Oahu will be rockin' for weeks to come
Promoters count on crowd power when hot bands stop here on way to or from Australia and Japan
PROMOTING CONCERTS in Hawaii is a lot like fishing. You cast your line and hope something bites.
The fishing's been good in 2006, one of the best years for big-name acts in recent memory. Starting with UB40 earlier this month, Oahu is seeing its fair share of Grammy Award-winning artists on an almost weekly basis through the end of April.
California-based rockers 311 played in the rain at the Waikiki Shell on Saturday, and Elvis Costello will be in town this weekend -- along with Linda Ronstadt, the Steve Miller Band and WAR, all part of the Diamond Head Crater Celebration. Michael Bolton and Kanye West play next week, and Damian Marley arrives April 23. Next month also marks the return of Jack Johnson's annual Kokua Festival, to feature Willie Nelson and Ben Harper.
It's a star-stacked lineup even without U2, which had been booked for an April 8 Aloha Stadium date but had to postpone due to an illness in the family of a band member.
"It's always been feast or famine," said veteran promoter Tom Moffatt. "As far back as I remember, it's been that way. You can't plan it."
JUST HOW little control promoters actually have over the bands that perform here is the nature of the business in a market like Honolulu.
"It's never up to the promoter," said Pau Hana Productions' Nikki Robinson, who has been involved in the local concert scene for more than 15 years. "The reality is you just cannot financially afford to pay air fare for a band and pay them (to perform)."
Virtually every Hawaii concert stop takes place as the band travels to or from Japan and/or Australia. International promoters, who generally have much deeper pockets than their local counterparts, are typically responsible for incorporating stopovers here.
"UB40 was going to Australia ... (and) Michael Bolton is coming from Japan," Robinson said. "Slightly Stoopid is coming from Japan. Story of the Year and As I Lay Dying, they're going to Japan."
Other financial and technical considerations also come into play. Acts the size of U2 must bring elaborate stage sets and lighting. And as entourages continue to grow, the availability of hotel rooms and rental cars begins to factor in.
During Pro Bowl weekend, for example, rappers Chamillionaire and E-40 headlined at Honolulu nightclubs, but others reportedly had to pull out because suitable accommodations could not be found in time.
"It's our location," said Moffatt. "It's a lot easier for them to take a tour bus and go to a comparable venue on the mainland than to pack up and come here. But our population supports the shows pretty well, I think."
ONE OF THE MOST highly anticipated events of 2006 has been in the works for more than two years.
Saturday's "Diamond Head Crater Celebration" is the brainchild of Ron Gibson, who wanted a fitting memorial for fellow promoter Ken Rosene after he died in 2003.
Gibson said Rosene was one of the principals behind the Sunshine Crater Festivals of the '70s, along with Moffatt and Jesse Sartain. While this year's reincarnation will bring back some of the same performers, it will also include contemporary aspects such as merchandise sales, food and drink vendors, and a limit on the crowd.
"This isn't your old crater (festival)," said Gibson. "I think we're building on a memory. ... It's all about bringing the magic back, and you have to start somewhere."
Concertgoers from across the mainland have ordered tickets online and planned vacations around the event, he said. Many are former residents now living in states like Washington, California, Michigan and New Jersey, and most remember what it was like partying inside Diamond Head Crater more than three decades ago.
Gibson hopes to draw enough of a crowd to make the crater event an annual one. "I think Hawaii can handle a 'magic week' that the world knows, just like the Cannes Film Festival, that they can plan a year in advance to be here."
Under heavy afternoon rain, a worker passed in front of the "Crater Celebration" stage on Tuesday inside Diamond Head. The crater, hidden within the famous mountain backdrop to Waikiki Beach, will host a day-long concert Saturday with the Steve Miller Band, Linda Ronstadt, Yvonne Elliman, WAR and the Honolulu Symphony -- the first show at the Oahu landmark in nearly 30 years.
THE APRIL CONCERT LINEUP is definitely impressive, but will local residents support so many shows? More important, can they afford it?
"Ticket prices have definitely gone up," said Robinson. "When I was at Goldenvoice, we never charged more than $20 for anything at Pipeline Cafe. When we did blink182, tickets were $38. Now they're charging that for 311 ... and people are paying it."
The number of promoters actively pursuing acts has also increased, which brings more competition to the bidding process. Bands can -- and often will -- get into price wars, with the promoter offering the biggest payday winning the opportunity to handle the show, according to some who are privy to negotiations.
"I hope we don't get crazy with ticket prices," said Moffatt. "No matter what, it's still dollars out of the family. ... Mom wants to see Michael Bolton, but daughter wants to see Kanye West."
For some residents, however, all it takes is a little planning. Sheldon Amoncio, a 28-year-old Kalihi resident, spent more than $100 on tickets for U2. When it was announced that West would be in town, he rushed to purchase tickets for that concert as well.
"When they come, you always have to have that extra money on the side," Amoncio explained, adding that Hawaii residents need to support the artists that perform here.
"Being able to see the artists in person ... is different from just watching them on TV," he said. "2006 is looking good, and I hope we get some more big names to come down here."