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Russian music biz ‘devastated’ at Ukraine conflict

The Russian concert industry has made a united call for peace as the war in Ukraine intensifies, with one leading promoter speaking of the “catastrophe” facing the region’s live music business.

Russian forces launched a full-scale invasion of neighbouring Ukraine last week, attacking locations across the country. More than 100 people are reported to have been killed and thousands have fled their homes.

“All our thoughts and prayers are with our Ukrainian friends,” says Semyon Galperin, producer, art director and talent buyer for live music venue Tele-Club Ekaterinburg, situated to the east of Moscow. “Us Russians who are against war, we feel devastated – it’s a catastrophe.”

Galperin tells IQ that the implications for international touring mean that mass cancellations are inevitable. However, there looks certain to be further knock-on effects from the financial sanctions placed on Russia’s central bank by the US, UK and EU.

“I don’t think that foreign acts will be able to play in Russia in the near future,” he tells IQ. “I’m sure everything we have planned, or on sale, is going to be cancelled. We will have to refund ticket buyers, but some of the money is already in agencies’ bank accounts, and they won’t be able to send that back – as far as I understand – because most Russian banks will be under severe sanctions. So the international part of the business will suffer terrible losses, which will probably make a lot of leading Russian companies either bankrupt or severely in debt.”

Tele-Club has hosted western artists such as Garbage, Papa Roach, The Prodigy, Tiesto, Armin Van Buuren and Sum 41, and currently has upcoming shows in the diary with the likes of Nothing But Thieves, Uriah Heep and Morcheeba. Galperin also references acts from the Ukraine including singer Luna, who is due to perform nine shows at the venue, but has been forced to flee her home in Kyiv with her family.

“The Russian showbusiness market will most likely shrink to those acts who either support Putin or who keep silent”

“She has written that she is in a basement with her kid for the last several days,” he says. “Her husband, who is a guitarist, composer and sound producer, commented on Facebook that, ‘The main thing is to keep our lives.’ So obviously, Ukrainian acts won’t go to Russia anytime soon, except for some of the acts loyal to Putin.

“The government was always cancelling bands, especially during the Crimea crisis in 2014, and then it slowed down. But since last October they have been trying to cancel shows. The government was suggesting cancellations and sometimes promoters got scared and behaved. One of the shows was by a Russian rap act called Noize MC, which was cancelled about a week ago. Noize MC criticised Putin in the past. A lot of bands will be cancelled because of the same reason. We literally have pretty long cancellation lists.

“Basically, the Russian showbusiness market will most likely shrink to those acts who either support Putin or who keep silent. So you can say there is no concert industry in Russia anymore, although there always will be singers. Even in countries with the most brutal dictatorships, some things go on.”

Galperin is one of dozens of signatories from the Russian entertainment business who have endorsed a letter calling for an end to the conflict.

“We, employees of the Russian concert, theatre and music industry, deem it necessary to formulate our attitude to the events taking place in Ukraine and inevitably affecting all the countries of Europe and the former USSR,” it says. “Our work is to create cultural values. Our mission is to make art accessible to people from small to great. Art, culture – what distinguishes a man from a beast, what unites people.

“Culture is an inseparable value, and access to culture is a basic human right. Any armed conflict will attempt this right, as well as the inseparable human right to life, health, liberty, happiness. We believe it is vital to immediately stop military actions on the territory of Ukraine, the consequences of which will be irreversible. ”

Artists such as Green Day, AJR and Louis Tomlinson have already cancelled 2022 shows in Russia. But having worked at Tele-Club since 2015, Galperin argues the impact of the country becoming off limits as a touring destination for overseas artists will not necessarily be significant.

“Russia was an emerging market, so I don’t think cancelling Russia will greatly change things,” he says. “But I should note that fans who listen to foreign bands are less likely to be fooled. They have a better perspective on the world because they are interested in western music culture, so they are not exactly fans of Putin, most likely quite the opposite. But financially, I don’t think that Russia was such a big market that the world can’t carry on without it.”

Galperin finishes with a plea for understanding for the predicament faced by Russian concert promoters as a result of the terrible situation.

“It is not our choice, of course,” he says. “I never supported Putin, I was always against him. I was always expressing my opinion and being frank about what I think about Putin’s regime. But still, we feel shock, shame and guilt, and I was amazed to hear some words of support from Ukraine and the whole world. People around the world understand that it’s Putin who started the war, and there are many good and honest Russian people.

“There is also this strange question about how we can find some options to rebate ticket fees to customers because of the blocked financial system. This sounds like an absolutely minor problem compared to terrible suffering Ukrainian people are going through. But as said, absolute majority of music fans do not support the war so it will be proper to support them too as their financial troubles are going to be enormous in the nearest years.

“I plead to all the world to please help Ukrainian people with humanitarian aid, medical aid, child care and everything they may need.”

 


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Ukrainian promoters: “Right now, it’s a matter of survival”

In what has been described as the biggest conflict in Europe since World War II, promoters and agents in Ukraine have been forced to flee their homes or seek shelter underground. And as local artists seek to halt the spread of misinformation online, any thoughts of future business have been replaced by the basic need to survive.

Speaking to IQ today (28 February), on the fifth day of conflict, executives spoke of their current circumstances, early efforts by those in the live music industry, and future relations between Russia and Ukraine.

Sergii Maletskyi, general manager and talent buyer at Kyiv-based promoter H2D, fled the capital city the day Russia launched its full-scale invasion to head west. He joined the migration which, according to the United Nations (UN), has seen more than half a million people flee their homes to escape the war.

“A lot of people were travelling from east to west so there was bad traffic,” he tells IQ. “It took 14 hours to travel 350 kilometres (217 miles).” But while Maletskyi says the region is “pretty stable” in comparison to others, the threat of danger is still very real.

“Yesterday, we had to hide in the basement three times because an air attack was expected,” he says. “It didn’t happen, luckily, but this is the new reality for Ukraine.”

Since the invasion began on Thursday 24 February, the UN has recorded 102 civilian deaths, including seven children – and more than 300 injured. However, UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, said: “The real figures are, I fear, considerably higher”.

“”We are not focused on the business at this moment – we’re focused on saving lives”

Maletskyi says that the majority of staff at H2D also sought refuge in the east, though one employee is still in Kyiv, barricading in a tube station. “We’re in communication with employees and we’ve paid everyone’s salary for February,” he says. “We’re trying to support them as much as we can.”

Dartsya Tarkovska, co-founder of Music Export Ukraine, also fled the capital – the centre of the conflict – to the western city of Lviv.

“I was born and raised in Kyiv – that’s where my whole life is,” she tells IQ. “We were worried that a war was about to begin so we moved to Lviv a few days before the conflict began. So we were lucky we were able to move safely.”

Of the ten people working for Music Export Ukraine, four of them remain in Kyiv. “They spend most of their time in shelters. It’s a matter of keeping alive and safe,” she says.

