the country's largest and most aggressive promotions houses. In the same space, Barry Fey, who sold his shares in his ultra-powerful Fey Concerts operation to Los Angeles's Universal Concerts last year, predicted that Morris and Universal would soon be going head-to-head in a financial fight of epic proportions. Now the Denver office of Jacor Broadcasting, a Cincinnati-based conglomerate that owns nearly 200 radio stations (including some of the most popular outlets in this market), seems ready to make an impact in promotions, too--and Jacor is using as its soldiers three former Fey Concerts employees: Rob Buswell, Jeff Krump and Michele "Mel" Gibson.

Buswell, the director of concerts and events for Jacor, got his start putting on shows in 1982 while attending college at California State University at Fullerton. He subsequently worked for Avalon Attractions, a major California promotions company, before coming to Fey Concerts in 1989. As director of marketing for Fey, he witnessed firsthand the early-Nineties conflict between Fey Concerts and Universal (then known as MCA) that eventually led to a pairing of the corporations. By June 1996, however, he began to get itchy for new challenges and left Fey Concerts to start his own marketing business. He put together Web pages for record companies and handled a few projects for Fey/MCA, but within a matter of months he realized that he was out of his element: "I was spending 95 percent of my time on the computer instead of on the phone," he says. So when Jacor asked him to come aboard in December of that year, he jumped at the opportunity.

In the beginning, Buswell was charged with putting together festivals for stations under the Jacor umbrella: KTCL's Big Adventure and the KBPI Birthday Bash were the largest of these. But Buswell didn't stop there, and by the end of 1997, he was as busy as any other promoter in town. December alone welcomed at least five sizable concerts put together by Buswell for Jacor: A Cause for Celebration, a KHIH-FM happening that starred Dave Koz, David Benoit and Brenda Russell; KBPI's Mistletoe Jam; a Royal Crown Revue date for KTCL; and KBCO-sponsored turns by Jackson Browne and Barenaked Ladies. In all, Buswell assembled around forty gigs last year, and he hopes to double that number in 1998.

Helping Buswell do so will be Krump, who started at Jacor this week after being dismissed in late January as director of theaters and arenas for the City of Denver. His firing made headlines because of what spurred it: Krump and his superior, Gary Lane, were accused of starting a fire in an office trash can, as well as other office pranks. Although he declines to go into detail about these charges, Krump says that many of his problems in the city post came as a result of cultural differences. "I didn't fit very well into a governmental situation," he explains. "I've always been a rock-and-roll person."

True enough. Krump, who grew up in Aurora, spent a lot of his time during high school and college sneaking into concerts promoted by Fey; years later, Krump notes, Fey jokingly presented him with a bill for all the tickets he didn't buy. In 1975 he landed a job at Feyline, Fey Concerts' predecessor, and although Fey initially mistook him for a telephone repairman, Krump eventually became a key part of the organization. He left the Fey family in 1984 to tour in a management capacity with Triumph, a Canadian power trio, and after that band broke up, he did similar work for a variety of big names: Aerosmith, Run DMC, Public Enemy, Neil Young, Guns N' Roses, Metallica. But the road began to lose its allure when he passed forty and his son was old enough to notice that dad wasn't at any of his Little League games. Hence, Krump gladly took the theaters and arenas job, spending five years with the division before his recent termination.

Obviously, the timing of the Jacor job overture was ideal for Krump. "Our intent is to go after some creative packaging and bring events into town that might not necessarily be touring," he says. As for challenging Universal on its own turf, Krump soft-pedals this prospect. But he does profess that "no one at Jacor has put any limits on what we can or can't do."

This last comment raises some intriguing possibilities. Jacor's concert division in Denver is the first of its kind for the company--and if it clicks, it's conceivable that the Buswell-Krump team could lead to the formation of a branch large enough to put together events for Jacor stations from coast to coast. Given that Jacor owns properties in most major U.S. cities, the resulting department could become a legitimate threat to Universal and SFX not only in Colorado, but across the country. Buswell and Krump deny that anything so sweeping is on the drawing board at present, but neither will rule it out--and both acknowledge that Jacor has something special to offer artists coming to Denver: namely, five FM stations (KBCO, KBPI, KTCL, KHIH and KRFX) with which to advertise shows.

 

If Jacor has a commercial stake in a concert, the incentive to hype it will increase--and radio is a mighty effective way to promote musical events. As Buswell states, "Having the stations at our disposal is a nice tool, and it's something that the other promoters in the market don't have to work with. I don't really go to artists or managers or agents and say, 'If you play this show for us versus Universal, you'll get more spins for your record.' That's not really what we're all about. But by the same token, when we have an artist we're promoting, they'll get a lot of on-air support."

Jacor seems willing to give the Denver experiment every opportunity to succeed. In addition to hiring Krump, the concern is using the publicity skills of Gibson--who worked in a similar capacity at Fey Concerts before being swept away in a Universal purge--on a show-by-show basis. Moreover, Buswell isn't tiptoeing around the other Denver-area heavyweights. "I don't want to get into a bidding war with anyone, and it's certainly possible that we'll end up partnering shows with Chuck Morris or Universal, who I sort of see right now as an out-of-town promoter," he allows. "But what's most important is that we're passionate about music and about the local scene. And we're going to be a part of it."

