Music mogul Irving Azoff envisions an epic return to live entertainment after the coronavirus pandemic canceled festivals and left concert venues empty last year.
“I think it’s going to be the twenties,” Azoff said, referring to the lively period known for a good time following the devastation and suffering of World War I and the Spanish flu pandemic. “I think there will be a lot of catching up to do and excitement. I think people, especially when they couldn’t travel, go on vacation, what a wonderful way to get away for even one night. “
Azoff, named the most powerful man in the music industry by Billboard Magazine in 2012, hesitated to speculate about when the US could see a return to live music.
But when it does, he’s got his eyes set on an area he knows well – the California desert, he told The Desert Sun in an exclusive interview.
The desert is of course already known worldwide as a live music Mecca Coachella and Stagecoach festivals That draws hundreds of thousands annually with headliners from Beyoncé to Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and more.
Azoff is currently in the process of expanding the area’s live music offering with a privately funded $ 250 million arena located 15.6 miles from downtown Palm Springs that will host at least 40 major concerts a year.
He expects the Eagles, the legendary group he has led for decades, to be among the first acts.
Azoff, who has built relationships in the music industry for decades as CEO of Ticketmaster and Front Line Management and Executive Chairman of Live Nation, owns a house in the neighborhood across from the Empire Polo Club, the location of Coachella and Stagecoach. The festivals are organized by the organizer Goldenvoice, a subsidiary of AEG Live. It is also Azoff’s main competitor for artists.
Azoff said he welcomes Paul Tollett, CEO of Goldenvoice, and every other major promoter to bring their artists to the arena.
“They play all of our other buildings, there’s no reason they don’t come to the Coachella Valley Arena,” Azoff said, referring to the dozen of arenas his Oak View Group manages across the country.
The builders will break new ground in the Southern California arena in early May and are expected to complete the project in 18 months, presumably not long after the live music returns.
The arena is being built for an AHL ice hockey team affiliated with the NHL’s Seattle Kraken. Other sporting events, including NBA and NHL preseason games, college basketball tournaments, UFC and boxing, are also tracked.
73-year-old Azoff and his business partner Tim Leiweke, who together founded the Oak View Group, believe the 11,679-seat concert arena will provide the Coachella Valley with a great venue for live music, rather than just three weekends a year for the enormous festivals.
“There’s going to be a lot of demand,” said Azoff, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020. “The valley developed this thirst for music and art from both its inhabitants and the people who visit it.” We’ll give artists this opportunity to come and play. I think we’re just big enough to be competitive with any of the other major arenas in the country and I think we’re going to see a lot of music. “
Azoff said the arena will provide a space for artists to rehearse and test equipment before touring the west coast and across the country. He also sees it as a place artists want to come to, maybe even several times a year, because of the year-round sunshine and the resort lifestyle.
Artist residency accommodations are planned in the arena, with full kitchens and space for their personal chefs and other members of their touring team for more than just a day or two.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, Azoff said artists are currently in no rush to book venues 18 months in advance. Eric Gardner, OVG’s booking director, said it could be later this year or early next year before it is announced which artists will be booked in the first month after the arena opens in the fourth quarter of 2022.
Azoff said he’s not looking for a big opening night. Instead, he wants a big opening month with major artists from almost every genre and mixed with hockey games. He envisions the Eagles playing together for three consecutive nights for the first month since 1971.
“We want to get everything,” he said.
The arena is still more than a year away from completion, but the timing, Azoff says, is perfect. In the early 1920s, President Warren G. Harding’s motto was “return to normal” after the war and pandemic.
Azoff sees live music as an opportunity to usher in a return to normal a hundred years later, and the arena in the California desert plays a big part in that.
“The good news for us with construction down there,” said Azoff, “is that when we open, I can’t seem to imagine that business won’t be back in full swing.”
Andrew John is a reporter for The Desert Sun and the USA TODAY Network. Find him on Twitter: @Andrew_L_John. Email to [email protected]