Russian president Vladimir Putin’s justifications for the war in Ukraine have been widely dismissed as false by western nations, but with social media platforms and free press now all but outlawed in Russia, the conflict is as much about propaganda as it is boots on the ground. And both Maletskyi and Tarkovska have praised Ukrainian artists for the role they have played on both fronts.

Battling the spread of misinformation, popular Ukrainian acts are attempting to change their cover art on streaming platforms to educate Russian citizens and other countries on the situation in Ukraine.

 

 

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A post shared by H2D (@h2d.concerts)

And it’s not just online efforts that musicians and creative professionals are signing up to. A number of Ukrainian artists, including Andriy Khlyvnyuk from the popular band Boombox, have volunteers for the territorial defence to protect regions against Russian troops.

Meanwhile, this weekend saw hundreds of thousands of protestors take to streets of London, Berlin, Madrid, South Korea and other countries. And according to Maletskyi, colleagues from the international live music business have also been pitching in and doing “everything they can to help”.

However, Maletskyi warns that stakeholders in the domestic live music business will need to remain patient while Ukrainians prioritise their safety.

“I’ve said to all management not to make cancellations public at this stage because it will cause panic and we don’t need it at the moment,” he said. “I’ve asked them to give us a week or two to focus on our safety. After that, we will be ready to manage cancellations, postponements and everything else. Some of them agreed, some of them didn’t.

“We’re doing our best to communicate with all of our partners and everyone is being really understanding that the situation is like nothing we’ve experienced before, so we’re thankful to them.

“We are not focused on the business at this moment – we’re focused on saving lives. All problems with postponements and cancellations will be solved later.”

“The majority of connections with Russia’s industry will be over”

As for future relations with Russia, Maletskyi says he thinks the “bridges have been burned”.

“The percentage of our Russian shows, annually, was about 10-or-15% and all those artists opposed the current government of Russia. I’m not sure about the future shows… I’m not sure I’ll be working with Russian promoters.”

Tarkovska echoes his sentiment, adding: “The majority of connections with Russia’s industry will be over. It started to happen after 2014, when the initial conflict began but there will be more consequences now.”

However, there are some ties to Russia that have proved hard to sever, says Tarkovska. “For the majority of streaming services and distributors, the communication has been happening via Moscow. We have been trying to change that for quite a while.

“We’re saying, if these organisations are not ready to create independent offices in Ukraine, we’re fine going through Poland but we don’t want to go through the Russian offices of these companies.”

For now, however, the Ukrainian live music is focused on more pressing issues: “Right now, it’s a matter of survival and no one cares about the music industry,” says Tarkovska.

 


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OVG boycotts Russia, trade bodies condemn attacks

Global sports and entertainment giant Oak View Group (OVG) has announced it is boycotting Russia amid widespread outrage over the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The UN estimates that more than 500,000 refugees have fled from Ukraine into neighbouring countries. Over 100 people, including children, are said to have been killed as heavy fighting continues in major cities.

OVG’s Climate Pledge Arena lit up Seattle Center in the colours of the Ukrainian flag in a gesture of support for #StandWithUkraine.

“In light of the tragic conflict rapidly unfolding in Ukraine, Oak View Group has pledged to not do business in or with Russia, nor will we serve Russian brands in any of our venues on a global basis, effective immediately,” says a company statement. “We stand with the people of Ukraine, we condemn the actions of Russia, and we hope our stance inspires others in our industry to take action where they can.”

A number of European live music trade bodies have also spoken out in condemnation of Russia’s actions.

“We are shocked by this military invasion and will do everything we can to show our solidarity with the Ukranian people”

Germany’s Event Management Forum, which consists of five major organisations including live music associations BDKV and LiveKomm, denounced the “illegal and barbaric attacks on Ukraine by Vladimir Putin and his regime, which violates international law”.

“We are shocked by this military invasion and will do everything we can to show our solidarity with the Ukrainian people and to support them in their fight against this injustice,” says BDKV Pascal Funke.

The body is currently working on organising a benefit concert for Ukraine, the proceeds of which will be donated to the International Aid Fund for Culture and Education.

“By performing this task, we hope to be able to make a small contribution to the return of peace and freedom to the people of both Ukraine and Russia,” says Jens Michow, executive president of the BDKV.

Slovakia’s biggest festival Pohoda (Peace) held a concert yesterday (27 February) to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Featuring more than 20 artists, the ‘Concert for Ukraine’ took place in Bratislava’s Main Square.

“Sadly, in 2022, we still need to deal with tyranny, oppression and other types of aggression to democracy and freedom”

Pan-European festival association Yourope has expressed solidarity “with those who suffer from and disagree with this terrible aggression”.

“We have always strived to achieve the best together because we are convinced that only cooperation and exchange makes us stronger,” it says. “A healthy and vivid society depends on awareness and tolerance for all cultures, genders, races, religions, sexual orientations, colours and origins. We all should be the ambassadors of hope, respect and peaceful dialogue every day to make the world a better place for every single individual and for all of us.”

Why Portugal added: “There’s no room for aggression in every corner of the world. Sadly, in 2022, we still need to deal with tyranny, oppression and other types of aggression to democracy and freedom. In a world where borders should be diminished, it makes no sense to observe such an attack that Russia is undertaking towards Ukraine.

“We, within this community, must be focused on progression towards a much brighter future – not only in the creative and music industries but the entire ecosystem that surrounds us. We fully condemn these actions. In any circumstance, especially as we’re yet recovering from the economical effects of Covid-19, we can’t accept what’s happening.

“The Portuguese Music Export Office (Why Portugal) demonstrate full solidarity and support to our fellow colleagues from Ukraine: musicians, labels, the Music Export Ukraine, and the overall music industry in the country. Actions should be louder than a thousand words, so that’s why we’re completely open to supporting all Ukrainian musicians based in Portugal at the moment.”

 


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Jess Kinn on Years & Years, One Fiinix Live and 2022

One Fiinix Live agent Jess Kinn has spoken to IQ about her first year at Jon Ollier’s agency, her drive for a more inclusive industry and the challenges facing the agency business in 2022.

Kinn was the first agent to be hired by Ollier at One Finiix Live, who hailed her an “exciting and forward-thinking talent with a fantastic reputation and a huge future ahead of her”.

She joined the agency from livestreaming company LiveNow, having worked on some of 2020’s biggest music live streams, such as the Pete Tong Heritage Orchestra, Gorillaz and Dua Lipa’s record-breaking Studio 2054.

Kinn began her career with the Leighton Pope Organisation and worked her way up from receptionist to agent at Paradigm (formerly Coda Agency).

Her current roster at One Fiinix Live comprises more than 20 artists including Years & Years, Cat Burns, Mallrat, Tessa Violet, Beka and July Jones.

 


How did you come to be the first agent at Jon Ollier’s One Finiix Live agency?
JK: I heard really great things about Jon – everyone said he was one of the ‘good ones’. So I just called him up in November 2020 and asked for a chat – I think he thought it was about live streaming. I said, ‘Look, Jon, you don’t know me, but this is what I’m doing, this is who I am’. He invited me for lunch and we had this amazing four-hour chat about everything; our love of music, what we wanted from a company and the kind of culture we wanted to build. It just totally made sense. The next day we were both like ‘yeah, let’s do this’.