A postmortem to last week's article about the Beach Boys. Group co-founder Carl Wilson, whose voice was a primary color in the musical palette utilized by his brother, Brian Wilson, died last week of lung cancer. He was 51.

Thought you'd like to know about a benefit concert for Oumar Dia and Jeannie VanVelkinburgh, who were victims of hate crimes last year. Sponsored by the African Awareness Expos Inc., the spectacle is set to take place on Sunday, February 15, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, 1750 Welton Street, and will incorporate performances by Bobby Wells, the Healers and many other acts. To RSVP, call 750-8514--and if you'd like to make an additional donation, send it to the Oumar & Jeannie Benefit Fund, P.O. Box 471631, Aurora 80047-1631.

Most folks don't think of Littleton as a great place to see live hip-hop, and with good reason. But on Friday, February 13, at the Ascot Theater, 9136 West Bowles, rap will indeed be visiting this suburb. Stress Crew Productions is scheduled to put on "Hip-Hop Jam '98," featuring a performance by the Stress Crew plus rapping and break-dancing contests, with prizes for the winners. Call 234-1274 to learn more. Also off the beaten path is "Hsing I," a performance on February 13 at the Tivoli Turnhalle on the Auraria campus. Put together by University of Colorado-Denver professor Gregory Walker, it's touted as a "montage of techno music, MTV-style videography and sound bites." Dial 556-2523 if you want specifics. And on Thursday, February 12, Rebis Galleries, at 1930 South Broadway, presents the first of a twice-monthly series of "bizarre music" offerings boldly titled "Philip Glass Is an Ass." God, I miss junior high.

In a recent edition of this column, 16 Horsepower's David Eugene Edwards announced that his band would be appearing on E-Town, the National Public Radio program taped at the Boulder Theater, on Sunday, February 15. Wrong. An E-Town rep reveals that 16 Horsepower will be featured on a future broadcast; the February 15 show stars the Klezmatics and singer-songwriter Martin Sexton, a performer who'll be all over the area this week (he's also at the Swallow Hill Music Hall on Friday, February 13, and the Acoustic Coffeehouse in Nederland on Saturday, February 14). Strangely, I feel more confused than ever.

My beloved dismisses Valentine's Day as a Hallmark holiday. For those of you less besmirched by cynicism, here are some ways to commemorate it: On Saturday, February 14, catch the Crystal Swing Band at the Mercury Cafe; Cabaret Diosa and friends at the Boulder Theater; Mary Flower at Sherman's Coffeehouse; singer-songwriter Andrew Holbrook at the Loveland Museum and Gallery (the info number is 970-962-2410); and Lynn Grasberg and Ira Liss at the Armadillo Restaurant, 2401 15th Street, as part of a musical comedy called Breaking Open. Sounds painful.

 

The upcoming South by Southwest music conference (March 18-22 in Austin) is growing. In 1997 a record-setting 790 acts were invited to showcase before the nation's record-label reps, band managers, journalists and so on; this year approximately 1,000 are expected to perform. We won't know for a while yet whether the expansion of an already behemoth institution will turn out to be good or bad, but at least Colorado will be well-represented. Five combos from the state are set to appear at the next SXSW, the same number as during the previous edition--and that number would have been higher if Wojo ("Tales of Wojo," September 25, 1997) and the aforementioned 16 Horsepower hadn't declined invitations from the organization. Those locals whom the SXSW minions expect to visit Texas next month are Sherri Jackson, Five Iron Frenzy, Fat Mama, the Apples and the Minders. (The Minders are in the lineup under the auspices of Westword, a longtime co-sponsor of SXSW.)

The other afternoon, I turned on my television and immediately gravitated toward the most intellectual programming I could find--which in this instance turned out to be a half-hour's worth of Scooby Doo. The plot involved an attempt by Scooby and his teen crime-solver pals--such as Shaggy, a dizzy hippie voiced by Casey Kasem--to unmask three mysterious phantoms. The enigma deepened when the trio of Fred, Daphne and Velma happened upon a room with an enormous split in its floor. They debated for a moment about what this clue could mean before Fred announced, "Well, like Shaggy would say, let's follow that crack."

Explains a lot, doesn't it? On Thursday, February 12, Big Jim Slade tapes its performance at Herman's Hideaway for an upcoming live CD; Product 626 is on the shelf at Market 41; and Kirk Whalum and others get smooth at the Bluebird Theater. On Friday, February 13, Wretch Like Me, the lead act on Fort Collins's new Owned & Operated imprint, celebrates the release of both an album and a seven-inch at the 15th Street Tavern; Pinhead Circus, Eleventh Hour and Useless infest the Bug Theater; Sherri Jackson struts at the Bluebird; Fat Mama slims down at 'Round Midnight; and Buzz Bomber and the M-80s land at Cricket on the Hill. On Sunday, February 15, Rustic Overtones spruce up 'Round Midnight. And on Wednesday, February 18, the Lion's Lair plays host to Backspackle and Concentrated Evil. Dilute it at your own risk.

--Michael Roberts

Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@westword.com. While you're online, visit Michael Roberts's Jukebox at www.westword.com


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