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Publicly-Backed Concert Series Ends

By Frank Parlato

Party Hardy? A visibly intoxicated mayor Paul Dyster introduces an act with a rather long-winded and somewhat slurred introduction.
Partying on the taxpayers’ dime: A visibly intoxicated Mark McGrath, from the band Sugar Ray, traded shots backstage with Mayor Paul Dyster at a taxpayer-funded Hard Rock concert.

The Hard Rock Café finally has paid back the City of Niagara Falls the $42,000 it received for a taxpayer-funded concert that was rained out, according to City Controller Maria Brown.

Thus a chapter of Niagara Falls history, where the city paid Hard Rock to book and stage concerts and sell their own concessions, has come to an end.

Deducting the $42,000 just returned, the final bill for taxpayers: $654,000. This included about $50,000 for municipal services for hosting the events and $25,000 for portable toilets.

The $42,000 was meant to stage KC and the Sunshine Band last August 11. Because of severe rain and thunder, the band was unable to perform.

Initially, Hard Rock planned to reschedule the KC concert for this year. However, a three-member majority on the council, Glenn Choolokian, Sam Fruscione and Robert Anderson, chose to cancel the Hard Rock Concert Series for 2013, saving taxpayers more than $150,000 for the year alone, in addition to getting back the $42,000.

Hard Rock officials declined to disclose how much they paid the 1970’s disco group that had its last hit record 35 years ago. In response to Freedom of Information Act requests, the law department of the City of Niagara Falls said they had no way of knowing how Hard Rock spent any of the taxpayers' money. As part of the contract, Hard Rock was permitted to keep all details of spending confidential.

According to a leading WNY booking agent, David Taylor of Tonawanda, KC can be booked for only around $30,000 plus the cost of hotel accommodations, and, curiously, $12,000 less than the city paid Hard Rock to stage the act.

Throughout the 4 ½ years of the concert series, Hard Rock booked ‘legacy’ acts that are no longer able to attract paying audiences and are relegated to playing circuses, race tracks, and county fairs as side shows. Among the acts the city paid Hard Rock to book were one-hit wonders like the 80’s The English Beat or the 90’s groups such as Smash Mouth, Soul Asylum and Tonic, and zero hit acts like Sloan, Talas, Finger Eleven, Donna the Buffalo, Our Lady Peace, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Hawksley Workman, Free Henry!, and Gord Downie (without his band The Tragically Hip).

Hard Rock is a Florida-based corporation with 163 venues in 50 countries including 126 cafes and 15 hotels/casino, and are owned by the Seminole Nation of Indians. The Seminoles paid $965 million for the corporation in 2006.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Feb 05 , 2013