You’ve been at the agency for a year now. Tell us about some of the successes you’ve had with your roster in the past 12 months.
Olly [Alexander, Years & Years] had an amazing year. I guess it started with [Channel 4’s hit drama] It’s a Sin and then we had the Elton John performance at the Brits 2021 and the New Year’s Eve BBC show. It was amazing that we could do a 15-track show, featuring Kylie Minogue, Pet Shop Boys and queens from RuPaul’s drag race. It was a real celebration of all that we’d all done that year and that geared us up for the album [Night Call] which charted at number 1 [in January].

We have festivals coming up in the summer and our arena tour at the end of May. Cat Burns has had an incredible start to the year. We put up her debut headline show at Omeara which sold out in 30 mins so we put up another and it sold out in an hour. We’ve got a ton of exciting supports and festivals coming up this year.

“I think we’re all going to have to be malleable and adaptable this year”

Covid and Brexit are presenting huge challenges for touring, do you have a strategy to navigate the pitfalls?
Jon and I were quite sure that a lot wasn’t going to happen at the beginning of this year so we made a decision to avoid booking shows in early Q1. I’ve booked a lot of my European tours from May onwards. Especially US-based or Australia based artists I’m touring them from Q3 onwards as it still feels risky. I’m making sure my artists only play shows when it makes total sense and everything aligns. It’s about thinking: ‘why are we doing these shows? Is the world ready to hear this artist? Is the road ready to see this artist live? Is the timing right?’ This resonates more now than it ever did because every artist is out touring this year.

How are you dealing with the oversaturation of the concert market?
Venue availability is just crazy. But I think as more changes happen with, say, US acts having to push back their UK/EU dates, there will be more availability. You’ve got to be thinking so much further ahead than you ever did. I think we’re all going to have to be malleable and adaptable this year. You’ve got to be quick to change plans and try to find different ways to do things. If you can’t get the venue that you want, try and find a more unique location. If you’ve missed a certain market, try another one. It’s important to remember that things can’t be perfect, you can only do what you can do and you can only plan so much.

“I think we need to make sure that every show is special so that fans feel confident to buy and want to come to shows again”

UK promoters have reported an astounding amount of no-shows since the industry reopened. What has been your experience with this?
All of my newer artists like Ellie Dixon, Beka, Michael Aldag sold out their shows in 2021 and there weren’t many no shows. I think it was a case of good timing. Jon [Ollier’s] idea was to follow the sun around so the last show I booked was at the end of November. Post-Nov-Dec was when things started plateauing again with Covid. So, again, it’s about making sure that you only book things with intention and good reason.

How have you found ticket sales since the industry reopened?
Across the board, it has been hard to sell tickets. The amount of artists touring vs the amount of money people are able to spend on shows makes it super hard. Also, buyer confidence has plummeted because so many fans have bought tickets to shows that have been moved or cancelled. I think we need to make sure that every show is special so that fans feel confident to buy and want to come to shows again.

“Live streaming from an empty venue – which feels like a reminder of a time when we couldn’t attend shows – won’t continue”

With promoters having to honour line-ups that were booked two years ago, are there enough opportunities in 2022 for the newer artists on your roster?
There are definitely far fewer opportunities this year. I’m telling my artists and managers that we should aim for two or three opportunities that we really want and then try and build around that. They’re all aware of how difficult this year is – it’s going to be rough and tumble. Things will come late, plans will change. Last year, when promoters were going through the worst of it – not even knowing if they had jobs I checked in on them and made sure they were ok rather than demanding slots on festivals that might not happen.

You worked in the livestreaming business during the pandemic boom. What is your point of view on the format now?
It depends. Live streaming a concert from an empty venue is very different to live streaming a concert with an audience there. That’s why the Dua Lipa [Studio 2054] stream and the Gorillaz stream worked so well because they were hybrids between a music video and a live stream and something you could never see live. Live streaming from an empty venue – which just feels like a reminder of a time when we couldn’t attend shows – won’t continue. You just cannot replace going to a concert and being there in person.

“What I’ve realised now, at One Finiix Live, is that my main asset is being myself”

How have you found gender diversity in the industry, during your career?
It has been really hard. It’s still a very male-dominated industry. I’ve been surrounded by female assistants but few female agents or bookers and so I’ve often been the only woman in the room with artists, managers and promoters. I’ve been told I have a big personality, I’m confident and outspoken, but I feel that’s been misjudged at times and used against me, especially because I’m a woman. I used to feel like I had to dim myself down to make others feel comfortable, what I’ve realised now, at One Finiix Live, is that my main asset is being myself.

Who are some women you admire in the live music industry?
Kelly Chappell is a huge inspiration and should have also won ‘best speech’ at the Women in Music Awards! Laura Davidson who started her own company Amigas is super important to me. I try to work with female promoters like her, as well as Maddie Arnold at Live Nation, Chloe Pean at AEG and Alexandra Ampofo at Metropolis. On the agency side, I love Alice Hogg [ATC Live], Sally Dunstone [Primary Talent International] and Whitney Boateng [WME] – we worked together at CODA. There’s also an incredible team of women at One Fiinix Live – Emma Davis and Eve Thomas. Caroline Reason at Mata Agency is also an absolute queen!

“Before I confirm Years & Years for a festival, I insist on building [an inclusive] lineup together with promoters”

What are you doing to further diversity, equity and inclusion in the industry?
We’re making sure every UK festival Years & Years are playing are real inclusive spaces for everyone and the lineups are diverse across gender, race and sexuality. Before I confirm Years & Years for a festival, I insist on building the lineup together with promoters. So far, promoters – even the ones lacking in expertise in that area – are super open to it. I’m fortunate because most of the Y&Y shows are headlines so we are in a great position to enforce this.

I am also working with an incredible award-winning collective called Queer House Party which has built this insane following in lockdown by putting on safe and accessible spaces for people to come together within the queer community. The night has now made a leap from online to IRL selling out nights at iconic venues across UK. We are now bringing radical and queer excellence to festivals across the summer. I’m also speaking to the Trans Creative, co-founded by Charlie Deakin-Davies, who are working on creating opportunities for trans and non-binary production crews.

With all the issues agents are currently faced with, are you able to protect your mental health?
I actually feel that it has been harder to keep the work-life balance than it was pre-pandemic, there’s much more work but the demand is still the same. Everyone wants something now now now; dates are moving all the time. It feels way more intense than it did before. I’m hoping that the pressure dies down soon and, meanwhile, people do their best to be kind and patient because we’re all going through it. For me dancing and playing football is a great help!

 


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Pohoda plans solidarity concert for Ukraine

Pohoda (Peace), Slovakia’s biggest festival, is organising a concert to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

Russian forces this week launched a full-scale invasion of neighbouring Ukraine, attacking locations across the country. A number of people have been killed and thousands have fled their homes.

Pohoda’s ‘Concert for Ukraine’ will take place this Sunday (27 February) at 15:00 CST in Bratislava’s Main Square with more than 20 artists.

