February 9, 2011 |

Speakers Praise Mandell, But Still No Vote

Culver City loves its summer concert series and its citizens appreciate the work done by longtime producer Gary Mandell. But despite a show of support by speakers in public comment at the Redevelopment Agency’s Monday night meeting, the Agency did not make an absolute commitment to having him back as producer for the 2011 concert series.

The Agency’s options for producing the festival included suggestions from the events subcommittee of the Cultural Affairs Commission: shortening the existing festival to four weeks; developing a separate summer music program that would last about three weeks; exploring new partnerships; attracting a younger demographic; capitalizing on new and changing music trends; continuing to attract a high level of musicianship; and garnering the support of the downtown business community.

The Agency was also asked to provide direction as to whether Mandell would be the sole producer of the series, would share the programming with another producer, or whether other options would be considered.

At a meeting last October, the Agency scuttled the idea of moving the concert series from Thursday evenings to Sunday afternoons, although several Cultural Affairs members who spoke at the February 7 meeting urged them to reconsider.

Agency member Scott Malsin had also floated the idea that Culver City partner with radio station KCRW, which often sponsors music events in the Los Angeles area. City staff met with KCRW in November 2010 to discuss this possibility.

On Monday, KCRW sent the City a message stating that they cannot commit to an eight-week festival at this time but if they were able to get full approval from the station staff, they might be able to sponsor two concerts of world music. However, they said they could not do it on Thursday nights.

During public comment, three members of the Cultural Affairs Commission again stated their hope that the Agency would support their recommendations.

Marlyn Musicant emphasized the need for a “dual program” in which Mandell would program some of the concerts but the remainder would be produced by another partner, providing more “diversity.” Ronnie Jayne said she was disappointed that the Agency had nixed the idea of moving the series to Sundays, although she still supported having one eight-week series produced by Mandell. Marla Koosed admitted that she did not care for much of Mandel’s programming even though she belongs to the “middle” demographic that the music he books is supposed to appeal to.

But the other speakers overwhelmingly endorsed keeping things as they are and keeping Mandell as sole producer.

Hal Hunt said that he had traveled from El Segundo last summer to attend the Music Festival and enjoyed it each time. He also admitted that he had gone to local restaurants and he had noticed many concertgoers who had brought take-out food from the local eateries, thereby giving support to the downtown businesses.

A woman displayed photos she had taken of some of the concerts, in which it was visible that there were people of all ages. Another woman mentioned the “family” appeal of the music programming. And even former Council/Redevelopment member and Mayor Gary Silbiger advocated for Mandell. “It’s a chance to continue doing what we do best.”

Mandell, who runs Culver City’s Boulevard Music on Sepulveda Boulevard, spoke briefly to clarify a few “misunderstandings.” He said that he had never committed to the task of finding sponsors himself but had suggested that Susan Obrow of Community Development could oversee the project of obtaining sponsors. He also said that he had considered requests from four acts that had been suggested as examples of “diverse” programming and had decided against booking them because two acts were too “hard-rock” for the Festival and two others did not have enough “name recognition.”

In the discussion that followed, the five Agency members expressed what sounded like approval of Mandell’s work. But they did not reach a decision on whether Mandell would be the sole producer of the concerts or how many concerts he would produce. The demands of KCRW did not strike them as feasible but Scott Malsin had another suggestion for a partnership: the Jazz Bakery.

If they were to partner in programming, not the entire festival but a couple of concerts at least, they would bring “high-caliber” music and a “good synergy.” This found favor with most members, although Jeff Cooper said he was concerned that the Jazz Bakery might not program with enough diversity.

The Agency directed staff to report back in two weeks on the possibilities of partnering with Jazz Bakery.

Mandell later spoke with the Observer and expressed his disappointment with the Agency for stalling on the decision. He noted that

it is already February, a bit late for beginning to plan a concert series that is to begin on July 7. He also felt that he had not been given enough time to speak and that the format of the meeting did not give him a chance to respond to comments made by Agency members.

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