The Master of Arts
SAN ANGELO, TX — San Angelo has enjoyed seven big-name concerts in as many months and likely that many for the rest of the year. For a town with many venues and not enough A-list entertainment, the turnaround in the number of concerts is difficult to ignore. ZZ Top, after all, is performing in San Angelo May 22.
Behind the recent success is the City of San Angelo Civic Events Director Sid Walker. How he became the catalyst for ushering in this wave of big city entertainment into San Angelo’s barren entertainment world is passion, persistence, and much luck. Former University of Texas Coach Darrel Royal used to quote Roman Philosopher Seneca the Younger, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
For Walker, luck and opportunity didn’t meet until 2016, a little over a year after taking the helm of the City’s Civic Events office.
Walker sees the Beach Boys concert last year as the turning point in San Angelo's entertainment scene. Abilene concert promoter Joshua Haynes took a huge risk in booking the coliseum and paying for the legendary act. The show had to start off strong with tickets sold in advance.
A few well-placed media buys and a concerted public relations effort by the City’s Public Information Office netted a surge of advance ticket sales. The event almost sold out, with about 4,500 tickets sold.
“Advance ticket sales telegraph to the promoter how good our market is. And for too long, no one in San Angelo purchased tickets in advance,” Walker said. How did that change?
Walker said it was shifting the marketing strategy from using traditional radio to sponsored content in digital media, and digital ads. “Buy now” buttons online are more convenient than finding the nearest ticket outlet. For Walker, he had to figure out how to get that “buy now” link in front of as many San Angelo residents he could.
Above: The Beach Boys entertain San Angelo on August 24, 2016. (LIVE! Photo/Holiday Bailey)
Before the Beach Boys, Roadhouse Tickets and its promoter Jayson Adams, broke ground in June 2016 with a concert at the Bill Aylor RiverStage headlining Texas Country Music newcomer Cody Johnson. Jayson was Josh Abbott’s fraternity brother at Texas Tech and got his start with the popular JAB Fest (for Josh Abbott Band) in Lubbock. Adams created an easy-to-use online ticket sales website. The summertime show attracted a very large audience, about 2500 concert-goers. Remarkably, the Cody Johnson RiverStage show broke the mold and discredited the old cliché that you can’t have a successful concert when Angelo State University’s fall or spring semester was not in session.
Walker said the number of advance ticket sales for Cody Johnson’s summer show gave him confidence to urge Haynes to bring in the Beach Boys. He had been cultivating relationships with potential concert promoters for over a year.
Word spread around the various concert promoters that San Angelo was an emerging market. The Temptations, another Haynes production, who performed in San Angelo last Thursday, underwent several stage configurations to allow for more ticket sales at the coliseum. That show had about 2,500 paid. The ZZ Top concert scheduled for May 22 is almost sold out and will likely fill the 5,000-seat coliseum.
At Saturday’s Randy Rogers Band concert at the RiverStage, Walker joked that this would be his 13th annual (or so) “Sid’s Birthday Bash.” Big Sid's annual "Birthday Bash" became a tradition in San Angelo, where Walker would introduce the next up-and-coming hip-hop line-up to the city as a concert promoter before his current stint with the City. Walker, who came to San Angelo as an enlisted medical records clerk for the U.S. Air Force, said his own dive into concert promotion started when he was in the service. “I’d get together with a bunch of friends, and we’d put on these shows,” Walker said.
His passion is in the hip-hop genre, but he also considers himself in the music entertainment business and is as well-versed on the up-and-coming country and rock music acts as he is on hip-hop.
Above: Randy Rogers Band in San Angelo May 6. (L:IVE! Photo/Joe Hyde)
How Walker, an African-American hip-hop concert promoter, became the manager of the City of San Angelo Civic Events is an interesting one. Walker said the City job was the first job interview he ever had. “I never really had a resume, either,” Walker said. He had to write one. Never having interviewed for a job or written a resume is typical of Air Force vets who leave the service to become entrepreneurs.
City Parks Director Carl White hired Walker. White, a veteran of the U.S. Army, said it wasn’t a tough decision to take a chance on Walker. Vets help other vets, and in Walker, White saw the passion for turning the civic events department up a couple of notches. He didn’t know it was Walker’s first job interview, either. “Really?” White said when I asked him if he knew.
Below: The Temptations in San Angelo:
Saturday night’s Randy Rogers Band event was almost perfect. The weather was cool, the show flawless. About 2,500 people were there, most of them purchased their tickets in advance. “If people have a good time, they’ll come back again and again,” Walker said. It’s a building process.
Walker’s next goal is to attract frontline acts to San Angelo, like Beyoncé or Taylor Swift. He’ll have help with one more venue for shows. The 1,200-seat City Hall auditorium opens in the fall. The loading docks there make it easy for big acts to unload and load the stage equipment.
Walker said there are at least seven more big events coming in the next six or seven months that will be announced soon. “Live entertainment is getting hot in this market,” Walker said. “It’s time to build on that momentum.”