Ukrainian DJ and resident of Slovakia, Miklei, was the first act announced for the solidarity event. Slovakia and Czech acts including Štefan Štec, Saténové ruky, Michael Kocáb + Martin Wittgruber, Miklei, Muzička, Para and Bez ladu a skladu are also confirmed.

“We have many visitors and great relationships with promoters from Ukraine”

Pohoda is encouraging attendees of the free concert to make donations to charities such as Save Life and Red Cross.

“With this concert, we want to show our solidarity with the people of Ukraine,” says Pohoda’s Michal Kaščák. “The liberal arts are developing best in free countries, and we know that our friends in Ukraine are trying to do the same. Every year, great artists from Ukraine perform at Pohoda, we receive representatives of their media, we have many visitors and great relationships with promoters from Ukraine.

“We want to let them all know also this way that we are with them in these difficult times. By the way, it is clear that if a similar attack concerned Slovakia, one of the first targets would be the Trenčín airport, which is also used for many civilian activities, including our festival.”

Pohoda Festival is scheduled to return to Trenčín airport between 7–9 July with acts including Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Flume and The Libertines.

 


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Long hot summer: Festivals expand for 2022

Wireless is the latest festival to announce an expanded format, ahead of what looks to be a bumper 2022 festival season.

This year, Europe’s biggest celebration of contemporary Black music will take place at three of its former sites over two weekends in July.

The Festival Republic-promoted festival will kick off on 1–3 July at London’s Crystal Palace Park, where it took place in 2021 for the first time in history.

The following weekend (8–11 July), Wireless will simultaneously take place at its traditional home of Finsbury Park in London and Birmingham’s NEC –  where it last took place in 2014.

Festival Republic today announced blockbuster headliners including A$AP Rocky (UK exclusive), J. Cole (UK exclusive), Tyler, The Creator (London exclusive), Cardi B (UK exclusive), Nicki Minaj (EU exclusive), Dave and SZA (EU exclusive).

Wireless is the latest in a long line of festivals to expand after two relatively festival-free summers.

“Adding the fourth festival day as inclusive for all previously bought three-day tickets was our way of saying thank you”

Tomorrowland (Belgium), Primavera (Spain), Mad Cool (Spain), Standon Calling (UK), InMusic (Croatia) and Summer Breeze (Germany), Rock en Seine (France), Splendour (UK) and Wonderbus Columbus (US) are among the existing festivals that have been extended for 2022.

Festival organisers have cited a number of reasons for extending their usual format including meeting pent-up demand, recouping losses, celebrating anniversaries and rewarding fan loyalty.

InMusic, Croatia’s biggest open-air music festival, added a fourth day as an all-inclusive for fans who had held onto their three-day ticket.

“Adding the fourth festival day as inclusive for all previously bought three-day tickets was our way of saying thank you for all the love and support,” says Ivana Jelaca from InMusic.

“We were moved by the messages of support we received after the pandemic hit and we were trying to figure out the best way to thank everyone for their understanding and patience.

“We choose to focus on the audiences that have been supportive and active in the years prior to the pandemic, as the two-year loss of live music content has had a huge impact on the quality of their lives.”

“People are hungry for live music and in need of a carefree festival weekend among friends”

Jelaca says that the festival’s 15th anniversary, which is delayed two years due to pandemic-related cancellations, is also cause for an extended celebration.

Alex Härtel from Silverdust, which promotes Summer Breeze in Germany, says the promoter has similar reasons for extending the festival.

“The reason is our 25th anniversary! Summer Breeze has been around since 1997 and despite three cancellations (two due to covid) we want to celebrate 25 years of existence with our loyal fans and many friends and bands from all over the world,” says Härtel.

Moreover, Härtel says the festival is capitalising on pent-up demand for live music: “People are hungry for live music and in need of a carefree festival weekend among friends,” he adds.

While each of the organisers says that their extended edition will benefit vendors, hotel properties and other entities who typically profit from the event, the added day won’t make a dent in the losses the festivals have suffered from the pandemic.

“Fans will expect more in 2022 than they accepted in 2021”

“If anything, an additional festival day generates greater expenses – programming and production-wise – and as an independent mid-sized festival with a limited capacity there are only so many tickets on sale,” explains InMusic’s Jenca.

Silverdust’s Härtel echoes that sentiment, adding: “The extended programme on the first day wouldn’t justify a big enough increase in ticket price to recoup what two years of covid did to the festival. We are doing this to create something special for the fans, the crew and everyone involved with Summer Breeze.”

It isn’t just increased demand festivals will have to meet this year but also increased expectations said AEG Presents CEO of European Festivals Jim King.

“The emergence from multiple lockdowns created a unique demand that is unlikely to repeat in the same way,” he explains.

“Fans will expect more in 2022 than they accepted in 2021. We will see an increasing upturn in expectation from fans as the year plays out and they have been to more and more shows and there will be a need for the industry to up its game to keep fans attending and buying more tickets in the later part of the year.”

 


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Event Production Show returns at full scale

Live events industry conference and exhibition, the Event Production Show (EPS) is set to return to its usual venue and at full-scale on 8-9 March 2022 at ExCel London, having successfully run with substantial Covid-19 mitigations measures in place in May 2021.

Produced in partnership with Access All Areas (AAA), the EPS conference will feature some of the most senior decision makers in the industry, including London Marathon Events director Hugh Brasher, Ed Sheeran promoter Steve Tilley, Wimbledon Championships operations director Michele Dite and Notting Hill Carnival director Matthew Phillip.

Among the topics to be tackled at the conference will be the future of events, supply chain challenges, diversity, female safety at events, insurance, security, and two sessions focusing on sustainability that will be delivered in partnership with environmental action group Vision: 2025.

Unique in the UK events industry in combining a two-day conference with a dedicated live events industry exhibition, EPS will showcase cutting-edge event production services and products. EPS owner Mash Media said 115 major event supplier companies will exhibit their services and products at the event.

Among the new additions to EPS will be The Fanzone. Aimed at organisers of large scale sporting events; The FanZone will showcase activations, products and services that can be brought to life within fan zone areas at events. The area will also be used as a networking hub during EPS.

“We knew to be able to stand side-by-side with you, we had to deliver a live event”

The event, which is free to attend for industry professionals, will be the first full scale EPS since the pandemic struct. During the height of lockdown, EPS and AAA partnered to deliver a series of 10 webinars supporting and educating more than 5,000 of the event production community.

EPS director Duncan Siegle said that while the webinars proved popular and informative, there was always a determination to deliver a live event in whatever way possible under Covid-safe guidelines.

“We knew to be able to stand side-by-side with you, we had to deliver a live event,” he said. “We had seven date moves, two venue changes, a move from outside to indoors, but regardless we put on the show, in-person, for the industry.

“We’ve spent the last six months getting ready to deliver the best edition of the EPS yet. As events professionals from across the sector prepare for what is shaping up to be an events season like no other, EPS is a knowledge gathering and networking opportunity not to be missed.’’

