Fervent Wishes Aside, Buffalo Springfield Date Is Rejected
by Thomas Wirth
May 11, 2011 | 6482 views | 9 9 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Telluride Blues and Brews promoter Steve Gumble voiced his concerns to members of Telluride town council on Tuesday.
Telluride Blues and Brews promoter Steve Gumble voiced his concerns to members of Telluride town council on Tuesday.
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TELLURIDE – Despite a plea from Craig Ferguson, promoter of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and KOTO Radio, the legendary rock band Buffalo Springfield will not make a stand in the Telluride Town Park on its reunion tour this summer.

The Telluride Town Council on Tuesday voted 6-1, with Chris Myers opposed, to not allow the use of the Telluride Town Park for what would have been a September 9 event.

The decision came despite a strong desire to see Neil Young and his band come to town on the part of the majority of those in attendance. Council’s decision was tipped by fear of causing possible financial damage to the longstanding Telluride Blues and Brews Festival, scheduled for just a week later, on September 16.

The timing of the request before council was also a problem because the offer by the band to squeeze Telluride into its tour schedule came suddenly and required an immediate response. Mayor Stu Fraser recounted a series of events that quickly led the town on Monday to explore the possibility of allowing the event and rush it onto the next day’s agenda with the minimum 24 hours notice so it could receive public input.

The proposed concert would have involved a crowd of close to 10,000, with the pre-tax cost of a ticket to be set at $75, according to Ferguson. Over the course of the several hours long discussion, both the mayor and Ferguson stressed that they were not advocating either for or against the event, but that they felt a responsibility to explore the chance to bring such an iconic band to Telluride.

Steve Gumble, promoter of the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival, was afforded an early and lengthy opportunity to address council, during which he laid out numerous reasons illustrating why he feared the effects of the concert. He first made sure to state that he was not there to challenge the legality of the process, but to express his worries not only for his festival, but for the impact on the town as a whole, as well as the precedent it might set for future actions.

“I’m not opposed to the event. I’m opposed to the timing,” Gumble reiterated, time and again. That sentiment was echoed by many others who spoke, including five different festival coordinators, who agreed that staging such a large event close to their festival dates would be harmful.

Steve Kennedy and Todd Creel both spoke passionately in favor of the concert on behalf of the KOTO board, with Kennedy emphasizing that funding for public radio is “severely under attack,” citing declines from the national level all the way to the local level over the last three years. The financial benefit of the potential Buffalo Springfield concert made it “a critical event” for KOTO, he said.

Creel explained that the fixed dates allotted to KOTO for its Yankee Doodle Doo-Dah concert severely limited KOTO’s ability to attract acts of Buffalo Springfield’s quality and that this was the culmination of a year of trying to attract an act to create an event similar to that of the Phish concert last summer.

Many speakers drew comparisons between the two events, touting the benefits of last year’s Phish concerts to the economy, the lack of problems with the large crowd, and the ability of the promoters to work with the Telluride Jazz Festival to mitigate the Phish concert's encroachment on its scheduled dates.

“I supported Phish,” said Gumble, “I thought it was good for all parties involved. I knew it would affect my sales, but I knew it was good for the community.”

The Phish concerts, however, were 30 days out, “and now you’re asking me to compete with an event just seven days out.”

It’s hard enough to compete on the national level, he said, against the increasing number of festivals, that he shouldn’t also have to compete on the local level, “potentially delivering a fatal blow to Blues and Brews.”

Ted Wilson, a part-time employee of the Blues and Brews Festival and creator of Telluride’s new Horror Film Festival, also questioned how a one-night Buffalo Springfield concert would reap the same economic benefit outcome as the two-day Phish concerts did; “9,000 people,” Wilson said. “Now I can see why Steve’s sweating. To find all those people, that time of year, two weekends in a row. I don’t see it.”

The demographics of the two crowds were too similar, he concluded, supporting Gumble’s contention that many people would not be able to afford to attend both events.

Members of council tried to find some middle ground, possibly by adjusting ticket taxes or creating some guarantees to cushion Gumble in the event of a loss in revenue to Blues and Brews, but again, time was not on their side. Between the intangibles of the problem and the need for an immediate response, no specifics could be devised on the spot to equal the cooperation found in last summer’s negotiations that brought Phish to town.

Ray Farnsworth, the manager of the Sheridan Hotel and Restaurant and Bar, probably best expressed the mixed feelings shared by members of council and the public in attendance.

“I’d like to think we can do it all, but I’m not sure that we can,” he said. He was in the fortunate position, he said, that the Sheridan would benefit from both shows. “If Steve’s down ten percent, that’s not going to be the case for me, because of Steve and the work he’s done for 17 years.

