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What's Next For Detroit's Concert Scene?

What's Next For Detroit's Concert Scene? image What's Next For Detroit's Concert Scene? image
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Although nobody is saying much out in the open, speculation from inside Detroit's multi-million-dollar concert business is that important changes are about to go down. No one seems to know exactly what will happen or when, but a shift of power in Detroit's concert industry seems likely in the near future. And the changes that do occur could radically effect what Detroit live-music fans hear, where they will hear it, and how much they will have to pay to get it. For example: Bob Bageris, who as head of Bamboo Product ions produces roughly 80% of Detroit's large music events, was convicted by a Federal jury October 1 for possession with intent to deliver marijuana, cocaïne, and amphetamines (10 counts in all), He is scheduled to be sentenced witliin the next month. Meanwhile, the manager of the 1 5,000-seat Cobo Hall Arena (Bageris' prime concert site) has asked Detroit's City Attorney for a formal legal ruling on whether he should continue to rent to Bageris, because of the drug conviction. Bageris' main competition, Steve Glantz Productions, may be having problems of its own. Rumors persist that Steve and father Gabriel Glantz are going to be evicted from their main base of support, the downtown Michigan Palace, also witliin the next two months. Together, Bageris and the Glantzes control virtually all of the "white rock and roll" concerts in the Detroit área, as well as a significant number of events throughout the country. (Black music in Detroit is generally handled by black promoters, although Bageris has recently begun to move into this área as well.) A list of cities where Bamboo Productions regularly stages events includes Toledo, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky ; Madison, Wisconsin; and Lincoln, Nebraska. Gabe Glantz and son have expanded their production efforts also, having promoted several events recently in the Southern and Eastern states featuring a select list of white "heavy" bands like Kiss and Aerosmith. Their base of power is, and has been for some time, Detroit. In fact. Detroit lias been the scène of what has been called an eight-year-long "range war" between the and Bageris. At stake in that war are several millions of dollars and a great part of the music that people of this area hear (or don 't get to hear) in a live setting. Bob Bageris, having postéd an appeal bond (which Judge Cornelia Kennedy set at $50,000), is currently on the streets and in the midst of a very energctic concert schedule- one which includes the first concert to be held at the shiny, 88,000-seat Pon-Met stadium (The Who Toots and the Maytalls, December 6). Nevertheless, if the worst should happen to him (a jail term), his company's activity would have to suffer a setback, at least to some degree. What could turn out even more unfortunate for Bageris is losing the right to use Cobo Hall. Although this may seem unlikely-and Civic Center manager Bob Finnin is quick to point out, in the sincerest of tones, "Bob has always dealt with me in a straightforward, honest, businesslike manner. I have no complaints about our dealings with him"- Finnin's request that the City Attorney look into this situation neveithelesi throws doubt on Bamboo's relationship with Cobo. If Cobo is really in ieopardy, then ably so are the other halls Bageris rents. And if Bageris somehow has to make a major cutback in the number of shows he presents, this leaves Steve Glantz Productions in the best position to take over whatever is left, shifting the major role in the Detroit concert scène to the Glantzes. If, on the other hand, Bageris is successful in appealing t his conviction and has no trouble from the Cobo management, he can continue to hold most of the power in the local concert scène as he has for several years. In addition to this circumstance.what could really hurt Glantzs' side is another set of events of which The Sun has only recently learned through reliable (though confïdential) sources: Steve and Gabe are now in danger of being evicted from theirimain facility, the Michigan Palace, for non-payment of rent. Sun sources indícate that Michigan Palace building owner Leo Spears is "upset" over his dealings with the Glantzes since they began using the Palace (formerly the Michigan Theater, at Bagley and Grand River in Detroit) in January 1974; and he would rather not have them as tenants. As this is being written, however, Spears himself is on vacation and unavailable for comment, and Steve Glantz had not returned this writer's calis. The meaning of all these recent behind-the-scenes maneuverings may be found in the history of Detroit's rock and roll scène, wliich has been dominated at one time or another for at least 1 2 years by either Gabe Glantz or Bob Bageris. And