Registration for the show is now open, free tickets are available here. There are a few stands available, and any companies wanting to participate with the event is encouraged to contact event manager Joanne Knowles at [email protected]

 


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Rapino predicts ‘strongest multi-year period ever’

Live Nation’s share price is on the rise in the wake of the company’s latest quarterly report, with 45 million tickets already sold for its 2022 shows.

The results covered both Q4 last year and 2021 as a whole, when revenue hit $2.7 billion and $6.27bn respectively, compared to $237.3 million and $1.86bn for the same periods in the Covid-ravaged 2020.

The stockmarket reacted positively to the numbers, with shares jumping more than 7% to $125.28, although just short of the all-time high of $127.50 reached after the promoter’s Q3 2021 figures were released last November, before settling at $120.44 at close of play.

“Over the course of 2021, we saw the strength of live events,” Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino told investors. “The year started in the midst of the pandemic, but by summer fans were returning to shows, and by the end of the year, we had a record pipeline of concerts, ticket sales and advertising commitments for 2022.

“Restarting our concerts business in the second half of the year, we put over 17,000 concerts for 35 million fans in 2021, mainly in the US and UK markets. In the final five months of the year, in the US and UK, we had over 15 million fans attend our outdoor events: festivals, stadiums, and amphitheatres, nearly 25% higher than during the same period in 2019.”

“I believe this is just the start of what will be the strongest multi-year period ever for the concert industry”

He added: “The two-year wait for artists and fans is over. Never have the tailwinds to our business been so strong, and I believe this is just the start of what will be the strongest multi-year period ever for the concert industry.”

Focusing on 2022, ticket sales are up 45% on 2019 levels, with the concert giant citing last year’s acquisition of Latin American power player Ocesa Entretenimiento as a key factor in the accelerated growth. LN reported that eight artists have already sold in excess of 500,000 tickets for their tours this year, including Bad Bunny, Dua Lipa and Billie Eilish. Ticketing revenue came to $487.7m for Q4 and $1.13bn for the year in its entirety.

“Our ticketing business had the dual benefit of strong ticket sales for events in 2021, while also being the first of our businesses to benefit from our 2022 pipeline,” said Rapino. “Ticket sales were at a record pace across every metric with October, November and December being our top three months ever for ticketing gross transaction value, excluding refunded tickets. And the fourth quarter and second half of the year also set records for a quarter and six-month periods.”

“We have a lot of confidence that 2023 and beyond look very good”

Rapino and LN president/chief financial officer Joe Berchtold also weighed in on the higher than usual no-show rates at concerts since the restart, with both suggesting the issue had been overstated.

“I think there’s been a lot of reporting by anecdote out there, as opposed to reporting by collective facts. And I don’t think our experience is any different than the industry is, as a total,” he said. “First of all, arenas in 2019, if you look at the number of people that showed up for a concert versus the number of people that bought tickets, it ran at 93% in 2019. That number thus far, in 2022, over the past six weeks is running at 91%. So not materially different from the 93% for the total of 2019.

“For our theatres and clubs, the smaller shows, you tend to have a slightly higher no-show rate. And that number was 87% in 2019. It’s running at 83% in 2022. So I think if you first of all recognise that there were a number of shows that have taken place over the past few months that were rescheduled, and when shows get rescheduled, people will naturally forget about the show or have a conflict different than what they originally had, it’s probable that accounts for all or almost all of that difference in the attendance level.”

Commenting on media reports, Rapino said: “I think they were saying as 15%, 20% weren’t showing, but again, they weren’t taking into account that on a normal year, 7%, 8% of people don’t show up to shows, so you’re already starting at that level.”

Berchtold also gave an insight into the intense level of activity expected next year, adding that plans were well ahead of where they would be at a similar stage, pre-pandemic.

“Right now, I have in front of me a list of 40 some tours for 2023 that are either confirmed or in our pipeline,” he said. “Normally, at this point, a year from earlier, we’d have a list of five to 10. So yes, we have a lot of confidence that 2023 and beyond look very good because there is a lot of pent-up supply, there is a lot of pent-up demand, and we expect it’s a multi-year run.”

 


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The Gaffer 2022: Phay ‘Phaymous’ Mac Mahon

Having grown up in Shankhill near the port of Dún Laoire on the outskirts of Dublin, life could have been very different for Phay Mac Mahon, had it not been for his big brother, Mick, and a local punk band with ambitions to see the world.

“Mick was a DJ in the 70s, and he’d built up a lighting system and stuff for his mobile disco,” recalls Phay. “Although I was really young, I started helping him set up and everything, until he decided he wanted to wind things down a bit.”

Professional equipment was a scarce commodity in Ireland at the time, so it wasn’t long before Phay was approached by club promoter Smiley Bolger who was running the Much More Music gigs in Dublin.

“It was on a Tuesday night, and it turned out Boomtown Rats were regulars. One night, Bob Geldof and I were chatting, and he asked if there was any chance of them using the lights and the van to take them around the country. And that’s literally how it started.

“The lights were very basic, just Par 36s on homemade boards. And because I didn’t have a switcher, I used to literally plug the lights in and out in time with the music. In fact, when I turned 60, halfway through the party, the music went down and Geldof and all the [Boomtown] Rats marched into the party. And they presented me this golden plugboard, which they’d hastily made in their hotel because that’s how they remembered me originally.”

“One night, Bob Geldof and I were chatting, and he asked if there was any chance of them using the lights and the van”

Phayze 1
Without each other, The Boomtown Rats and Phay may never have left the Emerald Isle. When they met, Phay was an apprentice toolmaker, but as The Rats began to build momentum, they tried to persuade Phay – with the van and lights – to take a risk and move to England with them.

“He was a kid working in a no-hope job in a lightbulb factory,” says frontman Geldof. “Phay drove us round in his brother’s mobile disco van and started doing the lights for us – plugging and unplugging each lamp from a standard domestic extension cable. When he wasn’t blinding us, he was shorting the house and amps.

“I told him he should come with us on our mad bid to get out of Ireland. He said he didn’t know if he was allowed and I’d have to ask his mum. So, over a tea-time pork chop, peas and mash, Mrs Mac Mahon said she wasn’t sure: the job was steady and he could easily be a foreman by the time he was 32 –in 13 or 14 years’ time. I assured her he could still do that.

“‘Give it a year,’ I said. ‘We either do it or we’re all coming back to Dún Laoire.’ Phay had one condition; that if we did make it, besides the lights, he’d be allowed to drive ‘wunna dem big troox dey have.’ So off we went. He got to drive the truck, us, and everything else. We never went back to Dún Lao-ire.”

Thus started a lifelong relationship and Phay switched his apprenticeship from toolmaking to everything involved with taking artists on the road – with The Rats’ frugal nature and Phay’s clapped-out vehicle very much at the centre of things.

“Richard Branson and Simon Draper offered Geldof a cheque for nearly a million pounds, and he turned it down”

“Geldof did all the dealing on everything,” explains Phay. “One day, before a gig, he told me that Richard Branson and Simon Draper were coming to see the band, ‘So let’s get this set up quick so we can go out and pick them up in the van.’ I pointed out that surely when it’s a record company, you should be sending a limo or something. And Geldof looked at me like I had two heads – he was always cheap,” he laughs.

