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Olympia London boosts live offering

The 10,000-capacity Olympia London is widening its live music programming, with upcoming performances from Korean-American rapper Jay Park and UK grime artist Skepta.

The historic event space, which first opened its doors in 1886, attracts more than 1.6 million visitors annually.

Investors including Deutsche Finance International and Yoo Capital purchased Olympia in 2017 for €330 million, following reports that the Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) was eyeing up the London venue. MSG unveiled plans for a new future-facing London arena, MSG Sphere, in February.

After a short hiatus, live music programming is again becoming a focus for the venue.

“Olympia London is perfectly placed to host music concerts within our existing calendar of events,” says venue director Gillian Kiamil. “We are fortunate to not only have the flexibility, but also the capacity to welcome up to 10,000 people standing at any single gig.”

“Olympia London is perfectly placed to host music concerts within our existing calendar of events”

Hatsune Miku, a Japanese singing synthesiser taking the holographic form of a blued-haired, 16-year-old girl, played at Olympia in December, followed by former Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft in May.

Korean-American hip hop artist Jay Park is performing at the venue as part of his Sexy4eva tour on October 20, before an SJM-promoted Skepta show on November 29.

According to the venue director, concerts are “operationally very different” to other Olympia events, which include trade conference Blockchain Live and the London Dentistry Show. However, adds Kiamil, “the satisfaction we get from seeing fans really enjoying themselves while watching their icons perform live at Olympia London is priceless.”

Over the years, the venue has played host to the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Status Quo, Rod Stewart, the Cure, the Animals and Pink Floyd.

More recent concerts to take place in the venue include the Chemical Brothers in 2008, Bloc Party in 2009 and Primal Scream in 2010.

Tickets for Jay Park and Skepta’s Olympia London shows are priced at £44 and £41.25 respectively.

 


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“It was madness”: New book profiles production pioneers

Veteran tour manager Richard Ames, who has worked with the likes of Fleetwood Mac, the Who, Kate Bush, Wings, XTC, Duran Duran and Mike Oldfield over five decades in the business, has released Live Music Production, the first book covering the early years of the production sector in the UK.

“I hope that this book as a piece of social history will inform, entertain and delight those who were either there, or on the periphery of, or are of an age when rock music was on its meteoric rise,” explains Ames, who initially worked as a PM from 1972 to 1986, when the business was in its infancy.

“Just as equally, I hope that this will become supplementary reading for tomorrow’s students, so they can see how the foundations of this remarkable industry were forged with the 24/7 strength and spirit of these pioneers.”

Alongside the book, published last September by Routledge, Ames also documents his stories from live on the road at his Road Stories website.

“I hope this book become supplementary reading for tomorrow’s students”

Live Music Production is divided into nine chapters – covering lighting, sound, stage design, full production services, rigging, trucking/outdoor staging, bussing/catering and travel agencies – featuring interviews with industry trailblazers such as Bryan Grant (Britannia Row), Del Roll (Edwin Shirley Trucking), Jon Cadbury (PRG), tour/production manager Roger Searle and late stage designer Ian Knight, as well as a foreword by promoter Harvey Goldsmith.

Ames began writing the book 11 years ago (“I’ve always wanted to tell the story of how this extraordinary industry that I have spent 40 years of my own professional life in came about”), and says he hopes Live Music Production will open the door for other similar ‘social histories’ of the live music business.

“I don’t believe that social history in my industry has really taken off yet,” he continues. “The benefits of knowledge of the past, in so many different spheres, can’t surely be disputed – but as for now, I hope to see more and more factual history research published for future generations to appreciate. [So the book is] pioneering, I hope.”

See below for selected (and frequently hilarious) extracts from the book, or buy your copy from RoutledgeIQ readers can benefit from 20% off by entering the discount code HUM19 at checkout.

 


In 1970, Jon Cadbury carries Pink Floyd’s gear to the Netherlands for a festival – with no paperwork…

“Jeff [Torrens, friend and Roundhouse colleague] and I were going to go off and tour Europe with our truck, and Ian [Knight] said, ‘Well, why don’t you just come and take the lights to this festival for us, and then go off on your travels?’

“I hadn’t actually worked out that if you take the lights out there then you are probably going to have bring them back again. Of course, we didn’t think about things like carnets, so we got on the ferry at Harwich got off at the Hook of Holland and customs impounded everything!

