Printed September 23, 1971
After a chaotic summer in which violence and vandalism precipitated the closing of the Civic Auditorium for concerts, the city’s rock concert prospects appear to be brightening.
Albuquerque, which has never been a Mecca for traveling rock musicians, will hopefully take in its share of shows in the next two months with three groups; Black Sabbath (Oct. 7), Three Dog Night (Oct. 17), and The Guess Who (Nov. 6).
The recent rash of bookings has in part been the doing of ASUNM’s previously dormant Popular Entertainment Committee. Mike Conway, chairman of the committee, said one of the biggest problems that confronts the Duke City as a road stop is that “We’re a secondary market. Most major metropolitan areas have over a million population while we have only 300,000.
“Another difficulty is the performers themselves,” he said. “A good example is Cat Stevens. He wants a small crowd and a big guarantee, which is hard to arrange. He’s still a possibility though.” This fickleness has also caused one possibly great act, Graham Nash and David Crosby, to pass up Albuquerque. “Popejoy Hall is the only place where they would play. For one it is too small and people who don’t get in raise hell. Also, Popejoy is booked on the date they wanted to appear. For those reasons we couldn’t accommodate them.” Conway added.
All of the above concerts mentioned will be held at University facilities; Black Sabbath at Johnson Gym, Three Dog Night and The Guess Who at the arena. But what of the Civic, where most of the city’s concerts were previously held?
If you didn’t know, the Civic was the site of a disturbance that gave the city fathers grave doubts about future rock promotions. The violence took place in June at a concert given by the James Gang, when approximately 300-400 kids tried to crash the Civic after it was announced that the concert was sold out.
Jack Baker, manager of the Civic, reminisced about the “riot.” “There were about 1500 people standing outside, of these possibly 200-300 were causing trouble.” Eventually the mob was dispersed with the use of mace, but not before they did $1500 worth of damage to the structure. It doesn’t make sense for people to wreck public property.
“The police know how to control the situation but we don’t want that, it only causes more violence. Besides, you can’t bring enough police in if you’re going to have a riot. If we brought in every policeman in the city we would be inviting wholesale brutality and clubbing, and I don’t want to see that.” he added.
Baker feels one possible solution is a different approach to security. “We had 24 city policeman at the last concert but this time the promoter will hire men from outside security firms. Personally I believe if the problem is to be resolved it must be through the kids themselves.”
After the disturbances, the city agreed it will allow one more concert at the Civic to test the possibility of opening it up again without reservation. Baker concluded, “If everything goes right we would like to have a concert every two weeks. We need the revenue.”
Many of Baker’s views on crowd control were shared by Leonard Levy, who won the draw by lot with the city’s other rock entrepreneurs for the right to promote the trial concert at the Civic.
Levy, who leads Crystal Lief Productions, which promotes concert throughout the Southwest, said, “People can provide supervision among their own peer group. They can make their weight felt in the city too—18 year – olds can vote. No amount os security can stop the problems.”
But preventing riots is just one of the difficulties that confront promoter like Levy. Other are the availability and costs of halls and cost of groups, which are often prohibitive. In addition the promoter has to print and sell, tickets, arrange and pay for advertising and security. “The groups want you to take all the chances. The agents make you pay for everything. If you make money, fine.
These kinds of expenses should drive a lot of promoters out but it hasn’t. If you don’t take the chance some other asshole will.” An example of a the risks taken by a promoter would be the case of the Phoenix man who brought the Rolling Stones to that city on their last tour. His costs were so high he didn’t realize any profit at all.
Levy further echoed the promoter plight: “Some groups ask for 15,000 and 60 per cent of everything taken in over 30,000. Most halls get 10 or 15 thousand. There is a greater chance of losing more than you gain. If you have a good show you can make $4,000 if you have a bummer you could lose $6,000.
In a town like Albuquerque where only popular commercial groups like Three Dog Night consistently make it, it is necessary for promoters like Levy to first gauge the strength of groups they contemplate brining in. Black Sabbath is a perfect example. “Everywhere they go they sell out, two shows a night in big halls. Their three records have combined sales of well over three million. They could sell out the Arena as well as anyone.”
As for his date at the Civic Levy said, “It’ll be sometime in early November. I can’t say at this point who will play but I’m sure it will be good.”
Most of Levy’s upcoming promotions will be in conjunction with Popular Entertainment, and will be staged at the Universities facilities. “The hall is exceptionally expensive, and there are complications. It’s not as easy to have it there as ir might be. However I feel a great amount of the concerts belong to the University. It’s the best place.”
At this time Levy is speculating who might be brought in after the Guess Who.
Thursday, September 23 1971