“As a local, I’d like to see the band play,” he continued. “As a KOTO boardmember, I’d like to ensure that KOTO remains viable and continues to be able to provide the services we provide.”

Even with that being so, he concluded, “I agree that to have a one day event at the expense of a 17-year event would be folly.”

The mixed emotions of everyone present were obvious, in their desire to boost the economy, help KOTO with much-needed funding and see a world-class musical talent.

Throughout the discussion, Ferguson, who was on speaker phone, gave quick responses to all the questions put to him, even going so far as to echo some of the other festival promoters’ concerns with the event and apologizing to Gumble for the worry.

“Making sure Steve comes back next year, I will admit happily, is far more important than accepting the show,” he conceded.

Ferguson said that he had been told there was no possibility of an alternate date for Buffalo Springfield, and added that he had in fact tried to book the band for the Bluegrass Festival, but agreed to council’s request to pursue other dates with the band.

“I suppose there is some chance,” he said, “but I have a hunch they’ll move along.”
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FaceOnMars
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June 04, 2011
just saw Buffalo Springfield in Oakland on thursday (6/2) .... excellent show. While the Fox is a beautifully restored indoor venue, Telluride would've been a tremendous venue to attend such a show. It's a shame, and while I'm still smiling from getting the opportunity to see them in the first place, I don't think I'll ever forget how they were buffalo'd out of Telluride! Ever. For the experience & what it would've mean to the town's economy. Looks like it's hardball from now one ... hopefully the council will have a backbone because the next time there's a request for a variance or whatever, let's see WHO asks how high when asked to jump!

Can't blame the businessman, but that doesn't mean one has to support him!! It should've have been a manipulative calculation in the first place ... but ultimately I believe it will be a miscalculation. No train rides for me ... nor Taos ... nor telling bluegrass friends that "hey you should consider coming out for B&B" ... nope, that's been squandered!!!
JimPettegrew
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May 12, 2011
The idea & the request for the Buffalo Springfield concert date weren't against B&B or Gumby, or for Craig, but FOR music.

And the concept wasn't simply hatched 2 days before the council meeting -- the wheels began turning for a Telluride show months ago, when the band first began even to think about (not announce or schedule) a summer or fall tour, their first in 43 years.

But the routing of the tour did suddenly fall together, and our possible date had to logistically tie in with those for Red Rocks, no surprise. So we had to play or pass on the only card dealt, and on very short notice.

Thanks Chris Meyers. I wish the other votes had been there, to play.
ResponsibleFreePress
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May 12, 2011
Vote?

If this was a free market and government was out of the picture then we would thrive...

The Town should be out of the park and camping business and into the fixing the road business...

Further, it is laughable to suggest that the Town could not handle two busy weekends in a row....what do all those employees at town hall do every day?

This is a continuing story-the town exists to control and profit through taxes and fees the activity of its private businessman.

And Gumble; no excuse for this guy who cried the blues so to speak so he wouldnt have to work harder to provide a good show...

lodger-tride
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May 12, 2011
I know many that are now considering not coming to B&B at all because of this. Where as if it was booked they would have stayed for both shows. Missed oppotunity because of fear and selfishness. Sad that only one council member had any vision for what could have been the best music summer in Telluride's history. The community should have gotten to have a vote.
FaceOnMars
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May 12, 2011
tbk123: no, I wasn't there nor did I listen on the radio. I think it's better that I didn't find out until yesterday ... saves another day of feeling completely lousy & pissed off about this whole thing!

In the absence of an exclusive agreement, the possibility of an impromptu event should not be a surprise. If Gumble was for the Phish show last year, then it might be logical to conclude that he supports "impromptu large events in Town Park" as a basic concept. So, while I'm sure there'd be all sort of stipulations (as you've alluded to), he's still implicitly voting for the allowance of a "joker in deck" ... which he should realize in the absence of an exclusive agreement, that such a card could find it's way into a hand he's been dealt.

But you know what, I REALLY don't care to hear about the subtle nuances of how this market is "played" by those on the inside. I just don't care anymore; it's irrelevant to the situation. The point still remains that it's not the job of the Town of Telluride to baby sit the market for the events at town park or any which lease municipal facilities for that matter.

I say baby sit vs. referee because the latter might apply if it were another competing blues festival or beer / music festival within a day or two during the same week & there were conflicts on access to the facilities, etc.. Lets face it, every seat on this proverbial airplane is full ... so you just can't claim the seats next to you in order to spread out.

If B&B is "too big to fail" for the Town of Telluride, then maybe the town should move in and take over? Might as well go all out and "socialize the summer festival season" if we're going to be engaged heavily in corporate welfare. Seriously. Nonetheless, this would be a hypothetical solution to what I believe to be a complete non-issue to begin with ... since I firmly believe both events could flourish together and create a mutually beneficial synergy. But that would be looking at the glass as half full. On the contrary, the only issue I can sense is fear and reacting to such.

