Pan to present day SPAC under the auspices of Live Nation, a company spun off from the neoconservative-controlled monolith of Clear Channel Communications. These days, most concert goers instinctively show up wearing garbage bags and with a wad full of hundreds. Otherwise, hanging out at the venue is more akin to skulking around a Soviet gulag with some pleasant 80s rock playing in the background.
There are no umbrellas permitted, so if you happen to get caught in the storm, good luck. Anything consumable and not purchased from the over-priced concession stands is contraband; this includes water. And while you’re enjoying a seat in the mud purchased for $35, do stay out of trouble, lest you draw the attention of the hyper-aggressive steroid freak security staff hired to pummel and push anyone that looks like they’re having too much fun.
Editor’s note: Live Nation has wavered on the water and food issue. This season, patrons are allowed to bring in sealed one-gallon containers of either water or food. However, this was not always the case. Several concert goers from recent years have relayed horror stories as much. One woman said Live Nation security turned her away with a hand-sized factory-sealed water bottle, claiming she could bring the bottle itself in, but no liquid. In short, this means the company is either wavering on its policies or employs a bunch of witless wonders as their security detail. It should also be noted the company can puke out any “special ground rules” they desire for a concert.
Yes, concerts at SPAC are a different beast these days. In fact, there are an increasing number of residents who don’t bother with them at all. But that’s probably more a factor of the “hotter and bigger-name acts” coming to the city “that otherwise might have skipped SPAC.”
Acts like the Police, a geriatric tribute act to the band that broke up in the 1980s and only reunited last year after record sales dipped worldwide. But at a cheap $46 to sit the grass, who could resist? Or Rush, the 50-something Canadian rockers who can otherwise be heard just about every other minute blaring on WPYX Albany’s Uncle Vito show; hotter and bigger-name acts indeed. Price to listen to them live on the lawn: $35. Price to listen to them on PYX106: brain cramps from Vito’s one-liners.
Now, SPAC’s Board of Trustees is considering re-upping Live Nation’s contract, several news agencies reported last week. This contract pays SPAC a flat-rate $1 million per year stipend and a $3-per-ticket fee during years where more than 200,000 people come through the gates. In 2006, when roughly 220,000 people attended Live Nation concerts at the amphitheater, SPAC took a whopping $60,000 in added revenue; it was one of two seasons where attendance exceeded the 200,000 benchmark under Live Nation’s watch.
This sort of accounting should raise some red flags, especially given what Live Nation has been charging for tickets and the type of act they’ve been booking for Saratoga Springs, a city that has grown considerably in size and wealth since the 1990s. The assumption would be a city that now routinely draws a laundry list of celebrities each summer probably wouldn’t have much difficulty in convincing a few nice acts to put on a gig in a picturesque park like SPAC.
Live Nation also handles all the concession –and profits thereof –at the amphitheater. This is precisely why getting into the venue these days is more akin to getting through an international air terminal. No liquids, no food, no nothing except yourself. On the plus side, Live Nation still doesn’t force patrons to remove their shoes –for now at least.
But in the world of Marcia White, the first SPAC president who has never had to book a rock act, life under the rule of Live Nation has been peachy.
“They’ve been a very good partner,” she told The Saratogian last week. “We’re hoping to continue with them.”
Echoing this sentiment was Rick Geary, SPAC’s chief financial officer, who said the concert venue couldn’t possibly “get another promoter.” In other words, get ready for another decade of Live Nation overcharging for concerts, running the amphitheater like a prison camp and delivering a concert lineup that might have been slamming were it still the 1980s.
True, SPAC continues on in the black for the time being. Some would attribute this turnaround to Live Nation’s concert booking. Of course, those proponents are more than likely working for the Wal-Mart of the music industry and not routinely subjected to the remarkable sham their concerts have become in recent years. These are folks like Donna Eichmeyer, Live Nation’s upstate New York marketing manager.
“People will go to SPAC to see a show. They don't have to love the band; they just have to like the band,” she proclaimed in a laughable one-source article published by The Daily Gazette last week. “The experience at SPAC is so unique, they will go.”
Translation: we can charge as much as we want for our bland, flavorless concerts and SPAC will still renew our contract because they know they’ll get their cash even if we book Engelbert Humperdinck for all 35 slots next season. So get those garbage bags out and start saving up those Franklins, it’s going to be a long new decade with Live Nation.