“The guys who became Mojo Concerts, Berry Visser and Léon Ramakers, eventually sorted it out; they were the people who promoted that festival [Holland Pop Festival 1970]. They paid some sort of bond that got the lights in and got them out again. I actually took the truck to Schiphol airport to collect the Floyd’s equipment when it came in, and had the band’s entire equipment in this seven-and-a-half-ton truck…

“There was no carnet, so I had to do a deal with the customs agent at Schiphol – which was basically, ‘I have got to get this to the site: they’re the headline act on this bill!’ My deal with this customs officer, who was a young guy who was into music, luckily for me, was that he would release the equipment and he would come to the site with me as long as he could collect a bond.

“So I went to the site and told the organisers and [Floyd manager] Steve O’Rourke that we couldn’t actually unload the truck. I said I wouldn’t let it out of my truck until the customs officer had got his bond – which was probably exceeding my brief somewhat – but we got there. Everyone was passing the buck to someone else to pay the bond and I said, ‘Well, I’ll have to take it back to the airport, then. That was the deal I made with this guy, so if you don’t sort it out…’

“So they did pay the bond and it did happen,the Floyd made an album with all of their equipment lined up in a great photo on an aerodrome [the back sleeve of Ummagumma]. That was that equipment and those were the roadies who were dealing with it. It’s extraordinary.”

“Of course, we didn’t think about things like carnets…”

It’s 1973, and then-junior lighting crew member Brian Croft is on a Lockheed L-749 Constellation from Hawaii to Australia on a Rolling Stones tour…

“It was unbelievable – it was cold, there was no heating, no soundproofing, you couldn’t speak to anybody, couldn’t read really or anything – but it became a big thing and we had a tongue painted on it when we were in Sydney, and then we flew all round Australia. Of course, the band, [including] Keith [Richards, along with] Bobby Keys and Jim [Price] the trumpet player, all came on the plane, and then we are halfway across from Perth back to Sydney and Keith says he has had enough.

“‘I’ve had fun, drunk all the beer’, and all that, but you look down and there is nothing but desert. ‘Well, you can’t stop here, Keith – it’s a long way, it’s like 12 hours!’ So that was a bit of a nightmare. Up until now I’d been doing a lot of straight theatre, and it was almost like an out-of-body experience seeing these mad frontiersmen and hippies, and I’m part of it and risking my life for the glory of the Rolling Stones.

“It’s like madness when you think about it now, but we had some great fun. The important thing about that tour was when the entourage – the whole group: crew, band, roadies, tour manager, probably 22 people – would all go and have dinner together. That was what was nice about it: you would all sit down and have dinner together because it wasn’t an unmanageable number, whereas it’s hundreds now in the touring party.”

“it was almost like an out-of-body experience seeing these mad frontiersmen and hippies”

In 1976, travel agent Mike Hawksworth goes into his office, shared with the Who’s manager, Bill Curbishley…

“At about nine o’clock the phone started ringing. [Curbishley’s] receptionist wasn’t in, so I went to pick up the phone, and it was one of those old phones […] where you have to take the receiver off to dial a number. I’ve gone to pick up the phone receiver and the whole unit comes up – the receiver hasn’t come off; the whole unit has lifted off the desk.

“I said, ‘What the hell?’, but it kept ringing and ringing, so I went over to the next one and try to pick up the receiver, and the whole unit comes up again.

“There are six phones in the office [glued together] like this, out of seven phones: [The Who’s drummer, Keith Moon] had left one unstuck.

“I answered it and Keith said, ‘It took you long enough to answer the bloody phone, didn’t it? If this is the service I’m going to get, then I’m going elsewhere!’ and he put the phone down.”

“We ended up with a gladiatorial match between a forklift truck and an old car”

Led Zeppelin rigger Jon Bray recalls crew days off Knebworth in 1979…

“We had a long gap between the first and second show. The site was sort of empty, apart from a handful of us living there with our caravan. We had some very interesting times there.

“One night, things got rather out of hand and we ended up with a gladiatorial match between a forklift truck and an old car. Somebody tried to do donuts with the car on stage. I don’t know how nobody got killed, actually – we must have been fairly out of it. The car ended up being absolutely destroyed…”

 


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A museumful of secrets: Q&A with the V&A’s Vicky Broackes

Victoria Broackes is senior curator for the department of theatre and performance at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). She is curator of Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains; co-curator of You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966–1970; and in 2013 co-curated David Bowie Is – the fastest-selling exhibition in the museum’s history, which is still touring the world and has to date been seen by nearly two million people.