For someone who spent almost 1 out of every 4 days at a concert during the last 12 months & had to travel thousands of miles to do so, I could CARE FREAKIN' LESS about subtleties of putting on a concert. I'm sick of hearing the 6 ways from Sunday insider analysis, I don't care to hear why there might be a "competitive threat". All I know is how Buffalo Springfield is NOT playing here and I know what parties are responsible.
ResponsibleFreePress
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May 12, 2011
Mr. Truth be known...

Why Gumble has any influence over Phish or Neil Young is beyond comprehension.

Protectionism never served GM well when Honda and Toyota were making better cars for less. GM had to get with the program and make better cars. Same with Gumble.

Here we have the nit wits on Town Council protecting a mediocre performance when, had they just stayed out of the way, Bumble could have had his weekend and the hotels, servers, restaurants, grocery stores could have had a great weekend with Young and company..

Now we have BB insulated from the market; never a good thing.
truthbeknown123
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May 11, 2011
FOM I am not sure if you were in attendance or perhaps listened to the lengthy and healthy discussion on KOTO but you would have known that Gumble supported Phish because there was sufficient time to make an arrangement between all parties that was ultimately a net positive for everyone. Jazz production costs were reduced and a bump in ticket sales were expected and allowed. Neither of these were the case for Blues & Brews. Gumble read a letter to the Council written by Paul Machado stating that if Phish were to have been proposed 7 days before Jazz he would have been vehemently against Phish because of the threat to Jazz and it's ability to be financially viable. This not about one person but about a 17 year tradition that has brought a tremendous amount to the town's economy, hires locals and is a local. Blues and Brews is one of the many festivals in this town that makes Telluride the Festival capital of the United States. Council did exactly what they needed to do and protected one of their assets.
FaceOnMars
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May 11, 2011
Seems to me like a false choice / scare tactic of sorts: you have to pick one, because both can't co-exist. Trust us, we know this to be a fact. So, choose between the very existence of a long term pillar which the community depends upon or a quick buck. IMO, council fell for it!

Gumble stated "I supported Phish". So are we to interpret that he feels Jazz Fest ought not be afforded the same "exclusivity" to the use of Town Park as Blues and Brews? Or, maybe that Paul is too "nice a guy" and should've been more aggressive to defend their turf? Something else?

As to the perceived competing demographic: while I'm sure there is definitely some overlap, my generalized stereotypical impression of the Blues & Brews crowd leans considerably more to that of the "loud drinker who like to smoke cigs/cigars" type who has a considerable interest in blues & classic rock ... which is fine with me & certainly not looking to begrudge anyone from having fun in the way they know how. I'm sure the demographich shifts from year to year based on the lineup too. However, the point is that I wonder whether the only ensemble which might not be looked at as competition by Gumble would be the Church Choir?

It's hard to fault him for being scared in this economy if this is the case; and maybe it all happened too quickly to digest properly, but I truly don't believe that it was thought through as well as it could have been via a more "positive lens".

And why should the town be in the business of micromanaging the level of competition from one weekend to the next anyway? Or take a step back, why should Gumble routinely win what seems to amount to the equivalent of a "no bid contract" of an extremely limited supply (of weekends to book town park) every year? I'm not saying the town shouldn't work with Gumble to achieve mutually beneficial goals, but rather to take a step back and consider that once reasonable expectations might have gone astray into the "entitlement" camp?

My gut feeling tells me that we're all talking about fractions of ONE percent, if anything ... IN EITHER DIRECTION (this can't be overstated). In which case, I believe this is all "uneeded insurance" at the expense of what could be another great shot in the arm for the town (let alone fans in the area) as well as an opportunity to craft a flexible working summer schedule protocol.

Personally, I was literally about to purchase a 3-day pass for the first time ever (had always picked out 1 or 2 single days in the past), but not anymore. I just can't get behind an event which is apparently opposed to another group of musicians playing 7 days prior on the same stage. No, it's not more complicated then that.
JimPettegrew
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May 11, 2011
It's really a shame that Council couldn't find enough flexibility & adaptabilty & excitement to help this event happen.

Sure, it wasn't great timing, only a week before B&B ... but some opportunities knock under less-than-ideal circumstances and with short notice.

I believe our town's history & expertise at both promoting & hosting great festivals, and great one-off shows like this, would've ensured that each of these September events could've been great successes.

This is truly a loss, for the town, for local businesses and, mostly, for music fans eager to have hosted one of the pivotal bands of our lifetimes.