It’s a great time to cover the live music scene.
As in industry, live music is on a record-setting pace for the year, according to the trade publication Pollstar, which is based in Fresno and released its midyear recap last week. In fact, the top 100 artists already have $1.48 billion in combined gross and have sold 1 million more tickets than they did in 2015.
The big name here is Beyoncé, whose tour ranked No. 1 in North America, making $126.3 million. The singer was second worldwide, just behind Bruce Springsteen, who made $170.7 million.
While neither act made it to the Valley this year, Fresno has seen its share of big-name shows.
The Save Mart Center played host to pop sensation Justin Bieber and country star Carrie Underwood, who ranked No. 6 and No. 18 on Pollstar’s list. Paul McCartney, who I ranked as one of, if not the most iconic artist to play Fresno, came in at No. 21. The ex-Beatle kicked off his One on One tour in Fresno in April.
Selena Gomez, who played the arena in May, ranked No. 33 and has sold close to 300,000 tickets for the year.
Journey’s San Francisco Fest tour with the Doobie Brothers ranked No. 48. It was slated to stop in Fresno before the show was canceled.
Of course, it’s not just Save Mart Center getting top shows. The Fresno Convention and Entertainment Center, which runs Selland Arena and Saroyan Theatre, is having its best year ever, posting its own record-breaking attendance numbers and pulling in the likes of G-Eazy. The so-called dapper rapper, who was No. 47 on Pollstar’s Top 100, packed the arena in April with a sold-out show that attracted more than 7,000 fans. The following month, the arena hosted Hillsong United, which ranked No. 59. It, too, was a sell-out.
“Fresno seems to be getting more shows in general, at all levels,” says Tony Martin, general manager at Fulton 55, the 500-person capacity club in downtown Fresno. The venue averages 18 shows a month, Martin says, and brought in mid-level touring acts such as Los Lonely Boys, the rapper Chingo Bling and blues man Tommy Castro.
Just up the street, the Rainbow Ballroom played host to a sold-out performance from frenetic rapper Tyler the Creator in April. Just last weekend, Latin pop singer Julieta Venegas played there. In August, the venue hosts the The Bud Light Party convention, with El Komander.
In the Tower District, Strummer’s nightclub and Numbskull Productions continue to bring in an array of mid-level touring acts, including Queensryche singer Geoff Tate, ex-The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr and hip-hop legend Del the Funky Homosapien.
The Tower Theater meanwhile has seen ukulele sensation Jake Shimabukuro, the guitar god Buckethead and the one-man show from “American Idol” star Todrick Hall, which The Bee arts reporter called “audaciously original, intellectually charged, fiercely staged and spilling over with raw, emotional energy.”
The theater has already lined up solid acts for the second part of the year, including a rare midweek pair of shows in November with blues singer John Mayall (Monday, Nov. 14) and country icon Kris Kristofferson (Tuesday, Nov. 15).
“There are definitely more people putting on shows in our area than there were when we started 15 years ago,” says Aaron Gomes, who runs Visalia’s Sound N Vision Foundation and co-promoted the Grizzly Fest, which drew 7,000 people to Chukchansi Park in May to see headliners Slighty Stoopid and Cold War Kids (and the rap duo Atmosphere and hometown hero Fashawn).
Music festivals are an important part of the live music business, according to Pollstar. I wrote about proliferation of music festivals back in January and how they seem to be important in Fresno’s live music scene, as well.
More options are a great thing.
Promoter Aaron Gomes
Along with the Grizzly Fest, the Rotary Amphitheater hosted the emo-heavy Taste of Chaos tour, the 51Fifty Music Festival, Blaze 105.9’s rock-heavy BlazeFest and Kiss Country’s $5 Summer Concert series. On a smaller scale, Summer Sweat continues the series of downtown block parties it started last year. It hosts its second installment next weekend at Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company with more than a dozen local and touring acts, including a reunion of local favorites Fierce Creatures.
Bottom line: There are more venues and more promoters presenting more options for fans of live music.
That’s a good thing, Gomes says.
“It seems like everyone serves a specific niché, and if they do it well they’ll stay around and be successful.”