By Thom Jennings
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
This time of year, one of the best-kept secrets in Lockport is the Molson Canal Concert Series lineup. I wondered why it was such a closely guarded secret, so I asked Dave Taylor, co-founder of the canal series, and the person responsible for booking the acts, why the bookers do not release the lineup sooner.
“There are a few reasons,” Taylor said. “Sometimes dates get shifted and other times bands drop off the schedule. That has already happened this year. We try to market the series as a whole package, so it makes sense to release it all at once. It also helps with booking the support acts. When information goes out in bits and pieces, I am inundated with requests from the local support asking to perform at a certain show. Since it is all done when we release it, it makes that process a lot easier as well.”
Of course, I knew better than to ask who would be coming to Lockport this year, but Taylor was willing to share some interesting information about this year’s lineup.
“I have one act that is returning,” Taylor said. “Every other act I have booked now has never played the series before.”
He told me that eight of the acts have never played the series since its inception back in North Tonawanda.
“I’m trying to freshen the series up and not bring the same acts back over and over again. I think the other series’ are doing the same thing as well,” Taylor said.
Taylor also books other shows in the area, including the Niagara Falls free concert series. Taylor was the promoter for the recent sold-out Dropkick Murphys show at The Rapids Theater, and he booked country legend Loretta Lynn’s recent show at The Riviera Theater in North Tonawanda. With such a diverse selection of artists, I wondered if Taylor’s personal preferences ever came into play.
“I’m a huge fan and friend of Jimmy Gnecco, the lead singer of Ours,” Taylor said. “I booked him to open for Our Lady Peace and I thought with his six-octave range people would fall down in the audience amazed at his talent. People liked him, but it was nowhere near what I thought the reaction would be. We had the opposite thing happen with Rusted Root. There were city officials that wondered why I booked this band that they said nobody heard of. I told them once they see Rusted Root live they will get it because they are a great live band. Every time after, their shows got bigger and I felt like the masses loved something that I did.”
Nonetheless, Taylor was quick to note that, “In this business you can lose a lot of money booking people you like. I try and balance it out, on occasion I book acts that I don’t know their music, I just look at the numbers.”
Last year, the series featured country music star Gretchen Wilson, so I asked Taylor if he planned on booking more country acts for the series.
“We’ve never gotten the attendance we hoped for with country acts and I have heard the same from the other free concert series,” he said. “I’m not saying we will never book another country act, but I think country is different because people either love or hate country music. I think that people who don’t like country won’t come out for a free show just to be a part of the experience, as opposed to showing up to see a rock band that you know a song or two of.”
Much has been written about the move of the series from North Tonawanda to Lockport and Taylor spoke candidly about what happened from his perspective.
“We love the people of North Tonawanda, we loved the police and we loved the council members, it was just the (mayor) we had trouble with,” he said. “From the beginning, Mayor Tucker saw the potential of the series; he now is a great friend and great to work with. It was so different coming from an atmosphere like North Tonawanda where you had to have a meeting every five minutes, to dealing with Lockport and a mayor that embraced the series.”
Taylor also noted it isn’t just the local government officials that have helped make the series one of the best in Western New York.
“It’s nice to see the local businesses participating,” he said. “People think we get upset because there is an ice cream stand across the street, but we are all getting ice cream from there. It is also nice to see the local restaurants capitalizing on the traffic flow. It’s great to see signs in front of local businesses welcoming concertgoers. It has been a great atmosphere to work in, considering where we came from.”
In addition, like many of you, Taylor is looking forward to this season.
“I really enjoy it, because the people that work the series become like a family that you see every week,” he said. “I miss a lot them when the series is over.”
After I confessed that I obsess over the free concert lineups, scouring Pollstar and the blogs, Taylor laughed and told me, “Don’t lose any sleep over it, you will know before too long.”
He also told me that it will be worth the wait.