Bronco hole

Dallas' last great concert hall suffers growing pains

"But he [Danny] feels he needs 100 events in the room a year,"Kernahan says. "And that means boxing matches, plays, speeches, whatever that might be. He wants someone in there to book more events."

To that end, Clarke and Griffice held one Friday-night fight that worked well for a first-time boxing event at the Bronco Bowl--Griffice estimates paid attendance was around 1,300--and two more were scheduled. But the two women didn't get the chance to hold more events: Two weeks ago, they were replaced--amicably, they insist.

Christian says he was brought in to help shift the bookings at the Bronco Bowl's arena and to broaden the scope of acts. "We need to keep the room lit more than it was," he explains, "so it opens up to Friday-night fights, urban shows, Tejano music, or whatever. There have been a lot of folks knocking at the door trying to bring shows. We're wanting to have something different for everybody."

Griffice and Clarke are fairly quiet about their departures. Both insist they left on relatively good terms with Danny Gibbs, and they say they left simply because they could not provide Danny with the kind of booking policy he envisioned for the arena.

"We were working toward booking comedians and doing the whole spectrum of music--country stuff like Wynonna," Clarke says. "We were working toward that but couldn't do it fast enough. It takes so much time to build a room, and I'm not sure they were prepared to take that time.

"Everybody went in there as a family kind of thing. It was incredible at the beginning. We were there from the beginning, from the [construction] trailers to Bruce Springsteen and Tripping Daisy, and it was great when it was going on. When things started to happen so the outlook didn't look so good, I had no idea what was going to happen. When I left there it was very friendly faces. What they wanted I wasn't capable of doing. Danny wanted to do something different. They needed someone who could take control of the room."

Ironically, Christian says no major changes are immediately in store for the arena: "We're just opening Pace's thought process and ours on different types of acts so they might start chasing stuff for us," Christian says. "We've got things on the books that are private functions like gospel concerts and stuff like that. But I don't know if you're going to see a real visible change. We'll be progressive, especially with Pace, and you'll see more shows come to the Bronco Bowl."

The only question now is: When?
Ashford says he and Christian have booked several "big name shows, not washed-up bands" in upcoming weeks--including Rickie Lee Jones on July 19, although her record label, Reprise, says the date is still unconfirmed. Ashford also says comedian Steven Wright and jazz-pop star George Benson have been placed on the schedule, as well as a so-called "Classic Rock All-Star" concert on June 16 that will feature Foghat, Iron Butterfly, Black Oak Arkansas, Pat Travers, and Mountain's Leslie West(and who needs Lollapalooza, anyway?).

"And these fights have been selling unbelievably," Ashford gushes. "Don King's son is coming in to do pay-per-view stuff out of here." King's office couldn't be reached for confirmation.

Kernahan says Pace is holding dates in August for Elvis Costello, Tracy Chapman, and--believe it--the Sex Pistols at the Bronco Bowl, though he does have backup venues on standby...just in case. Since 462 is so closely connected to the Bomb Factory, and the Louisiana-based Beaver Productions handles the relatively few shows that come into the Dallas Music Complex, it will be up to Pace to fill the Bronco Bowl. And it will be up to Danny and Tony Gibbs--and now Sean Ashford and Roger Christian--to make sure the place stays open long enough to fulfill that goal.

"In the last five months," Kernahan says, "the room has become recognized around the country. It's a room bands want to play, so our theory was we could get 85 to 90 percent of the shows that play mid-sized rooms...In my mind, the room is going to be there forever, like the Fox Theater in Detroit. That place has also been through a couple of owners, and it's successful."

End of an era
It's appropriate--for me, at least--that my last "Street Beat" should contain the news that Funland has called it quits. Such news doesn't necessarily come as a shock--when a band takes a month off to "regroup" when it should be out there promoting a relatively new record, you know something's up--but it does come as something of a surprise; it's hard to imagine Peter Schmidt, Clark Vogeler, and Will Johnson playing with anyone else. Now, they won't play with anyone, period.

Schmidt has gone to work designing Internet websites, and it's likely Vogeler will join him when an opening becomes available; Johnson will now finish his schooling at the University of North Texas unencumbered by his frustration at not being able to tour. He will also continue writing and recording as his one-man Centromatic Band, which made its (his?) debut on the Observer's new Scene Heard Volume Two compilation and is releasing an EP this month on a friend's tiny Fort Worth label. As Johnson told the Observer several months ago, he just got tired of sitting behind the drum kit when he really wanted to stand behind the microphone.

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