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New Orleans, Austin --and Maybe L.A. Too

June 23, 1996|Steve Hochman

A lot of people think there's only one thing keeping Los Angeles from being the music capital of the country: a world-class, eclectic music festival.

There's nothing here to match the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, whose regulars include the Neville Brothers, Dr. John and Jimmy Buffett, or Austin's South by Southwest.

Soon, though, there may be.

Plans have been set for an October rock convention modeled largely on the Austin extravaganza, with three nights of concerts at more than a dozen Hollywood and West Hollywood clubs.

And the producers of the JazzFest, as the New Orleans celebration of music from all over the globe is known, are scouting such L.A. sites as the Coliseum-Sports Arena complex with an eye on starting a similar festival here, perhaps as early as next year.

Festival Productions, which in addition to the New Orleans event produces the storied Newport jazz and folk festivals in Rhode Island, has long been a presence in L.A. with the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, and feels the city is ripe for a broader musical celebration.

"It would be a something-for-everyone festival," says George Wein, the company's founder and president. "The history of music in California is incredible--jazz, folk, blues, gospel, rock, Hispanic music. You could do a great festival with all of that represented."

Why hasn't it been done before?

"It would take a big investment and a lot of courage," says Wein, who estimates that the event could lose $1 million in its first year. "But if it worked it would pay off for years to come. . . . Something that would draw thousands of people, the same kind of crowd that goes to Disneyland."

The F Music Fest, scheduled Oct. 3-5 in West Hollywood, won't be so Disney-esque. This will be a gathering of an estimated 6,000 music business representatives, drawn by this newly remodeled version of the Concrete Marketing firm's annual convention. Among notable performances at previous events was one of just a handful of appearances ever by Temple of the Dog, the group combining members of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam including Eddie Vedder.

But it's been mainly a closed affair, primarily held in one headquarter hotel and focusing on hard rock. Concrete President Bob Chiappardi feels that changes in music and the increased interest in the convention necessitated expansion. So he contacted the L.A. concert promotion firm Goldenvoice and community officials in Hollywood and West Hollywood.

"This will bring the music industry back into West Hollywood, to our clubs and the music history," says West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce President Diana Graham, who was instrumental in making the arrangements.

Says Chiappardi, "We're laying the foundation for it to become like South by Southwest, which practically takes over Austin. Next year we hope to use new convention space being built at the Pacific Design Center and be even bigger."

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