“At the time, I was stockcar racing and having fun with old cars. So we had a bench seat from an old Zephyr that I’d thrown in the back of the van, and of course it would slide around on the floor, and the band would all moan and groan: I’d hit the brakes and it would slide forward, their knees up in their mouths. So… Richard Branson and Simon Draper found themselves squashed up against the sidewall of the van when I had to do a sharp turn, and there’s Geldof just staring at me, about to kill me.

“But that night, they saw the show and offered Geldof a cheque for nearly a million pounds, and he turned it down because he thought the band could do better. We thought he was mad, but he got a deal with Ensign and we did better.”

Part of that deal involved a house in Chessington, Surrey, where bass player John Giblin already lived in the garden flat while Allan Holdsworth was in the attic. “The house had a huge rehearsal room, a tiny sitting-room and a tiny kitchen, so it was a little community, and it was hilarious, to say the least,” says Phay.

“I ended up doing two Queen tours and a Rolling Stones tour on the steel team”

Stars’ Truck
“When the Rats weren’t touring, I’d go off and do my own thing. My brother Shay taught me to drive trucks properly and I finally got my HGV license. This allowed me to legally drive trucks for Edwin Shirley, and I ended up doing two Queen tours and a Rolling Stones tour on the steel team.”

He also learned more about lighting, working with Pete Clarke’s Supermick Lights. “I did tours with Pete and all sorts of one-offs, as well as the Roundhouse every Sunday.”

As his skills repertoire grew, Phay realised that work elsewhere meant moving out of The Rats’ Chessington home. “It was 1980, and Simon Austin from LSD called to say this young band from Sheffield were looking for a lighting designer for a theatre tour. So I met Def Leppard’s manager, Peter Mensch, and he offered me the job.

“Jake Berry was the production manager, and we got along great, but it came to the situation where he had to go back to AC/DC, who Mensch also managed, meaning he couldn’t do Leppard’s first tour in the States. Mensch also needed a lighting director that he couldn’t afford.

“Jake pitched the idea that I could do both. It was kinda true – with The Rats I did everything because we didn’t have a PM. Robbie McGrath was the tour manager and sound guy, and I was the sort of production manager/LD. But the real first time that I put the hat on properly was for Leppard in the States.”

“I went out on the Joshua Tree Tour as the lighting crew chief; Jackson Browne as lighting crew chief; The Communards as LD”

It wasn’t his first trip stateside, but it was a different ballgame. “With The Rats, we played clubs and things. We did a show at Frederick’s of Hollywood, which is a lingerie shop, as a promotional stunt. Geldof always wanted to do stuff that was different.
“But Leppard was much bigger as they were supporting Ted Nugent. John Conk was the production manager on that, and I learned a lot from him.”

Indeed, picking up tips from others became the norm. “Support tours were the way people broke in the States,” Phay tells IQ. “Queen toured with Mott the Hoople and they broke; and then Thin Lizzy toured with Queen and they broke… After the 1980 tour, Leppard were back out in 81 with Ozzy and the Blizzard of Oz.

“It was a great way for everyone to learn – artists and crew – because you saw the bigger tours and figured it out,” he says, naming the likes of Jake Berry, Charlie Hernandez and Bill Leabody among his mentors.

In between outings with Leppard, Phay worked as LD for The Pretenders. “I was back and forth with lighting. But once I hit 83, production became more prominent because it started to get very serious.” After Leppard, he took on the production/LD gig for Adam Ant for a few years.

“And then it was Paul Young after that but still back and forward into lighting and stuff – I went out on the Joshua Tree Tour as the lighting crew chief in Europe; Jackson Browne as lighting crew chief; The Communards as LD.” But the arrival of children brought a rude awakening.

“Two days after [Eoin] was born, I was off on a Paul Young tour to the States, Japan, all over the place”

“Our eldest boy, Eoin, was born in 1987, but two days after he was born I was off on a Paul Young tour to the States, Japan, all over the place. Then I went straight to U2’s Joshua Tree, and from that to Hysteria with Def Leppard. So I was gone the entire year – I had to get my wife, Ann, to bring Eoin out so that I could see him. And then Hysteria kept going for so long. It was nearly a two-year tour.

“At home, we had the phone on the wall in the kitchen. So when I got home on a break from Leppard, Ann said to our son, ‘Eoin, where’s your dad?’ And he pointed at the phone. My heart sank and I realised I needed to put the brakes on.”

Out of Phay’s
Committing time to home life again brought out the entrepreneur in Phay. “Along with a friend, we came up with an idea of a mobile stage in Ireland – combining my toolmaking past with all the stuff I’d learned on the road. We developed this truck and I got Terry Lee from LSD and Chris Cronin involved in its design.”

The result was ingenious: a 45-foot trailer with a 75 kV generator built on the front end; a backroom with amplifiers, dimmer racks, etc; and an opening of 35 feet in the middle so that the sides would fold down to give a stage of 24 feet in depth.

“LSD were building their own truss at the time, so we used that for the roof and hinged two sides on the truss so that it literally folded out using hydraulics,” Phay explains. “Two crew could basically set up in an hour. It had its own sound-system, lights built into the roof. Turn on the generator and there it was: a gig in a box that we’d take to car parks and football fields and stuff like that.”

“I found the break [from touring] was good because it was refreshing”

The concept caught the eye of Guinness who bought it for use around festivals. “I was able to drive it, and through my toolmaking, I knew the hydraulics and how it all worked, so I did that for a few years. But I kept going back on the road doing bits and pieces – bits of lighting, corporate stuff, and a Formula One project in 2000 with Orange Arrows that took us around the world for about three years.”

Once More Into The Phray
With three young children now at home, when they all reached school age, Phay thought about returning to touring. “I found the break [from touring] was good because it was refreshing.” He observes, “I see people getting easily wound-up, but it takes a lot more to wind me up, and I think when you have a break, you’re not as burned, so you can deal with things better.

“I did some local work for Peter Aiken in Ireland, then I started back on the road full time as site co for George Michael, PM for Meat Loaf, 30 STM, Shakira, Seal and many more and the rest is history.”

Citing a calm attitude as crucial to becoming a top production manager, Phay also highlights the camaraderie of the PM fraternity. “We all cover for each other,” he states. “I’ve covered for Bill Leabody many times on things; I’ve covered for Springo (Mark Spring); I’ve gone out as a site coordinator for both of them. It’s all experience. We’re all friends, we talk all the time, and we all muck in when needed.

“If you come up against something, you ask around if anyone else has come across it. I’ll call Bill; he’ll tell me to speak to Jake, or that Charlie did that, or Opie (Dale Skjerseth) has done it, so we all chat, and we all help each other out.”
And that communication has never been required more than in the past two years.

