By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
The media event that was staged at Blueberry Hill last Tuesday resulted in few revelations that we haven't been reporting for the past eight months -- that Joe Edwards and Pat Hagin are building a new concert venue east of Skinker on Delmar, and it's called the Pageant. Nonetheless, if you call it a press conference, they will come, and as a result the old news made the Post and four of the five local television news broadcasts. The only new info to come out of the announcement was the predictable one that somehow, somewhere, Contemporary Productions would be involved. And they are, as witnessed by the presence of Contemporary kingpin Steve Schankman. With the three sitting at a table together, they announced the arrival of the Pageant, to be completed in September 2000, and the formation of "a partnership to operate a new live entertainment facility for St. Louis."
The arrival of the Pageant is glorious news, no question. Whether Contemporary's involvement in the Pageant is, ultimately, a positive or negative for the St. Louis music landscape is still locked inside the crystal ball. Before the official announcement (Cameras rolling! Let's start the event!), though, Schankman was captured on tape putting Contemporary's involvement in a striking context. The Pageant is big news for St. Louis, but for Contemporary's corporate owner, SFX Entertainment, 'tis but a drop in the bucket. Laughing boastfully, he listed SFX's national holdings: "120 venues, including 16 amphitheaters in all the Top 10 U.S. markets and 31 in the Top 50 domestic markets overall. In '98, 58 million people attended 24,000 events, including 9,700 musical concerts."
So, basically, SFX, owner of Contemporary, owns nearly everything in the concert world and can use that power, if so inclined, to corner the market on national touring acts. Which means that if the Pageant wants an act to appear at their club rather than, say, a club on the Landing, with Contemporary's muscle behind them, they no doubt will. That's a lot of power, what with Contemporary having a virtual monopoly on the St. Louis concert market. Let's hope they use it wisely.
The only other news to come out of the conference was insight into Contemporary's plan for the American Theatre, which they own. Although the venue does hold the cattle quite well, it sure ain't the Fox (as all of us who were herded into the Elvis Costello show at the American understand). But Schankman indicated that, in due time, the American will undergo an overhaul, with the ultimate goal of restoring it as a theater that will compete with the Fox. Because SFX also owns Pace Entertainment, one of the premier theatrical promoters in the country, the competition for the theater crowd will likely heat up.
"Hopefully with the new hotel being built across the street," said Schankman, "at some point the American would be converted back to a theater. SFX is very big into theater, off-Broadway as well as on Broadway, and we'd like to see that theater back open as a real theater. St. Louis needs another theater, whether it's the (Kiel) Opera House or the American Theatre; we're basically a one-big-theater town, and we would hope to see someday more than one theater." He didn't indicate when this renovation would take place.
Other than that, we did take umbrage at a Schankman statement at one point during the conference, in reference to the arrival of the Pageant: "Finally, St. Louis will have a real club, built from the ground up." Uh, news flash, Steve: There are a number of "real clubs" in St. Louis city -- you're associated with many of them -- and they didn't have to be built from scratch to make them so.
Send all local tapes, tips, discs and detritus to "Radar Station," c/o The Riverfront Times, 6358 Delmar Blvd., Suite 200, St. Louis, MO 63130. E-mail: Radarstation@rftstl.com.