Saturday, February 24, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

When performers die, get sick or back out, music venues must act fast

At about 5 p.m. Wednesday, Scott Schecter got a call with some bad news. Frank Sinatra Jr. had fallen ill before a concert in Daytona Beach. Thursday's concert at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg was in jeopardy.

"Doctors are looking at it," Sinatra's tour manager told Schecter, the president of Big3 Entertainment, which had booked Sinatra. "We're trying to figure out what's going on. Follow up next week, and we'll try to figure out a rescheduled date."

The venue sent out a vague but urgent media release about the cancellation of the nearly sold-out concert, and promised more details. Less than three hours later, Sinatra's agent called back, and the news was much more somber: The singer had died of cardiac arrest at 72.

RELATED: Frank Sinatra Jr. dies of heart attack in Florida

"The protocol is, you just notify everybody, you make the refunds, and what else can you say, except express your sadness about it?" Schecter said Thursday. "We were sad for the family, but what else can you do?"

Concert cancellations happen for endless reasons, from Garth Brooks bumping up against the Stanley Cup Finals to Aretha Franklin ditching an upcoming gig in Sarasota due to a "lack of band personnel."

Far more common are cancellations due to illness, injury and even death — sudden emergencies that can send venues into a tailspin.

RELATED: Death, documentaries and hockey: 10 unusual reasons artists have canceled concerts in Tampa Bay

This month alone, such cancellations feel like an epidemic across Tampa Bay. Merle Haggard (pneumonia) and Tanya Tucker (bronchitis) both pulled out of the Florida Strawberry Festival with only a few days' notice. Same for the Goo Goo Dolls ("illness and doctor's orders") at Busch Gardens' Food and Wine Festival. Melanie Martinez (kidney stones) pushed a show at the Ritz Ybor back by a month. And Adam Lambert (doctor-ordered vocal rest) canceled a concert at Ruth Eckerd Hall on the day of the gig, mere hours before showtime.

In some cases, venues can scramble and keep the concert on the books with a similar replacement. Within hours of the Goo Goo Dolls falling ill, Busch Gardens had a shortlist of fill-in options, courtesy of partner promoters AEG Live. The park's top criteria: They wanted another alt-rock band. And they got one, booking Collective Soul just a day before the show.

"We wanted to try to stick with that demo, because we knew people had probably made plans to come to the park on that day," said Nancy Hutson, the park's vice president of entertainment. "Our biggest concern was to get the information to our guests, so they know what's happening."

That tends to be the case, as venues immediately start breaking the bad news to ticket holders.

"A lot of people were disappointed," Schecter said of Sinatra. "We looked at this show as kind of a benchmark of the season because of the 100th birthday of Frank Sinatra. This was just going to be a really cool event."

It isn't the first time a Tampa Bay concert has been cancelled due to death.

Alt-rock band Blind Melon was booked to perform at St. Petersburg's Jannus Landing on Oct. 23, 1995. Two days before the show, singer Shannon Hoon died of a heroin overdose in New Orleans.

"Even though we didn't have the Internet and all that stuff back then, word traveled pretty quickly," said promoter Rob Douglas, who booked the show, and who learned of Hoon's death via a call from Blind Melon's agent. "It was a great disappointment and sadness and what have you, but it was a given that there was going to be no show, and people were going to get a refund. There was no hand-wringing about what to do."

He added: "I wonder if any people decided to keep their tickets from that show as memorabilia?"

Sometimes, the show goes on no matter what. Prog-rock heroes Yes elected to keep touring following last summer's death of co-founder Chris Squire, including an August gig at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Three Dog Night singer Cory Wells died suddenly less than a month before the band was to perform at St. Petersburg's Ribfest, but surviving members wasted no time announcing they would keep the date with another singer. (That wasn't possible at Ribfest '99, when Atlanta Rhythm Section drummer R.J. Vealey died on the road in Orlando the day before their gig in St. Pete. Gary "Dreamweaver" Wright took their place at the last minute.)

For the Mahaffey, none of this was an option. Once Sinatra's death was announced, theater officials scrambled to notify staff, union crews, musicians, vendors and equipment rental agencies that there would be no show on Thursday. Their ticket office began calling and emailing as members and ticket holders.

"It's just about marketing and communications to let as many ticket buyers know," he said. "Inevitably, we won't get through to everybody, and I'm sure we'll have a few people that'll show up at the theater tonight around showtime. We're hoping people, one way or another, will get the word."

Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

   
Comments
SoundBytes: The Shadowboxers, Lit, O-Town, Saba, Wolfgang Gartner and more

SoundBytes: The Shadowboxers, Lit, O-Town, Saba, Wolfgang Gartner and more

— The Shadowboxers will open for their mentor Justin Timberlake on May 15 at Amalie Arena in Tampa. You might remember the pop-rock group from their several performances around the 2017 College Football Playoff national championship game in Tam...
Published: 02/23/18
Tampa Bay’s Ries Brothers playing Parkland shooting benefit concert with Austin Mahone, Saigon Kick, more

Tampa Bay’s Ries Brothers playing Parkland shooting benefit concert with Austin Mahone, Saigon Kick, more

The Ries Brothers were driving to a gig in Corpus Christi, Texas, when they heard about the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland."We played Fort Lauderdale like two days before it happened, so it was really bizarre," said...
Published: 02/22/18
Review: Mary J. Blige, fresh off Oscar nominations, unleashes soulful fury on Amalie Arena in Tampa

Review: Mary J. Blige, fresh off Oscar nominations, unleashes soulful fury on Amalie Arena in Tampa

It took 10 songs and a solid half hour of furious funk for Mary J. Blige to stop strutting and dancing to sit and sermonize on matters of faith and fidelity."I'm going to say it for you, because I'm a little crazy," she told nearly 6,500 fans Wednesd...
Published: 02/22/18
Imagine Dragons coming to the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa

Imagine Dragons coming to the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa

Let's be honest: Imagine Dragons are probably the most successful rock band of this decade.They're not the only group to debut in the 2010s who can also headline arenas, but they're definitely the only one to have such enormous crossover success on a...
Published: 02/21/18
This week’s top concerts: Willie Nelson, Los Lobos, Clearwater Sea-Blues and more

This week’s top concerts: Willie Nelson, Los Lobos, Clearwater Sea-Blues and more

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Willie NelsonI’m sure that when Willie Nelson had to postpone his recent Clearwater concert after a bout with the flu, you, like me, took the news well, spitting through clenched teeth: "OH NO YOU DON’T, 2018. YOU WILL NOT TAKE WIL...
Published: 02/21/18
Spin Doctors’ Chris Barron talks touring at 50, being the ‘Two Princes’ guy and more

Spin Doctors’ Chris Barron talks touring at 50, being the ‘Two Princes’ guy and more

Go back and read Rolling Stone's 1993 cover story on the Spin Doctors — yep, that's a thing that actually happened — and the first quote from singer Chris Barron jumps out."I don't want to be 50 years old and be out on the road with my vo...
Published: 02/21/18
Hernando symphony tackles old and new favorites

Hernando symphony tackles old and new favorites

BROOKSVILLE — From Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra to Bruno Mars and Carlos Santana — tunes from all over the musical spectrum.Those are a taste of the old and new favorites audiences can enjoy when the Hernando Symphony Orchestra presents its Spectrum...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/21/18
SoundBytes: Coheed and Cambria, Taking Back Sunday, Dua Lipa, Todd Rundgren’s Utopia and more

SoundBytes: Coheed and Cambria, Taking Back Sunday, Dua Lipa, Todd Rundgren’s Utopia and more

— Prog-punk and emo will meet this summer when Coheed and Cambria and Taking Back Sunday embark on a summer tour that stops at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on July 7. The Story So Far will open. Tickets are $29.50 and up. Click here...
Published: 02/20/18
Snoop Dogg, T.I. to headline inaugural Halftime Music Festival in Tampa

Snoop Dogg, T.I. to headline inaugural Halftime Music Festival in Tampa

Are you ready for an all-new hip-hop festival in Tampa?Snoop Dogg and T.I. are scheduled to headline the inaugural Halftime Music Festival on May 5 in the North Lot of Raymond James Stadium. Also on the bill: Karol G, Baby Rasta y Gringo and Brytiago...
Published: 02/20/18
SoundBytes: Glass Animals, Katt Williams, Natalie Prass, Lee Ann Womack and more

SoundBytes: Glass Animals, Katt Williams, Natalie Prass, Lee Ann Womack and more

— British alt-rock outfit Glass Animals is coming to the Ritz Ybor on July 24. Knox Fortune will open. Click here.— Katt Williams is returning to the USF Sun Dome on April 14. Tickets are $49 and up. Click here.— It's been a while s...
Published: 02/19/18