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Amp-to-arena switch works for Steely Dan

This week, JAC Management proved it could do something that CEO Eric Ryan hopes he never has to repeat.

The stage was set up and ready to go at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday for the Steely Dan concert that night at the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre when the decision was made to move the show to the Covelli Centre.

“Our shows are rain or shine, but the forecast looked so miserably bad,” Ryan said. “We didn’t want patrons to sit outside in the rain knowing we had another option.”

Normally, set up still would have been under way, but Tuesday was the first date on this leg of Steely Dan’s tour, so the crew loaded in on Monday for a tech rehearsal that night.

When the decision was made, there were only about five JAC employees and three stagehands on site, and the Covelli Centre floor was empty — no stage and no seating.

“We took the employees we had, called in a bunch more, called in stagehands and riggers and started at 1:30 tearing down that stage,” Ryan said.

The amphitheater may be adjacent to the arena, but when dealing with fragile and expensive lighting and electrical equipment, everything had to be packed up as if it was being transported 500 miles to the next gig, not 500 yards.

Getting the arena ready involved more than setting up the stage.

“In the heat of the moment, we forgot we were doing preventive maintenance on the cooling system since we didn’t have any events scheduled this week,” Ryan said. “We literally had to put some pieces back together to get the AC up and running. We were able to do that by 4 o’clock, and it was really comfortable in there.”

Everything was loaded in, and the band was able to do its soundcheck around 6:30 p.m. The show started about 15 minutes later than its scheduled 8 p.m. start.

“We did a complete tear-down and a complete setup in about five hours,” Ryan said.

They were able to mimic about 95 percent of the amphitheater’s reserved seating on the floor at the Covelli Centre, which made the transition go fairly smoothly, Ryan said, and most of the permanent seating was general admission for those who had purchased lawn tickets.

“Overwhelmingly, the patrons were ecstatic,” he said. “It rained less than expected, but it would not have been a pleasant night outside.”

They also had a good number of customers who bought tickets at the door after the move was announced. Ryan said no one was buying tickets with the forecast when it was outdoors.

Several factors Tuesday were in JAC’s favor. The Covelli Centre was available, and the arena was able to accommodate the lighting system and other needs of the show. That won’t always be the case, Ryan said. While it worked Tuesday, concertgoers shouldn’t expect a similar move any time a sprinkle is in the forecast. To quote a Steely Dan song, Ryan would prefer not to “Do It Again.”

“It’s not something I’m looking forward to doing again,” he said. “There were no dates coming that we could have rescheduled the show, and there were a lot of moving part that all had to work. But it’s pretty unique to have that option. We learned some things (Tuesday), but I’m proud of the plan we had and the plan we executed.”

Andy Gray is the entertainment writer for the Tribune Chronicle. Write to him at agray@ tribtoday.com

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