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What's Up Magazine

An Interview with Rams Head Group Talent Buyers, 
Kris Stevens and Boo Valdez

Jul 14, 2014 05:00PM ● By James Houck
Behind every concert performance, music fan, and ticket sold are the individuals who brought them all together—the promoters. And in the case of the Rams Head Group’s collection of venues—which includes Rams Head On Stage, Rams Head Live!, Rams Head Center Stage, and Pier Six Pavilion, among others—it’s talent buyers Kris Stevens and Ramon “Boo” Valdez. They are responsible for booking the acts that grace these stages. Stevens is a 16-year veteran buyer with Rams Head, while Valdez has been buying talent for about one year, having parlayed his previous experience as a production manager. Both offer insight and anecdotes about the music industry from their side of the stage.

How often do you seek the talent versus the talent seeking the venue?

Kris Stevens: We are so fortunate to represent and operate some very popular and sought-after venues. To keep up with the quantity of entertainment we provide, we research, follow, listen to, and survey our patrons for new bands, acts, and talents every single day.

Boo Valdez: Honestly, it’s 50/50. There will be an artist that you have not thought about in a while that will pop up and ask for dates when you are concentrating in an entirely different direction.

How financially viable is the concert promo/production business in your experience?

KS: It’s a bit like gambling. You win some and you lose some and in the end, you hope to keep your doors open.

BV: Live entertainment has been around for thousands of years, it should be around for a while longer.

The public likely perceives profits as being quite substantial, but that’s not necessarily the case is it?

KS: I do think there is a common misperception that promoters are rollin’ in the dough. It’s hard work and we can and have suffered some hefty hits. Those can take a while to recover from, as in any business.

BV: What most people do not take into consideration are the things we have to do on a monthly basis. Paying the bills—rent, electric, and such—is a huge expense that people seem to forget about.

What artist has had one of the most unusual riders in your experience? Can you recall a particular item(s) on that rider?
Editor’s note: A “rider” is a set of requests or demands that a performer sets as criteria for their performance.

KS: A puppy to cuddle with…and if you would give us a beer and a sandwich, we’d be ever so grateful. The usual…well, they are much more demanding and specific.

BV: A band called Gogol Bordello has the most entertaining rider to read, it is a bit lengthy but written with the industry in mind. As for odd rider requests, we have gotten everything from a puppy to pet to a football helmet full of cottage cheese…no kidding. FYI, both were accommodated.

What are the most commonly requested rider items?

KS: Full bottles of liquor. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, after show pizza, and bus catering for the road. It seems the way to someone’s heart is still through their stomach.

BV: Water, from the newest band to the old vets, everyone wants water.

Who have been some of your favorite artists to work with and why?

KS: After booking more than 7,500 shows/events since I joined Rams Head Group, it would be impossible to say. I love inviting artists to play our rooms and watching them leave happy and anxious to return.

BV: Personally I have worked with many international artists and love them for a myriad of reasons. Mostly because they are just like everyone else. I love working with a rock band called Halestorm. I first met them on their first national tour. The entire band and crew were a pleasure to work with and I still keep in contact with them today. Since our first encounter they have gone on to tour the world and win a Grammy.

Is there a “big fish” artist that you hope to land at Rams Head On Stage one day?

KS: I’m happy to say that I have successfully landed so many of my bucket list artists. I still hold out hope, of course, for Bruce Springsteen, Foo Fighters, Tom Waits, Paolo Conti, Justin Timberlake, Jimmy Buffett, Katy Perry, maybe a cool acoustic Rolling Stones show. I’ve had a habit of dreaming big since the first day I came to work here.

BV: Although we have hosted the likes of Jay Z, Greg Allman, Elvis Costello, Joe Cocker, Rob Zombie, and the Beastie Boys, we still strive to bring acts to the club that you would not normally see in that setting.

What have been some of your most memorable concert moments (in the Rams Head family of venues)?

KS: Gino Vannelli, Herbie Hancock, Steve Forbert,  Jim Belushi, Little Richard, Gregg Allman, Jesse Cook, Corinne Bailey Rae, Robin Thicke, and Hermans Hermits with my mom before she passed away. Oh and let’s not forget the amazing Martin Short this past May.

BV: There are so many. Dennis Chambers sitting in with George Clinton (original Parliament members), having the Beastie Boys just six weeks before Adam announced he had cancer. Seeing hip hop legends like Public Enemy, Ice T, De La Soul, and Busta Rhymes take the stage. Getting to watch guitar legends like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and BB King play like no one is watching. Listening to the greats like Joe Cocker and Greg Allman sing with nothing but a guitar in complete silence in front of 1,000-plus people. Most memorable? My time working at Rams Head.