Friday, July 18, 2003

SPOT THE QUIMBY: Trouble in Colorado, where the mayor of Denver has managed to blow USD130 000 on a concert at Red Rocks - the third year the "festival" has gone through cash like Tom Baker's Doctor munched jelly babies.

Curiously, the enormous expense has been justified as saying that it was all a good marketing exercise, and the large number of tickets that had to be handed out for free wasn't just a desperate bid to fill the place but, rather, an investment - "a way of exposing Red Rocks to community members who don't typically go to concerts." The point of giving free tickets to people who wouldn't go to gigs is lost slightly on us - it's not as if the line-up (the Isley Brothers, the Gap Band, the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band and singer Heather Headley) was so stellar as to turn the most anti-musical head; we'd have thought that People Who Don't Pay To Go To Concerts aren't going to suddenly mend their ways because someone gives them free tickets - in fact, surely that's just going to make them even less likely to pay in the future (the way the guest-list mentality takes hold so firmly, and all). And the suggestion that anyone living in Colorado might not be aware of the Red Rocks venue is absurd - like giving people in London free trips on the London Eye so they can discover the Houses of Parliament.

The fees and rider details make great reading, too: Payment for the four musical acts: $155,000.

Limousine service for band members: $9,339.38.

Estimated cost for the bands' hotel rooms: $4,566.52.

Catering costs for bands, backstage staff and production crews: $4,752.25.

Each of the performing groups had specific food requests the city was obligated to fulfill.

The Isley Brothers specified Skippy peanut butter with nuts for lunch. Their contract also called for "real brewed ice tea - no powder mix."

For dinner, the band's contract called for "steak cooked well done, medium and rare; grilled red snapper."

In their dressing rooms, the contract required the city to provide "two bottles of Moet Whitestar Champagne with ice bucket; two bottles of Merlot; one bottle of Louis Jardot Chardonnay; six-pack of Smirnoff Ice."

Such contract "riders" are typical in the concert industry.

"That's not unusual - artists can be very particular," said Rodney Smith, director of programming and event services for the Theatres and Arenas Division. "Having to foot the bill for that stuff is normal."

This sounds to us like someone who doesn't hang out much with pop groups, but has seen a few editions of Behind The Music, trying to sound in the know. How the hell did four acts manage to spend more than two thousand bucks a piece on limos? You could taxi the sods in from Birmingham for less than that. And, seriously, the Isley Brothers should be thankful they've got a paying gig somewhere where they don't have to compete with the waitress taking orders for the Coq Au Vin - any shrewd promoter would have looked at their rider demands and said "you can have one bottle of wine for every top forty you've had in the last fifteen years; and your red snapper and steak will come in small cartons from McDonalds, you cheeky chappies." Only the starstruck, or people booking off the very a-list, give in to all the act's demands. Because what are The Gap Band going to do? Threaten not to show up? Judging from the numbers here, that would probably have helped rather than harmed ticket sales.

But, Mayor Webb - if you're doing next year's planning - can we suggest Tony Hadley.

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