“I started back on the road full time as site co for George Michael, PM for Meat Loaf, 30 STM, Shakira, Seal and many more”

Live-ing La Vida Loca
Recounting his pandemic experience, Phay tells IQ, “I got on board with Ricky Martin at the end of 2019, and we did a bit of TV stuff and then straight into a month of rehearsals in Puerto Rico, where he’s from. It was a really smooth job to start with – Ricky is one of those rare artists that you could set your watch by: he’s meticulous.

“When he says he’ll be in at two and he wants to be out at seven, he’ll come in at two o’clock sharp and he’ll be gone at seven on the dot. It means you can schedule everything perfectly and give slots in the day for everyone else – lighting, programming, dancers, everything, so it’s very professional.”

That first tour was cut short, but not before they had played three arena shows in Puerto Rico, Colombia’s massive Barranquilla Carnival, and dates in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, before travelling to Mexico where a number of shows were scheduled.

“We were hearing at the time that this corona thing was building and building, but because we were in South America, unless you watched CNN, nobody was paying attention to it. Little did we know, a week and a half after we landed in Mexico, we’d be gone. Tour over. It was four o’clock in the afternoon on 14 March 2020, and we were setting up for a sold-out show in Monterrey when I got the phone call.”

The crew managed to load out, and Phay quickly arranged passage for production back to the States. “When I got to Mexico City, I bumped into Roland Greil, the LD who was out with Guns N’ Roses at the time. And he told me I’d just missed Opie, who had flown out. We were all gathering in Mexico City Airport, flying out all over the world. We were two of the last ones standing – Ricky Martin and Guns N’ Roses.”

“I was rehired in May last year, just to start putting the next tour together – Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias”

While the industry was initially speculating about how many weeks of business they needed to reschedule, the reality, of course, was horrendous.

The downtime allowed Phay to spend some much-needed rest at home and in the industry’s most infamous pub, The Dog House, which was his garage until a few years ago and now serves, on occasion, as a fundraising hostelry for local cancer charity Purple House.

“Every production that passes through Ireland seems to want to visit The Dog House – maybe because I have Guinness on tap,” he says. And he recalls a time when AC/DC’S crew did just that, supplemented by egg and onion sandwiches supplied by his wife and daughter.

“When I saw Opie in the production office at the show the next day, he wasn’t happy. Apparently, the stage rolled an hour late because the stagehands refused to be in the same place as the crew because of the gases coming out of them.”

Rather than sitting around waiting for the phone to ring during the pandemic, Phay got behind the wheel of a truck again. “Ardmore Film Factory is nearby, so I ended up driving around for the Matt Damon movie The Last Duel, before doing the same for Irish Film Location Facilities. Some people thought I was mad, but it saved me a fortune because it meant that Ann didn’t divorce me.” And it’s just as well he kept busy, as weeks and then months rolled by.

“I was rehired in May last year, just to start putting the next tour together – Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias. We loaded in on 14 September 2021 – exactly 18 months to the day from loadout to the next load in,” says Phay.

“We were one of the first full indoor arena shows, so we had to be very, very careful”

Observing Protocol
With Covid still raging, Phay and Iglesias’s PM, Andrés Restrepo, faced the challenge of developing a strategy to keep the crew and touring party safe. “It was quite difficult because you had two artists and two managements,” notes Phay.

“But both artists agreed that everybody had to be vaccinated to be on the tour. There was only one guy, who had worked with Ricky for quite some time, who said he was not getting vaccinated. And he stood firm on it. We didn’t have any arguments about it, I just had to go off and find someone else.”

While the vast majority of tours remained postponed, a few brave pioneers were hitting the road, meaning normal communication between production chiefs intensified.

“We were talking to lots of people who had started going out in amphitheatres and stuff – Green Day were out doing stadiums – but they were all outdoor-type venues. We were one of the first full indoor arena shows, so we had to be very, very careful.”

Knowing that every state had its own Covid protocols and cities within each state would have different rules, Phay quickly learned that every venue also had its own protocols. “My suggestion was that we just create our own protocols and implement them from the barrier back,” he reveals. “We realised that if we lost one of the two artists to Covid, we’d be in big trouble. But if we lost anyone else, we could somehow get around it.”

The Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin tour locked down everything from the stage to the backdoor

As a result, the Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin tour locked down everything from the stage to the backdoor and relied on the venues to take care of front-of-house. “They’re running venues for a reason: they know what they’re doing. My thing was, we keep our own house in order, rather than worrying about anywhere else.”

He continues, “Everybody got onboard very well, and we put a Covid officer in place. Most arenas have security at the backdoor anyway, so straight out of the security station we set up the Covid station to temperature-check people. We also had scanners on the buses, so people would scan that in the morning, fill out a form about what they’d been doing, how they felt, etc. We’d register everything on computer, they’d be given a wristband for the day, and that was that.

“But once we hit certain areas, like in Florida where nobody was wearing masks or anything, we realised that a lot of the stagehands weren’t vaccinated. So we had to put serious Covid testing in place there. If they had a vax card, they’d come in, get a quick check, and be given a wristband. If they didn’t, they had to wait for their test result before getting a wristband.

“It was sensible but expensive. Getting stagehands in some situations was tough. But we were following Harry Styles, so we’d talk to Ski, his production manager, to see how they’d handled things in certain cities. And they had an even tougher world where they would not let anybody in that wasn’t vaccinated, so they were having to fly in crew, stagehands, from different areas with
vax cards rather than testing.”

Phay’s strict strategy worked well. “We had one guy who caught the virus, ironically on the very first day at the MGM in Vegas: Alfredo, the video guy. He was not feeling well, and when he tested positive, we literally put him in quarantine in the hotel for ten days. And then he came back. It was a rude awakening for us. But it made people take it seriously, as everybody toed the line and that was it. We never had another case.”

“We got Dead & Co’s protocol, and different protocols from different people, so we could look it over and figure out ours”

Who’s Zoomin’ Who?
Once again, communication with peers proved vital. “We chatted a lot with Ski on the Harry Styles tour. We got Dead & Co’s protocol, and different protocols from different people, so we could look it over and figure out what ours should be,” says Phay.

Renowned for his sense of humour, the situation also allowed Phay to pull some spectacular practical jokes. “We’d gathered for a beer – Andrés, the stage managers, Gino Cardelli and Ethan Merfy, and myself – ahead of speaking to Ski to get tips on how we would approach Atlanta, where the stagehands and riggers didn’t have to be vaccinated.

“Anyway, Andrés was telling me that Ski had sent him pictures of his home after he’d renovated it. And he shows me a photo of his laundry room, so, of course, I used it as my background for the Zoom call.

“So there’s was a bunch of Live Nation people on the call – Ski sitting on a couch on his day off. I come on and he goes, ‘Hey, man, how are you? Blah, blah, blah.’ And then he realises. ‘Are you in my fucking house?’ And I’m sort of rooting around and all they can see is the washers and dryers. And next thing, ‘click’ on comes Andrés, sitting in the living room with Ski’s wife pictured behind him. So the call took about 15 minutes to get going because we caused complete chaos.”