althougli these two particular ñames occur again and again when one louks into Detroit concerts, the Motor City rock and roll scène has been one which is quite similar to tliose in other major American cities during the last decade. The principies at work in Detroit, those in the business say, are the same ones that apply in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, etc. The pattern established in the last decade is one ot constantly growing consolidation of funds and music-business resources in the hands of fewer and fewer promoters, as the size of the live music events continúes to get larger and less intímate, and the concerts themselves become fewer and farther between. In Detroit live rock and roll music was first heard on a regular basis in the early sixties, when professional (and just becoming professional) rock and roll musicians had to niake their way at erally low-paying jobs such as high school dances, relatively small bars, and the so-called "teen clubs." One of Detroit's original rock and roll spots was the Village on Woodward south of' the Wayne campus-it was the meeting place in 1964 for Billy Lee (Levise) and a band called the Rivieras, who later became famous as the Motor City's first white rock and roll band: Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. The Village was owned and run Dy real estáte speculator Gabriel Glantz. The central characteristic of the live rock and ruil scène, however, was that there were plenty of places for young developing musicians to play -particularly in the teen clubs, those "liquor-less bars" which were booming with high schooiers, especially in Detroit's outlyingareas. Bands that played in these clubs were later able to showcase themselves in ballrooms that opencd in Detroit, and many went on to sign recording contracts and gain varying degrees of fame and fortune in the music business. The first major rock and roll venue to open in Detroit was the Grande Ballroom at Grand River "just south of Joy," bom in October 1966 at the beginning of the "psychedelic", "flower-power" era. lts father was "Uncle" Russ Gibb, and it could be said that its mother was Gabe Glantz, owner of the building and partner with Gibb in the Grande operation. The Grande Ballroom was built by Gibb into what was in 1969 Detroit's most active concert facility. It wasliterally packed beyond capacity (1600-1800) most weekend nights and helped build the glory of early local grcats such as the MC-5, the Frost, and the Stooges as well as bands like the Who, Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, and Erie Clapton's C'ream. The challenge that finally broke the Grande's secmingly magie spell on the concert scène came from Bob Bageris, a Detroiter in his early twenties who put togethcr some savings to rent the Eastown Theater, a movie house which was renovated to accomodatt rock and roll. The Eastown's advantage was that its capacity, and possible profits, were laigei than the Grande. If the Eastown could be fillcd, its p.romóter could pay a liighei prioe than the Grande for any particular band they wanted to hire. Gibb and Glantz saw the threat and, wlien the Eastown started filling up too oftcn (using many local bands, such as Alice Cooper and the Stooges, whom Gibb and Glantz would no longer hire), the two put a bold plan into aclion. They moved their entirc operation down the Street to the Riviera Theater, another building Glant had an interest in. The Riviera's capacity was largor t han the Eastown's. For several months Gibb and Glantz made sure that, on every night that Bageris had a big-drawingact at the Eastown, there was also a major act at the Riviera to compete with it. They knew there wasn't enough business at the time to pack both theaters on the same night with ticket prices as high as they were. But Gibb and Glant., given their well established base, could afford to run their operation at ;i loss. if it meant that Bageris was also forced into losing money. Finally Bagerif dad to give in. He was forced to merge ' witli Gibb and Glantz, and the wai subsided lor awhile ;is the three oi' them controQed all three major vetmes, using them in whatever combination suited them best. But Bageris continued to build business relations in the industry, and he grew inlo a posilion to split the merger in 1970 when he rcportcdly Bccuted Glantz of pocket ing tickei money, and Glantz accuaed Bageris of doing the same. The sliady dealings beliind the Eastownthe fact that it was badly in need of repairs and was continually overcrowded by its ters, apparently so that large sums ot money could be skimmed out of the till with without anybody noticing- give ït one of the dirtiest pages in Detroit rock and roll history. Although Bageris ran the place on his own again for a while (as well as in conjunction kvith ( liieago promoter Aaron Russo, currcntly manager for Bette Midler and the Manhattan Transfer, he was closed down by former continuedon page 1 6 (Part