Here, Broackes (pictured) tells IQ about the genesis of the Bowie show, bringing the live experience to a museum and persuading music mega-fans to part with their hard-earned trinkets…

Was David Bowie is the first music exhibition with which the V&A was involved?
It wasn’t the first – we had a Kylie Minogue exhibition, produced by Melbourne Arts Centre, in 2007, then our own Motown show in 2010 – but it was our first major ‘headline’ exhibition that benefited from the full V&A scale. There was lots of talk at the time of the Kylie exhibition about whether it was the ‘proper’ thing for the V&A to be doing – but I feel very strongly, looking at the late 20th century, that music is an essential part of culture, and our V&A collections reflect this, so it would be odd in every way to ignore it.

How did the decision to do Bowie come about?
We had a shortlist of people we’d decided we’d cover as a single subject if the opportunity arose, and he was top of that list.

Bowie was a bit of an odd one, as he kept everything – even sketches he’d done as a teenager, the sort of things most people would throw away – and even [reacquired] artefacts that he no longer owned. The depth of the collection was a huge asset because we were able to show not just star objects such as Alexander McQueen costumes, Terry O’Neill photos, et cetera, but also to reveal the creative process behind them. From the moment I first saw his archive, I said, “We’d love to do this”.

Do you think that David Bowie Is was a catalyst for the current swathe of music exhibitions hitting the market, including Their Mortal Remains?
Yes, I do, absolutely. Part of the reason for that, I think, was the way in which we brought live performance techniques, such as immersive sound and video, into the museum environment. There were lots of people who maybe thought, ‘I love David Bowie but I don’t want to see him in a museum’, wondering how it would work – but the answer is it works extremely well.

“I think we’ve tapped into that desire for an experience, for the audience to be part of the show”

Why is that?
I think we’ve tapped into that desire for an experience, for the audience to be part of the show. In addition to the technological aspect – with Bowie and Revolution we had Sennheiser’s guidePORT, which is almost like a GPS system that activates sound and video depending on where you are in the exhibition, so the immersion isn’t broken by having to press buttons – what’s interesting about these kind of exhibitions is that, compared to a traditional museum exhibit, the audience already have a lot of strong opinions; they’re already totally invested in the artist or the subject matter.

What we’re doing here is not only showing wonderful things to inform, inspire and ignite the visitor’s imagination, but allowing people to bring their own story to the exhibition and experience the emotions associated with that. With David Bowie Is, people got so into the mood that they were hugging, dancing, singing, crying… [Pink Floyd drummer] Nick Mason said he didn’t believe they could do Their Mortal Remains in a museum until he saw the Bowie show.

Weirdly, we seem to have pioneered a genre that’s going to make lots of other people lots of money…

On the money front, presumably these recent blockbuster shows have been lucrative for the V&A?
They’ve been an enormous success, but you have to remember there are very few ways museums can make money. Mostly it’s a case of ‘the more we do, the more we spend…’

These touring shows, along with corporate events, go some way towards balancing the books – but the truth is until these blockbuster events came along a few years ago, it wasn’t considered a failure to break even or make a small loss: critical acclaim and excellence are the top priority. It seems sensible to have a balanced programme; these blockbusters are making the museum some money that can support other things of huge value that might not be profitable. It would be a shame if we only judged events by the number of people coming to them – people appreciate variety.

What about merch? Is there much demand for, say, Pink Floyd T-shirts?
Yes, definitely. Merchandise is a huge moneymaker. It’s a bit like going to a gig or a festival – people want to take something home with them. We’re selling T-shirts, vinyl… even when people know they could probably get it cheaper elsewhere, they still want to take away a souvenir from the day.

“You can have the best ideas in the world, but if you can’t make people excited about being involved you don’t have an exhibition”

What is the process of gathering material to include in your exhibitions? Do the owners of loaned items receive any remuneration?
Such a big part of the curatorial role is a research and diplomatic one, tracking people down and persuading them it’s something they want to be part of. You can have the best ideas in the world, but if you can’t make people excited about being involved, you don’t have an exhibition. With Bowie, 80% of the items were his; for Pink Floyd, they brought a lot of it together themselves – some of the instruments were on tour with David Gilmour or Roger Waters, and many were looked after in an immaculately kept store.

