Last year when Phish made their proposal, it was right on the heals of Jazz Fest, but that promoter didn't oppose their presence ... rather he got the Greyboy Allstars to close out the Sunday night as a lure to Phish fans who would be filing into town for the Mon/Tues shows. In other words, he didn't try to influence a public body for his own personal gain or protection.
Town council denies Buffalo Springfield show after tense meeting
By Matthew Beaudin
Published: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 11:43 PM CDT
Concert promoters in Telluride have been trying for years to get Neil Young on the Town Park stage. After Tuesday’s decision by the Telluride Town Council, they’re going to have to keep trying.
The council decided against a Sept. 9 Buffalo Springfield reunion show in a vote of 6-1 because it fell too close to the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival and could hurt ticket sales at one of Telluride’s established music festivals.
“We’re doing battle up here,” Mayor Stu Fraser said just before David Oyster made a motion not to approve a resolution that would have moved the show forward.
The process was frantic from its inception; Planet Bluegrass’ Craig Ferguson, who would have put on the show, heard from the band’s management just last Friday. Buffalo Springfield would be playing two dates at Red Rocks and could add a night in Town Park. Ferguson was given 48 hours, which he stretched to a decision on Tuesday that would come down to the town council, which was being asked to approve a 9,000-person show with just hours to mull it over. The tour is the band’s first since splitting in 1968.
Steve Gumble, whose Blues & Brews Festival is the following weekend, was sharply opposed to the concert, saying such a show made a “mockery” of the town’s normal scheduling process and left him vulnerable.
“I went in to this year’s Blues & Brews Festival, and I extended myself in a financial way feeling that I had a bit of protection from you, the town government,” he said.
Gumble said in the worst case the concert threatened the very existence of Blues & Brews, a 17-year-old bookend to Telluride’s festival season that sees a passel of blues acts jam amid the falling leaves and some of the nation’s best microbrews.
“I’d like to quote Otis Taylor, who sent a letter to you,” he told council. “He said, ‘milk the cow, don’t kill it.’”
The surviving members of Buffalo Springfield are Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay. The original band also consisted of Dewey Martin, who died in 2009, and Bruce Palmer, who died in 2004. Their single “For What It’s Worth,” is a protestor’s anthem hung upon an iconic guitar stroke, but the band grew legendary upon the successes of Stills and Young, who both reside in rock’s loftiest strata.
The band, which helped bend the trajectory of rock music in the early 60s, would not have come cheap: Ferguson would be on the hook for $350,000, with AEG in for some of the cash and KOTO, which stood to make some $10,000, running the beer booth.
“I think there’s a very strong likelihood that if we turn it away, you’ll never see Neil Young on the Town Park stage. We’ve been trying for 20 years,” said Todd Creel, who is the president of the San Miguel Educational Fund Board, KOTO’s governing body. “Do we want to turn that away because it will impact any one person?”
Last summer’s Phish shows — which were of tidal economic benefit here — were constantly referenced, but opponents of the show said that Phish’s proximity to the Telluride Jazz Celebration was able to actually help that festival, whereas the week between Blues & Brews and the Springfield event would inevitably hurt ticket sales at Blues & Brews.
Most at the meeting sided with Gumble, but Telluride Trappings & Toggery’s co-owner Todd Tice said businesses needed big events to get by.
“The Phish shows last year were a huge economic boost to all the retailers in town,” he said. “At my store today, we’ve done $126 [in sales]. These off-seasons are so low. We need the peaks. We need the spikes when we can get them to help us maintain.”
The meeting was tense and emotional, as council grappled with promoting premier events while protecting established ones.
At one point, Fraser even suggested subsidizing the potential Blues & Brews losses by kicking back tens of thousands of dollars to Gumble in the form of ticket taxes, which the town normally uses to offset additional law enforcement and take care of Town Park.
After about two hours of discussion, council voted. “It’s OK to say no,” Gumble said. And that’s just what council did, with Chris Myers the lone vote that wasn’t against the show.
“I wish we would have had more time, and I knew we could have worked it out,” Ferguson said. “I appreciate council’s work. I’ll ask for another date.”