one of a two-part series) MASoIKcíAÍKAÑsAROxÜsicOÑcERpEdAnEll MOV 7 FRI IOY II . SUHHOVZ , : : TKUBH0Ï27 : : SATWOY2J First Grande Poster By C.ary Grimshaw, Octoher, 1966 ïnfhat'o Ment For Detroit "o Concert Sccnc? continuad front pase 11 Detroit Mayor Roman Gribbs in 1971 after east-side neighborhood organizations had complained loudly over what they considered a disreputable business in their area. By the time the Eastown era had ended, two things had happened to the live music scène: all of the smaller ballrooms and teen clubs were closed, out of business, unable to compete with the high-pressure, high profit, big band scène that the Glantz Bageris rock and roll wars had established. And Bob Bageris, originally in union with Glantz and then on hts own, had developed a new large-concert operation into a thriving business, one he could rely on entirely without need of a smaller hall like the Eastown. Bageris' policy had been to build up followings for developing out-of-town bands by giving them exposure at the Eastown; once they were popular he would be able to put them together on successful shows at places like Ford Auditorium (capacity:; 4642), and occasionally, Olympiaj Stadium (1 6,000 seats) and Cobo Hall ( 1 2,000 seats). Naturally the profits were bigger, even given the higher expenses for the larger events. Bageris also started doing shows at large halls in other midwestern cities from time to time, to achicve more "buying power" witli booking agents as well as simply multiplying earnings. In 1972,while Bageris was solidifying his position on the big concert scène, John Salvador and ia handful of other young promoters banded together to rent the old Grande Ballroum from Glantz for occasional concerts. Gabe took note of the fact that Salvador was at least minimally successful, and before long his son Steve (who had taken tickets and done other jobs for his father at the Eastown and Grande) was in business at the ballroom, also producing occasional concerts. Salvador found his rental fees being raised each time he put on a concert, and Steve Glantz had soon reserved all of the best concert dates- New Year's, Halloween, etc- for himself. Frustrated at the Grande, Salvador and friends moved to the Eastown where they soon met resistance from neighbors who thought they were the same promoters who had ruined the Eastown's reputation in the first place. The city tried to block the use of the Eastown by Salvador and his associates. To the rescue carne, once again, Gabriel Glantz. An attorney himself who had, of course, already worked on the Eastown case, Glantz was confident that he could get a court order allowing the Eastown to be used for concerts. Salvador hired Glantz to do this, and as it turned out Glantz went before Judge Rashid on a Friday afternoon just hours before a concert was scheduled to go off at the Eastown. Rashid ruled against opening the Eastown and the concert looked doomed. Trying to save his schedule any way he could, Salvador called Leo Spears, owner of the Michigan Theater. He had already considered doing concerts at the Michigan if things didn't work out at the Eastown, l because the building was, in many ways superior to the Eastown. He even mentioned this scheme to Gabe Glantz on one occasion. "Gabe Glantz was just in here and I made a deal with him to put on concerts at the Michigan," Spears told Salvador. Apparently Gabe had gone directly from Rashid's court to the theater, talking quick enough to beat Salvador and his friends out of using what was soon to become the Michigan Concert Palace. In January 1974 Steve Glantz Productions began a series of concerts at the Michigan Palace whicli put them squarely in the middle of the concert business in Detroit. The concerts lost money at first, and Leo Spears got out of his partnership with Gabe and Steve to sign a simple rental ;agreement. Since then Steve Glantz Productions (working in conjunction with WWWWFM in Detroit) has done well enough at the Palace to expand to Ford Audi■torium, Masonic Temple, and Cobo Hall on occasion, and to other cities as well. Since the election of Mayor Coleman Young, John Salvador has been successful in getting a license to run concerts at the old Eastown, now thoroughly renovated and renamed the Showcase Theater. In the concluding section of this article we will analyze the economics of the current big concert scène- how the large concert environment affects the musicians, their music, and the people who pay to hear it. The rock and roll wars take us all the way to Pontiac Stadium in Part II of the Detroit Concert Business. Frank Bach gleaned background and historical information for this article from the following sources: Chris tine Brown, Detroit Free Press; Michael Golob, Attorneyfor Bob Bageris; guitarist James McCarty; John Salvador, Showcase Productions; Robert Sharp, ChiefofControlled Substances Unit, Detroit office of the United States Attorney; and John Sinclair; arnong others.