We’ve had a couple of high-profile concert cancellations in Madison this week. Dave Mason was supposed to play the newly reopened Majestic Theater last night, but the show was scratched late Tuesday afternoon. Late yesterday, John Mellencamp’s November 6 date at the Coliseum was canceled. One is understandable; the other’s a bit puzzling.
The Majestic has just reopened in the last month or so. It’s an old movie theater with a checkered history; the last time it closed was in the wake of some violent incidents following hip-hop shows. The new owners have booked a respectable lineup of alternative, classic rock, and alt-country acts, and will retain the theater’s tradition of hosting various queer-themed events. They haven’t done a lot of promotion for any of it, however, apart from the free media they got in the runup to the reopening (at least not that I’ve seen). Instead of buying a schedule of ads for Dave Mason on The Lake, for example, they gave us some tickets in exchange for promotional mentions. However, I don’t think promotion was necessarily the problem. At this point in his career, Mason is probably a more likely candidate to play something like Taste of Madison or Bratfest than he is to fill a theater at $30 a ticket. Robert Fripp and Leon Russell are scheduled to appear separately at the Majestic later this fall; we’ll see if they actually do.
The Mellencamp cancellation is harder to figure. A few people actually lined up to get tickets when they first went on sale; the top tickets, in the $75 range, were gone as of last weekend and the best remaining seats were just OK, not great. Still, since other shows on the tour will go on as scheduled, it’s probably a matter of low ticket sales overall—although the promoters of that show didn’t buy any advertising either, and it’s almost three weeks until November 6.
If sales were poor, part of that may be due to the venue. The Coliseum is almost 40 years old, and it shows. The arena has a distinctly rundown look. The inside hallways are narrow and painted a hideous taxicab yellow. Restrooms are mostly small and parking is extortionate, even when compared to downtown Madison. It’s a fine place for hockey games, monster trucks, the circus, or the kind of concert you attend with your buds when you’re 17, but as a destination for an adult night out, it’s not a good one anymore.
Part of it might be Mellencamp himself. I’m not sure any radio station in town is playing him right now, except maybe for the we-play-anything station that’s liable to put him on between “Kung Fu Fighting” and something by Depeche Mode. His first album in four years, Freedom’s Road, came out last January—but did you know that? It’s been quite a while since he generated a buzz, except for buzzes of annoyance at the gross overexposure of “Our Country” on those pickup truck commercials. A modest buzz (or a current hit) is not necessary in a world where an artist can tour for 30 years after just a couple of hit singles, but it can’t hurt. The Lake has just added a bunch of Mellencamp records back into the on-air library, but not in time to raise his profile, apparently.
The Mrs. and I had tickets to see Mary Chapin Carpenter in the mid 90s sometime, not long after “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” won Record of the Year at the Grammys, but that show was canceled. So if you’re a fan of Mason or Mellencamp, I know—it’s disappointing to have your ticket but get no show.
Updates: When I was talking about my responsibilities as public address announcer for Wisconsin women’s hockey earlier this week, I forgot to mention one very big one—I am the guy who blows the giant foghorn that sounds whenever the home team scores a goal. (It’s the part of my performance that’s been critiqued more than any other so far.) Also: The night after I wrote about my nephew’s winless JV football team, they won their only game of the season. The varsity came through last night, however. They completed their perfect season—by losing 41-0.