Lookin' for Space in All the Right Spaces
AEG is one of the leading sports and entertainment presenters in the world. Really--that's precisely what it says on the company's Web site. And I don't doubt it: The company owns or controls such venues as the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles (the home of the Los Angeles Lakers and, yup, AEG), The Great Western Forum, the Nokia Theatre Times Square and some venues in Europe. Makes sense AEG would have such a big presence in Los Angeles: It's owned by Philip Anschutz, the Colorado billionaire ($5.8 bil, to be precise) who sits at No. 65 on Forbes' 2005 list of the world's richest people and at the No. 31 spot on the magazine's just-released list of the 400 wealthiest Americans; he owns the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Kings and whatever L.A.'s Major Soccer League's team is called. Anschutz, incidentally, made his money in the railroad and movie theater chains and fiber optics (ever heard of Qwest?).
Well, Anschutz's AEG also controls the Nokia Theatre in Grand Prairie--and there's word circulating throughout the local music-booking biz that AEG's about to get its hands on another local venue, Gilley's Dallas on the South Side.
When first contacted this morning, AEG's PR man in Los Angeles, Michael Ross, said that was the first he'd heard of it. "Would that be the place made famous in Urban Cowboy?" he said. "Heck, I don't know." Brad Weiss, general manager of Gilley's, doesn't work on Mondays; must be nice. Dave Parks in the local AEG Live office wasn't around to answer questions. But AEG's takeover of Gilley's is a poorly kept secret, no doubt because AEG's already been in the space giving it a makeover with the expectation that it can re-open the doors as a "new" venue before New Year's Eve. Says one music-booking insider: "It's going to happen."
As well it should: An AEG-Gilley's deal makes sense for both parties. Gilley's is only booking two shows a week, on Friday and Saturday nights, and needs to fill up the room with more than occasional gigs by the likes of the Kyle Hunt Band, Deryl Dodd and others who aren't exactly built to headline such a cavernous room. AEG has more than enough muscle to book headliners who can draw and not only on the weekends. And AEG's been wanting another space in town, to compete not only with the Gypsy Tea Room, which is essentially the last remaining piece of the former Entertainment Collaborative empire, but also the under-construction House of Blues, which is scheduled to open in the West End in March 2007.
Gilley's would give AEG an enormous room with plenty of options. Though the Nokia can be configured to hold 1,600--which happened for the Flaming Lips and Al Gore in recent weeks--it's really built for larger shows, with a 6,800-person capacity. Gilley's has a 26,000-square-foot main room that seats 2,500, though it too is a pretty malleable space, and AEG is making substantial rennovations to it at the moment. Word is it will resemble a miniature version of the Nokia--and will boast a concert lineup that reflects the change.
It will no longer be a strictly country-music venue; it could host Al Green or Al Gore or Alabama, not to mention indie-rockers and heavy-metal acts or even theatrical productions that need a 'tweener venue to hold a couple thou. That's one reason the name will likely change when AEG take over; the Gilley's brand is too much associated with country acts, though it's probable that the venue will retain some element of its honky-tonk origins in one or more of the smaller rooms scattered throughout the 91,000-square-foot joint.
Developing, as the kids say. --Robert Wilonsky