Q97.1's Danny Salas feels like Willy Wonka handing out golden tickets.
That's the kind of response a Bruno Mars contest gets these days.
"Nine out of 10 calls I get are from listeners asking about Bruno tickets," says Salas, the assistant program director and afternoon drive host for the radio station Q97.1, which is giving away last-chance tickets to Mars' sold-out "Moonshine Jungle" tour, which stops at the Save Mart Center Tuesday night.
No doubt, the Mars show ranks among the top concerts to come to the arena.
"Bieber was huge. Prince was huge. Wiz Khalifa/Miguel was huge. Jay-Z was huge. But I think the fact that this show was announced at the best possible time, after his Super Bowl performance, and sold out almost immediately, makes the Bruno Mars show one of the most in-demand concerts we've seen in a while," Salas says.
Salas had three different computers running the morning that tickets to the Fresno show went on sale, just to make sure he got through.
The tour is so hot that in Hawaii, where Mars is from, a state senator introduced the "Bruno Mars Act" after tickets to the tour's three-night stand in Honolulu sold out within hours, creating a huge surge on the secondary market. The law would require ticket vendors and entertainment venues to sell in-person tickets for the first 48 hours.
Mars has become a household name in the past year or so — especially after his halftime performance at this year's Super Bowl. But talk of his stardom started when he first emerged on the scene doing guest vocals on tracks like B.o.B.'s "Nothin' on You," and Travie McCoy's "Billionaire."
Mars played Fresno in 2010, as the opening spot on Maroon 5's tour, and after the show it was his performance people were talking about, Salas says. More than the show's other opener — OneRepublic — or even Maroon 5.
If anything, the predictions may have been understated. Mars has scored five No. 1 hits on Billboard's "Hot 100" and done it faster than any male artist since Elvis Presley. Four of his singles are counted among the best-selling of all time.
Just this year, he was ranked No. 1 on Forbes magazine's 30 under 30 list. And this month he was nominated as Top Artist of the Year at the Billboard Music Awards. He was beat by Justin Timberlake.
What makes Mars so popular?
Musically, the soulful singer falls in line with the retro old-school/funk/disco style that is so popular, Salas says. Songs like Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" and Bruno's "Treasure" have a '70s mega-hit vibe, that a decade ago would have been unheard of on mainstream radio.
These days that sound has appeal that stretches across station formats. Mars has bonus appeal because he's relatively "safe" — a performer that can draw both the young demographic and the over-60s.
"Bruno Mars has resurrected the original magic we felt in music from the days when Motown erupted," says Nicole Giordano, host of Y101's "After Hours" and co-creator of music blog myindienation.com.
He's a young guy — he was born in 1984 — who comes off as an old soul, she says. Elvis was his idol and he started his career impersonating Michael Jackson and Little Richard.
"You can tell he has a love for good ol' fashioned entertainment," Giordano says.
He has helped breathe new life into a music industry that too often feels like a machine that manufactures pop stars.
"His music is genuine and manages to strike a chord with every age because of his ability to put on an organic performance. He avoids the stigma attached to the current music industry of young artists trying to be something they're not and that's refreshing," Giordano says. "He's not a robotic pop star that is programmed to move and shake. He's a power house that brought the spirit of Motown back to life. And for that we are all grateful."
Bruno Mars with singer Aloe Blacc, 8 p.m. Tuesday at Save Mart Center. Sold out. brunomars.com