Goodbye Golden-voice

The concert promoter closes
its doors in Hawaii

With little fanfare, Goldenvoice, a concert promotions company that brought both up-and-coming groups and big-name acts to Hawaii since the early 1990s, closed its local office on Monday, following a performance by Los Angeles-based punk band NOFX at Pipeline Cafˇ.

The end is bittersweet for Goldenvoice Hawaii employees, past and present.

"I loved it," said Otto, the single-named performer and promoter who once worked there. "They did a lot with local bands. Every band I've played in, they've helped me. A lot of the bands (they booked) were not being played on commercial radio."

Pat Ohta was an original employee of Goldenvoice Hawaii. His duties in five years as an assistant included rounding up volunteers, satisfying band requirements and finding venues. Some venue, like The Garage, no longer exist.

"There was a flood of shows when we started," said Ohta, recalling times that at times there were two concerts a week. "I can't even remember all the bands. There were so many. We wanted everybody. A lot of the bands had never come here before."

Ohta, now the owner of Pat's Island Delights, a company specializing in made-in-Hawaii products, said the closure means "we'll definitely see a reduction in the amount of shows here. Some big names will still come through here, but not like it was before."

The change comes after Goldenvoice was bought by entertainment and sports giant AEG. No one from the head office would comment on the company's future in Hawaii but local sources say it won't be the last we'll see of Goldenvoice concerts, managed by the home office.

"It looks like it was a fairly quick decision to close (the Hawaii location) and it's surprising to me, since we did so well lately," said Jason Miller, a former Goldenvoice production manager who continued to work with the company on small projects after setting up his own production company.

"Well, at least we're going out on a good note, with what we did last year," he said.

GOLDENVOICE STARTED in L.A. in the early 1980s, gaining attention for its flair with punk and alternative music, and to a lesser extent, rap and metal music, taking on beginning or mid-career bands. The booking agency had an eye for spotting talent before a group had the name recognition of Nirvana or Red Hot Chili Peppers, which it brought to the islands, as well as Ministry and Pearl Jam.

Otto started working for Goldenvoice Hawaii when it was a small business run by partners Paul Tollet and the late Rick Van Santen, before the company was bought by Concerts West, then AEG.

He started as a volunteer before becoming an employee, staying seven years. It was his job to hire the crew, order security, rental gear and handle other details. His professional philosophy was "never speak until (the band) has spoken to you," but he kept detailed notes on most concerts. Besides concert dates, times and venues, he recalls Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love coming to Hawaii for their wedding and Nirvana's two 1992 concerts.

"The two shows sold out in two hours," he said.

He remembers when Morrisey could barely be heard over the Aloha Tower crowd in 1992. "He was doomed." And how Eddie Vedder jumped off the lights at Pearl Jam's 1992 concert at Andrew's Amphitheatre in Honolulu. Then there was the time Jane's Addiction played in 1991 and lead singer Perry Farrell stripped naked. "He did that at a lot of shows."

Otto's list also includes Rage Against the Machine, Alice in Chains, Natalie Merchant and Arrested Development, among others.

THE DEATH of Goldenvoice co-president Van Santen may have complicated matters for Hawaii's music lovers. Van Santen was the main force pushing Goldenvoice's Hawaii productions. During his tenure, Goldenvoice brought acts such as Nirvana, Jane's Addiction and Social Distortion to Hawaii. Van Santen died at age 41 in December 2003, and Goldenvoice Hawaii lost its biggest supporter. Many of the bands that first performed here, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the now "on-hiatus" blink-182, were Van Santen's personal friends.

Even without a local office, Goldenvoice will be a sponsor of the Kokua Festival with Jack Johnson April 16 at the Waikiki Shell, and bring over arena-sized acts two or three times a year, according to sources.

But while it and other companies will continue to bring big-name acts to Hawaii, promoters may be unwilling to gamble on mid-level acts or new performers.

"When Rick lost money on a show, he would still continue to do it, to take chances. Not every show made money," said Otto, citing the second Warped Tour as one of the less successful events.

"Hawaii was Rick's baby," said Nikki Robinson, the current local rep for Goldenvoice Hawaii. "I'm sad to see this end. It was a great job."

GOLDENVOICE HAWAII'S closing leaves opportunities open to local promoters such as Miller, Otto, On Stage Hawaii, Tom Moffatt, Unity Crayons and Robinson, whose new promotions company, Pau Hana Productions, is staging the 3 Doors Down show April 5 at Pipeline Cafˇ. OnStage Hawaii booked Sum 41 Wednesday at Pipeline.

Miller, head of the record company Hawaiian Express, cites Moffatt as a strong promoter with longevity, who in his early days brought Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra to Hawaii. Last year he booked acts such as Jimmy Buffett, Bonnie Raitt and The Who. He's currently promoting the Margaret Cho March 19 at the Blaisdell Concert Hall, and Jimmy Buffet on April 19 at the Waikiki Shell.

Otto, a bassist with such bands as The Sticklers and 86 List, would like to promote punk music and friends' bands, following Van Santen's example.

"I learned an awful lot from Rick," said Otto. "If anyone were to do this again the way Rick did, I'd help out in a heartbeat."

Kathy Nakagawa, known as "Kathy with a K" on her midday radio show on KSSK, recalled with pure pleasure her time as a gofer at the company in the 1990s and lamented its passing.

"Goldenvoice was the little engine that could," she said. "It feels like the end of an era."

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