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Alpine Valley concert decline amps up concern

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Darryl Enriquez
July 3, 2011
— The decline in Alpine Valley Music Theatre concerts this season has lead law enforcement and community officials to wonder about the dip in shows.

Curiosity about the concert venue is up because Alpine Valley officials worked hard during the off season to get approvals from the town, Walworth County Sheriff’s Office and county for overnight camping in a parking lot.


Despite the approvals, camping was not offered at Alpine Valley’s first summer concert and it will not be available for what appears to be the venue’s only other summer show.


Attendance for Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band on June 25 was more than 28,000, according to the sheriff’s office.


Camping again will not be offered at Alpine’s next two concerts, Pearl Jam on Sept. 3 and 4, general manager David Shaw said.


Neither Sheriff’s Capt. Dana Nigbor, who coordinates paid security at Alpine, nor Barbara Fischer, LaFayette’s clerk treasurer, knows why only two bands are playing Alpine this summer.


Both expressed curiosity as to why only three shows were scheduled for a venue that had seven shows in 2009 and six in 2010.


Shaw would not comment.


Others speculated.


The sheriff’s office must receive a 60-day notice of a concert, meaning an announced concert could not take the stage until after Pearl Jam plays. The sheriff can waive that requirement.


Teri Adlam, Waukesha County Expo Center manager, said competition to book bands this summer was intensified by the increasing number of venues, such as Indian casinos.


The Expo Center is home to the Waukesha County Fair.


The cost of top acts has risen dramatically, leading some venues to question the profitability of booking them, Adlam said.


Walworth County Fair Manager Susan Pruessing said top bands “are becoming a little more pickier” about where they play.


Concert halls in Branson, Mo., Las Vegas and Chicago have become more appealing to bands, she said. Casinos can bring in musicians, lose money on ticket sales but profit on dinners, drinks and gambling, she said.


When the Dave Matthews Band, once a regular at Alpine Valley, plays Chicago, standard contracts prohibit the band from playing anywhere else within 100 miles, Pruessing said.


Dave Matthews is playing Chicago July 8-10.


The prohibition can last 60 days before and after he plays, Pruessing said.


“You don’t want a band to saturate the market,” she said.


Other bands that made Alpine a regular tour stop have taken a break this summer to work in studios or chose to tour Europe or the East Coast, she said.


Fischer in her connections with Alpine said bands are becoming more selective about the stages and lighting available in performance areas.


A band that travels with its own stage and lighting does not want to play a venue where it can use only the venue’s equipment, Fischer said.


Shaw would not say if that dilemma was affecting Alpine.


Pearl Jam rejected camping at Alpine during its Labor Day performances, according to a Shaw letter to the county.


“I wanted to let you know that unfortunately we will not be having any camping at Alpine Valley Music Theatre this summer,” Shaw wrote.


“We were going to do it for Pearl Jam on Labor Day weekend, but the band met and decided that having camping for their shows is just not the scene/vibe they wanted to create, so they nixed it.


“Hopefully we’ll take another look at this for 2012. I’m aware we need to go through the entire process all over.”


Sheriff’s Capt. Nigbor said her office does not make or lose money by providing traffic and internal security at Alpine. The number of concerts makes no difference to the bottom line of the department’s budget, she said.


A $1.90 security surcharge is included in the cost of each concert ticket. The money is used to pay related expenses and salaries of sheriff’s deputies who work on their own time doing traffic control and security, Nigbor said.


Undersheriff Kurt Picknell said that a six-concert season brings about $250,000 and a seven-concert season brings about $300,000 to the sheriff’s office.


Under contract, Alpine must make sure all expenses from the sheriff’s office are covered.


The downturn in concerts could hurt deputies in their personal pocketbooks who make extra money at Alpine, Nigbor said.


“Some guys don’t mind because they’d rather have their summer weekends off,” she said.


Apparently, non-touring bands feel the same way.



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