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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Concert Strategy Is Long Past

This reader suggests that I help book some Brooklyn indie bands at Belmont to help bring a new, and decidedly younger, demographic out to the races. And I'd surely do that for free, and DJ too!

But NYRA gave up long ago on booking name bands, even after drawing some large crowds when they last did it in the late 70's and early 80's. I actually have distinct memories of only one of those shows, though I'm sure I must have attended several more; can't seem to slice through the chronic haze. But I do definitely recall the Dave Mason show in 1978, a photo from which is pictured here (if you scroll up ever so slowly) with the caption noting a crowd of 30,000 to 50,000. A little Google research shows that Charlie Daniels and Rick Derringer played there too, and I was probably at those. I even managed to find an MP3 file of the entire concert by the latter on a site which broadly facilitates the illegal downloading of copyrighted music and which shall thus remain name- and link-less even though many of you probably know of it and many other sites like it.

NYRA was once so enamored of the concert strategy that in 1976, it actually moved racing back to Aqueduct in July, built a new spacious backyard for the occasion, and staged concerts in the hope that people would take the A train from the city for a day of sun and fun. That experiment lasted one year (though the backyard came in handy when the track first opened for Saratoga simulcasting, which is where I was the infamous day in 1986 when the stewards disqualified the wrong horse [the aftermath of which was colorfully described and critiqued a week later by Steven Crist in the Times]).

I never got the feeling that the extra bodies translated into new customers. There was no real effort to do so, unlike at Gulfstream, where they would give concertgoers $2 betting vouchers, herd them into a corner and literally attempt to indoctrinate them with videos and lectures. Not sure how that approach fared, and from what I hear, there's no longer a backyard to stage such an event.

The only track I know of with a continuing concert series is Del Mar, whose continuing effort to crack down on pot smoking includes "only" two reggae concerts this year.

If I was booking Brooklyn bands at Belmont, I might start with Beach Fossils, whose excellent self-titled debut is out on Captured Tracks. With its lilting, richly harmonic staccato guitar and bass lines, reverb vocals, and spare but efficient drumbeats - think Joy Division as a beach blanket bingo band - its a perfect summer album.

As long as I'm on the subject, been meaning to mention Phantogram, the Saratoga Springs based duo who I saw at the Final Stretch festival there last year. Happy to report that they recently sold out Bowery Ballroom here in the city, are touring with The xx as we speak, and will be doing a free show on Governor's Island with Caribou, whose album Swim, available on Merge, is one of the best albums of the year.

And finally, and then on to the Belmont, one of the bands on that Del Mar schedule is The Lost Pack, a local San Diego outfit which changed its name from The Muslims, I wonder why. They'll be a cool band to see there I'm sure. This video below was filmed at Del Mar Pizza, which I didn't visit in my two trips there and don't know a thing about because I don't eat pizza. But I guess it's near the track.


steve in nc said...

Nice to see you back at it - good reading all around.

I saw my first live salsa music at Belmont - Tito Puente back in the late 70s. It started after the last race and was a great show without the huge crowds you found for some shows. But there were many hundreds of people dancing and the whole crowd joining in on the clave beat at times.

It was a great first taste for an anglo like me. I wish they'd do it again, and integrate it with evening racing. Really integrate it, like have the band stop and offer its picks for the next race with 15 minutes to post (or improvise on the name of the nag selected by Andy Serling) and give people a few minutes to bet. And then stop playing again at post time and only resume after the race.

Might be tough for the jam bands, but I bet most of the musicians would get into the spirit of it. Let NYRA give the band a $20 voucher per race so they'll have a stake and maybe music fans would want to start betting along with them. Anything to get more dumb money (in addition to mine) in the pools.

Figless said...

I was at most of those shows, and believed they achieved the goal of getting more bodies out there and putting the place on the radar in a very competitive NYC market. Best part, unlike with the classic rocks bands, these bands would work cheap. They all have local followings that would undoubtedly love to see their fave play in a nice outdoor venue.

In my original comment I suggested they name a race after the band and have them present the trophy, this would get all the concertgoers to the races a little earlier and actually force them to notice there are horses running.

The winning photo would likely end up on the bands website, free publicity. And if you do it consistantly year to year it will grow.

Indoctrination, the same kids playing beer pong in the backyard on Belmont Day (that have now been chased away) are tomorrows bettors.

Anonymous said...

Btw, Godfrey Townsend was outstanding last year in the backyard on Belmont Day. Doubt he is playing this year since he has a gig that night in Westbury backing the Turtlesa and some other vet rockers, but whomever they book is usually pretty good and worth a look and listen.

Bill said...

I think Hollywood still does concerts on Friday nights.

Anonymous said...

I like Ice Box.

Gio and Ice Box, so happy together in the double at $13.80 for every $2 wagered. -jp