“Paul Young was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever worked with… Spandau Ballet were a great bunch of lads”

The Road Ahead
Speaking from home in Bray, Ireland, Phay tells IQ he’s heading back out to Los Angeles in mid-February to resume touring with Ricky Martin – this time for his own headline tour. And although restrictions are being relaxed, he confirms that he will be imposing the same Covid protocols for this outing.

“We’re going to keep everything the same,” he states. “A lot of people feel it will become like the common cold or the flu, but we’re not there yet, so we’re going to keep everything in place for the time being.”

In a career that dates back to the 70s, there are hundreds of highlights that Phay can call on. But one in particular springs to mind. “Live Aid,” he says. “Andrew Zweck ran that one, but we were all part of it. I just remember at noon when Status Quo kicked in, literally I just got goosebumps. And then there was Geldof flailing around like a flippin’ lunatic.”

And he got to share that day with some of his favourite artists, too. “Paul Young was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever worked with… Spandau Ballet were a great bunch of lads. It’s an awful shame they broke up – one of the nicest tours I’ve ever done was with them. They were a lot of fun.”

When it comes to particular cities or venues he looks forward to visiting, New York, of course, tops the list. “Everybody says ‘Madison Square Garden, oh my God, it’s a nightmare.’ And yeah, it’s a pain but as a venue it’s fantastic – they really have it down.

“It ended up me and Pete [Granger] in the truck, Barrie [Marshall] in the middle, driving over the Alps”

“Chicago’s another great one. A lot of it’s down to the local union or building management. And there are some great buildings around the place: Manchester Arena has always been a great spot, you know, The O2 in London is great. They’re managed well, they’re really good venues. And, of course, a lot of it is down to the promoter.”

Asked about his favourite promoter, the reply is instant. “Barrie Marshall. Who else could it be?” And he recalls one story that he says sums Marshall up. “The Commodores were out on tour and the drum tech got ill,” he says. “When I was with The Rats, I’d set their drumkits and every damn thing. So I got a call from Tag (David Hall) who ran Concert Sound, asking if I was free for the next two weeks.

“So I found myself in Germany with The Commodores, and as their promoter, Barrie was with us. One night, the truck broke down in Mannheim. Barrie found another truck, but they didn’t have a driver. Pete Granger and I were the back-line guys, but we both had artic licences so we volunteered, and because it was nearly two o’clock in the morning and we had a gig in Montreux the next day, there wasn’t another option. So it ended up me and Pete in the truck, Barrie in the middle, driving over the Alps. And he was an absolute gentleman. What other promoter would have got into a truck with the crew? He’s one of a kind.”

UnPhayzed
Trucking comes up a lot in Phay’s history. Frank McGuinness of McGuinness Forwarding tells IQ, “We were in Stockholm, with a triple drive to go to Brussels, but just before load-out, one of the tour drivers became seriously ill, and because of our delayed departure, we were going to fall short of the venue. We discussed the issue with Phay, who in his calm, assertive manner said, ‘Okay, just get the truck away, and I’ll figure out what happens at the other end.’

“At the venue, the next morning, as the truck reversed to the loading door, the driver was heard to say, ‘Come on lazy fuckers, let’s get this truck tipped!’ Phay had met the truck halfway and had become the tour driver overnight. Nothing ever phases him, and he’s always willing to muck in. His door is always open, and he always looks after his crew.”

“Nothing ever phases [Phay], and he’s always willing to muck in”

Production guru Jake Berry also tells a transport story. “We were on a Def Leppard tour and had finished playing St Austell in Cornwall and had to overnight to the Lyceum in London. In the middle of nowhere, the throttle cable broke, so Phay and I rigged the cable so it worked by hand. Picture this: one person driving and changing gears and the other on the throttle cable: the co-
ordination was amazing! The motorway was not so bad but driving though London… Well, put it this way, it’s something I will never forget.”

And long-time friend and stage manager Robbie McGrath recalls, “The first time I saw Phay step up to the plate and save the day was on an early Boomtown Rats tour, when half the crew ended up in jail after a wild night’s entertainment in Dublin.

“One guy missing on parade the next morning was the truck driver. We had a 40-footer at the time, and I had no idea how we were going to get the bloody thing from Dublin to Belfast, until Phay perked up and with all the confidence in the world said, ‘I’ll drive it.’

When I arrived in Belfast with the band later that day, the truck was perfectly parked and all the gear unloaded and in the venue. ‘You know, Phay, I never knew you had a HGV licence,’ I said. He hit back: ‘I don’t even have a dog licence… The first time I drove an articulated truck was yesterday at the TV studios when I spun it around the car park.’

“His attitude to work hasn’t really changed because if there’s a job that needs doing, it’s definitely going to get done. He never cuts corners or takes shortcuts and always maintains a happy demeanour,” adds McGrath.

“[Phay’s] attitude to work hasn’t really changed because if there’s a job that needs doing, it’s definitely going to get done”

Indeed, leaving his own Mac Mahon-shape on the business, one of Phay’s proudest achievements is seeing his children, Eoin, Ros and Pearl, forging their own successful careers in the production business.

“I’ve worked with all three and tried to whip them into shape,” he tells IQ. “As Ros said, the worst thing you can do is work with your father because you’re a target – he’s always watching you, and you get it way worse than anybody else. And it’s true. I nearly killed all three of them.

“Anyway, they’re all going out with Ed Sheeran this year; all on the video side,” he reveals. “Eoin is the video crew chief, so he’s also in charge of Ros and Pearl. I feel like I’m missing out, so I’ll probably call Chris Marsh to see if he needs a double driver, so I can get the whole family on it…”

 


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Roundhouse announces BBC’s Lorna Clarke as trustee

London’s Roundhouse has announced BBC pop controller Lorna Clarke as a new trustee.

The 3,000-cap Camden venue and charity works with thousands of young creatives each year through music, performance, broadcast and digital projects in its in-house Roundhouse Studios.

Clarke is the BBC’s controller of pop music, with responsibility for national music networks BBC Radio 1, Radio 2, 6 Music, Radio 1Xtra, Asian Network) as well as live events, music television commissioning and the visualisation team.

“I’m thrilled that I am now a trustee of the Roundhouse, one of London’s leading creative hubs and iconic performance venues,” she says. “I look forward to playing my role in the future of the charity.”

“I have no doubt that Lorna’s wealth of experience will help us thrive in the coming months and years”

Bringing more than 30 years of broadcasting experience, Clarke previously worked with the venue when she was director of Electric Proms, which were hosted at the Roundhouse between 2006-2010, with performances from artists including Dame Shirley Bassey, James Brown, Oasis, Robbie Williams, Dizzee Rascal and Paul McCartney.

“I’m delighted to welcome Lorna to the board of trustees at the Roundhouse,” adds Roundhouse chair Simon Turner. ” We’re entering an incredibly exciting period as we emerge from the pandemic and expand our creative offer for young people. I have no doubt that Lorna’s wealth of experience will help us thrive in the coming months and years.”

Upcoming concerts at the venue include Sons of Kemet, Pale Waves, The Cribs, Sparks, Celeste, Ride and Girl in Red.

 


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