Costumes were obviously less important for Floyd than Bowie, although Nick Mason did find us a few ties and a lovely flouncy shirt from the ’60s at the bottom of a dressing-up box…

As for financial recompense for the lenders: no. We’ll pay them the costs of preparing the item, but if we paid them loan fees it would be prohibitively expensive. In America, loan fees are common, but less so in the UK. Private collectors can be uncertain, and sometimes don’t want to lend – you have to tell them what you’re doing and try to persuade them how great it will be to be part of the exhibition.

What have been your most successful exhibitions to date?
David Bowie Is was by far the biggest music exhibition. Nearly two million people have now seen the show worldwide, in 11 venues – it will finish in Brooklyn, opening March 2018, its last stop

But over 410,000 people saw Their Mortal Remains in London before it closed on 15 October. It’s going to Rome next, then to nine other venues, so we’re hoping it will match Bowie. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, which came after Bowie, is our biggest at the V&A site – but unlike Bowie, which only had a finite number of headphones, McQueen could accommodate more visitors and was never going to be shown anywhere else again. By the end people were so desperate to see it, we were open 24 hours a day.

With the V&A now famous for its music exhibition credentials, how do you choose which projects to pursue and which to turn down?
Since Bowie, we’ve been inundated with offers to do other people and other shows, but many simply won’t work as a V&A exhibition. Music is important, of course, but because we don’t cover it purely from a musicological point of view – we’re not the Rock & Rock Hall of Fame – we look for subjects that impact our culture more widely: it’s not just about the band or the individual, but the world around

It’s important that we stick to our core values. The V&A has more shows on the road than any other museum but it’s not about empire building: it’s about spreading what we’re trying to do here, which is to inspire imagination and creativity.

Click here to read the full touring exhibitions feature from IQ 74.

 


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Britannia Row Productions sold

Britannia Row Productions – the iconic UK-based sound company which has, since its establishment by Pink Floyd in 1975, supplied audio equipment to Queen, Led Zeppelin, Peter Gabriel, The Cure, Stevie Wonder and Oasis – has been acquired by US production support giant Clair Global.

The two companies established a “strategic alliance” at the beginning of 2017, with Pennsylvania-based Clair now taking full control of Britannia Row.

In a joint statement, Britannia Row directors Bryan Grant – who, along with now-retired production manager Robbie Williams, bought out Pink Floyd’s stake in the company in 1979 – and Mike Lowe say the buy-out is “the perfect way to expand and strengthen [both companies’] worldwide client base, allowing them to offer consistent service in all major territories”.

“We are excited to bring this new level of global support to our clients”

Clair Global president and CEO Troy Clair adds: “The synergies we’ve experienced with the entire Britannia Row team have been overwhelmingly positive. Culturally and professionally, we are on the same page.

“We are excited to bring this new level of global support to our clients and better serve their passions to advance this industry.”

 


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Royal Albert Hall to revisit Summer of Love

London’s Royal Albert Hall has become the latest venue to announce a series of events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the summer when the world turned on, tuned in and dropped out.

Summer of Love: Revisited, running from May to July, will explore the 5,272-cap. venue’s pivotal role in the 1960s counterculture, during which time it hosted Allen Ginsberg’s International Poetry Incarnation, regarded as the first British ‘happening’; underground art event Alchemical Wedding, featuring John Lennon and Yoko Ono; the Gorgeous Girls Gala, dubbed the ‘world’s first mini-skirt ball’; and shows by Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, The Move, The Nice, Soft Machine and Deep Purple.

The event series, programmed by Royal Albert Hall’s Sara Jane Power, includes shows by underground veterans Soft Machine, Julie Felix and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, screenings of Pink Floyd: London ’66–’67, Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London, Yoko Ono’s Bottoms and Wholly Communion (which documents the International Poetry Incarnation) and listening parties with The Zombies, Billy Bragg and Laura Mvula.

To celebrate the launch of Revisited and get audiences “in the mood”, Power has also curated a Spotify playlist to get audiences:

Other events marking the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love include Serbia’s Exit Festival, Liverpool’s 50 Summers of Love and an ill-fated festival in the city where it all began: San Francisco.

 


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