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May 13 - May 21, 2014

Dyster Attempt to Revive Hard Rock Concerts Shot Down by City Council

By Mike Hudson

May 13, 2014

While Hard Rock makes the profits, and the people of Niagara Falls pay the cost of the con- certs, a well-lit Mayor Paul Dyster introduces the publically funded, has-been acts. The has-been KC and his salacious Sunshine Band were one of the $40,000 concerts booked by the always frugal Mayor Dyster for the Hard Rock's $700,000 plus taxpayer funded concert series. KC (above) promised to deliver a full load of fun at taxpayer's expense.

He tried, but he couldn't do it.

 Even with a "new look" City Council majority allegedly in his pocket, Mayor Paul Dyster failed in his bid to revive the Hard Rock Café concert series, which set the taxpayers of Niagara Falls back more than $700,000 during their run and were perhaps the most stunningly unsuccessful concerts to be held anywhere in the known universe outside of rock and roll comedies such as "This Is Spinal Tap."

 Freshman Councilman Andy Touma, cousin of Dyster's campaign manager Craig Touma, surprisingly sided with Glenn Choolokian and against Dyster zombies Charles Walker and Kristin Grandinetti on the vote. Councilman Bob Anderson abstained on voting, resulting in its failure to pass.

Last year, the old-look City Council killed the concert series, calling it a waste of taxpayer money and a detriment to downtown business people outside of the Hard Rock Café itself.  Dyster was chagrined, to say the least, because in his role as concert MC he got to hang around with the sort of cool kids who beat him up in high school.

The lure, of course, was cash. Washed up rock acts that would actually have to pay to play venues such as the Whiskey A Go Go in Hollywood walked away from Niagara Falls with tens of thousands of dollars in the pockets of their smelly road jeans.

A case in point: Sugar Ray, who appeared at what Dyster called the best attended show of the 2010 Hard Rock concert season. The Hard Rock received $40,000 to stage the event, and received all of the revenue from the sale of alcohol, soft drinks, chips, hot dogs and those awful hamburgers they make.

 How much of the $40,000 actually went to the band is anyone's guess, but industry sources in Hollywood told the Niagara Falls Reporter that a $10,000 gig would represent big money to the band, which hasn't had anything resembling a hit single since 1997.

Several Reporter correspondents attending the show counted heads and estimated that around 500 people watched the show. This would be in line with the size of the venues Sugar Ray was headlining at the time.

Dyster, in pronouncing the show a smashing success, said 5,000 people attended. But perhaps the mayor was just suffering from blurry vision. As Sugar Ray lead singer Mark McGrath announced from the stage:

"Hey, it's great to be in Niagara Falls. Where else can you go where the mayor of the city comes backstage and does shots with you?"

Or perhaps the mayor was counting people who just happened to pass by the stage on their way to or from the main entrance to the State Park, where the nightly light show attracts big crowds throughout the tourist season. The stage is conveniently located just 300 yards from the park entrance.

From an artistic standpoint, Dyster's tin ear may be one of the biggest problems with the Hard Rock series. Nearby communities such as Lockport and the Tonawandas sign contracts with promoters who pay for the concerts with their own money, spending about as much as Niagara Falls does with taxpayer funding, and manage to snag name acts like Joan Jett and Eddie Money.

 But from a fiscal perspective, there isn't a single thing right about the relationship between the Hard Rock and the Dyster administration.

 To begin with, Florida's Seminole Tribe of Indians owns the multi-nation Hard Rock chain, which includes 124 Hard Rock Cafés, four Hard Rock hotels, two Hard Rock Hotel and Casino operations and two "Hard Rock Live!" concert venues in the United States, England, China, Canada, Panama and the Dominican Republic.

Can you guess which host municipality in all of those places is the only one to underwrite concerts put on by the Hard Rock? If you guessed Niagara Falls, New York, you'd be exactly right!

The legendary journalist Hunter S. Thompson got it right about rock and roll. Dyster must've missed the whole gonzo journalism thing while he was playing with toy trains during his advanced teen years.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs," Thompson wrote. "There's also a negative side."

Last night's agenda item called for spending another $40,000 to stage a Hard Rock concert in August that would have featured an unnamed but sure to be an overpriced act.





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