Concert promoter Alex Gray and his company, Waterfront Concerts, brought Bob Dylan, Ray LaMontagne and Melissa Etheridge to the big-venue Bangor Waterfront. And at the Lewiston Colisee, he’s run the gamut from country stars Rodney Atkins and Dierks Bentley to metal’s Five Finger Death Punch.
The Sun Journal wanted to know a little more about the man who brings the music to town.
Name: Alexander “Alex” Gray
Hometown: Old Town, Maine
Single, Relationship or Married? Free agent 🙂 (Single)
Children? None. Currently practicing with my two nieces in Georgia.
How did you become a concert promoter? Pretty much by mistake. I deejayed a school dance to raise money for my fifth-grade trip, which led to a deejay business, which led to a small production company, which led to a larger production company, which led to a club, which led to more clubs and eventually a live music club. I didn’t love the booker that I had at the time, so figured I could do a better job, and met my mentor, Bob Duteau. He began to show me the ropes, so to speak, and the rest is history.
What makes a good concert? Shows these days are designed to be great. Most of the gear travels with the acts, so the product is very uniform from city to city. What makes a great concert to me has very little to do with the show itself. It’s the ticketing experience, it’s the access to the venue, parking, security, ushers, ticket takers, venue and bathrooms. They are the people and facilities that truly make the show a success. Very rarely do behind-the-scenes people get any credit.
What was the first concert you saw as an audience member? Willie Nelson in Arizona with my grandfather. I was 10. It’s basically his fault that I do what I do. He was an amazing entrepreneur and pushed me to do what I love, and I truly love what I do. So (I) guess his message got across.
What was the first show you promoted? I have been doing local shows since I was in my teens. First major show was on the club level and it was Non Point. They had just come off the main stage at Ozzfest.
Is there a favorite artist you have worked with? Not really. When you get to the level where Waterfront Concerts is now, most if not all the acts and their staffs are pros and it’s truly a pleasure to deal with them on a long show day.
What’s the most unusual request you’ve had by an artist? Our catering manager gets some pretty crazy dietary requests, but every once in a while an artist will have a crazy request in the (contract) rider like: “The backstage must be clear of all staff when the artist makes his/her way to the stage. If you or your staff does come in contact or needs to come in contact with the artist as part of the show’s production, do not under any circumstances look at the artist.” Working with your eyes closed or looking away isn’t as easy as it seems.
As an industry, concerts have had a rough couple of years. What keeps you financially successful? I am a Mainer and I strive to keep ticket prices and service fees as low as possible. I know people struggle to heat their homes and put food on the table, especially this time of year. I will pass on a show if the prices are too high. As well, my staff and I work customer service personally. People, if they have issues, want to speak to a human. We are sure to try our best to work through any customer’s issues on a personal level. Most times, but not always, we can fix issues if we are made aware of them.
How does the Lewiston Colisee stack up as a venue for your work? It’s a great mid-sized venue with a ton of history. Most shows that play Maine in the winter months are very suited to play the Colisee instead of other venues due to its size and staff. The Cain family (which owns and operates the Colisee) is great to work with. They make show day, our whole experience, as well as the fans’ experience better.
Who is the ideal act for Lewiston-Auburn? Mainers are so willing to travel, since we have to go so far for our daily needs, so there really isn’t a perfect act. It’s all about getting the word out, then fans always seem to find their way to any of our venues.
Who would you most like to work with that you haven’t yet? Prior to this, I did production, so there are very few acts that I have not worked with. I would love to see a 25-truck show like (Lady) Gaga or Dave Matthews come to Maine. With the big outside venue in Bangor this is very much a possibility, and the more the fans support the scene the sooner this will be a reality.