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Another Planet Entertainment Marks 15 Years of Business in the San Francisco Bay

An oral history of the independent concert promoter behind this weekend's Outside Lands.

Another planet Entertainment, the 15-year-old independent concert promotion company whose music bonafides include oversight of five venues and three festivals, is the musical heart of the Bay Area. You’ll find APE on Divisadero Street in San Francisco, where the intimate club the Independent welcomes the day’s promising acts; on the campus of UC Berkeley, where the outdoor splendor of the Greek Theatre entices such performers as Bob Dylan and Radiohead; on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, where the gorgeous Fox Theater anchors the city’s downtown; and at Golden Gate Park, where on Aug. 10, APE will open the gates to a city erected within the greenery as the 2018 Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival kicks off with the Weeknd, Florence + the Machine and Janet Jackson headlining.

Indeed, since its founding in 2003, APE has changed the landscape of live music in San Francisco and its neighboring hubs, while staying faithful to the area’s musical roots and following in the footsteps of industry icon Bill Graham. Among its milestone events: the first concert at Golden Gate Park after dark; returning Beatle Paul McCartney to Candlestick Park for a final show before the venue was demolished; and working with numerous Bay Area orgs for a star-studded concert for local fire relief last fall.

As the company celebrates its 15th birthday, Variety asked a few of Another Planet’s core players to look back at its birth and reflect on its growth to become the top independent concert promoter in the United States.

Gregg W. Perloff, CEO: For many years, Sherry [Wasserman, senior VP and head of concert production] and I ran a regional promoting company, Bill Graham Presents. People thought we were pretty big, but then all these promoters merged together into SFX and then Clear Channel and now Live Nation, and things took on a different tone. I’d signed a contract, and when my five years were up, I saw that it was important to go in another direction. So in 2003, we started Another Planet with five people.

Danielle Madeira, vice president of special events: When Gregg and Sherry left Bill Graham Presents, it was a big deal. I was working for a corporate radio station that was similar to Clear Channel, and I just had this sense that if I stayed, I was going to be controlled by a corporate structure. My growth would be somewhat limited. I was pretty young at the time, and restless, so what did I do? I went to Gregg, whom I’d met several times, and begged for a job. We went to lunch, and he just laid it out. He told me, “Listen. You have a job right now. We might not have any shows in four months and be out of business.” There was nothing more that I wanted to do. I took a pe, not knowing exactly what water I was jumping into.

Allen Scott, executive vice president: When Another Planet started in July 2003, I had a company called Mystery Machine Productions. We were doing about 100 shows a year at different venues throughout town. In August, Gregg approached me and asked if we wanted to work together. It was funny — I was so independent at that time that it took me a bit to decide to do it. I wasn’t sure if it was independent enough. What I quickly learned is how independent Gregg and Sherry actually are, and what a perfect fit it was. We made it official in November. I came aboard and we merged the two companies.

Another Planet made an auspicious debut with its first concert, bringing Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to San Francisco’s Pac Bell Park (now AT&T Park). In 2004, the company established two of its cornerstone venues by opening the 500-capacity Independent and landing the exclusive contract for Berkeley’s Greek Theatre.

Perloff: Opening the Independent was part of our game plan of being able to work with bands that want to work with us and starting with them from the beginning.

Scott: That’s always been really important for us. We love taking bands that have played the Independent and putting them on a bigger stage to help them grow in the market. That’s good for everyone: good for the artist, good for the venues, the city, and the promoter. It’s been really fun to see some of these bands start at the Independent and then later headline Oracle Arena, or maybe someday, Outside Lands.

In 2007, Another Planet entered the festival marketplace by announcing a two-day event set to take place on Treasure Island; top-billed bands included Modest Mouse and Spoon. At the same time, the company was setting the stage for the inaugural edition of Outside Lands, which today is recognized as one of the country’s premiere multi-genre music festivals with a culinary component as well. The 2018 edition features such acts as Beck, Father John Misty and Janelle Monae as well as the inaugural curated cannabis experience Grass Lands. Some 7,500 people work the festival.

Scott: Treasure Island was big for us. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass [a free festival in Golden Gate Park created by philanthropist Warren Hellman] was already there, but there wasn’t a more contemporary indie festival in the market. We, along with [local promoter] Noise Pop, found this underutilized, beautiful space in San Francisco where nobody had ever really done anything before — primarily because of the logistics of getting people on and off of the island. As we were booking it, we landed on this idea of making one day have a dance, electronic and hip-hop vibe, and the other day focused on more straight-ahead indie rock. At the same time, we were already working on Outside Lands. It took two or three years to go through the park and the city on Outside Lands. We presented the idea, and they said, “No, we can’t go into the dark. No, no, no.” We just kept being persistent, until finally they said, “I think we can maybe make this work.”

Madeira: We create a village in Golden Gate Park. We are able, with our partners Superfly and Starr Hill Presents, to do that.

In 2009, following an $86 million renovation, Another Planet opened the Fox, originally a movie palace that opened in 1928, in downtown Oakland. It quickly became the company’s flagship venue, and is regarded by many artists as one of the best theaters in the country to perform in. And it’s no wonder considering the care put into such details as placing aisle ways on the side so as not to split the crowd and sizing dressing rooms doors so musicians’ road cases can fit inside. Since opening its doors, The Fox has also laid claim to being the most successful theater in the Bay Area.

Perloff: We took a real risk. I think “gamble” is the right word because nobody else was interested in this building. It had been closed for literally 42 years — sitting vacant with cobwebs.

Scott: The Fox has, in many ways, become a centerpiece of an ongoing rejuvenation in Oakland. It was a diamond in the rough. That it sat empty for as long as it did and wasn’t torn down or didn’t burn down …

Madeira: I was giving a lot of hard-hat press tours. We put a lot of effort into making it look exactly as it stood in the 1920s, down to the light fixtures. It was such a beautiful creation on its own, and then to know it’s considered a jewel of Bay Area music is just amazing.

Scott: We actually looked at restoring the Masonic [a San Francisco venue later rehabbed by Live Nation], but the opportunity with the Fox was a no-brainer. To take a building — not down to the studs, but to ground level — and be able to build a venue just as you want it. We would stand on boxes on the floor of the Fox setting up the different heights to make sure you could see over each one.

Perloff: It really changed the culture of the Bay Area. What a lot of people don’t understand is that there are 8.5 million people in the region, but only 800,000 live in San Francisco. This is a very unusual market. Most people, if you look at a demographic map, live in the East Bay. So suddenly you could go to a show that’s right across the street from BART and from bus lines, and four blocks off the freeway. Suddenly we were doing unheard of business. We did 92% of capacity for the entire year. A lot of touring people say to us, “I’m not sure if this is the nicest theater in the country or the nicest theater in the world.”

Since 2010, Another Planet has expanded to include an artist management branch, a comedy pision, and a department focused on private events. From Paul McCartney’s iconic farewell to Candlestick Park and a Democratic National Convention fundraiser headlined by President Obama to Pixar premiere parties and a star-studded benefit concert to aid victims of the 2017 North Bay Fires, it’s clear that Another Planet is more entrenched than ever in the region’s live entertainment offerings. And it’s looking east as well, running concerts in Nevada at the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s, and booking the budding Life Is Beautiful music festival in downtown Las Vegas.

Scott: We always say that we’re nationally renowned, but locally owned.

Perloff: I know most companies are built with the intention of either selling or conquering the world. We were never built that way. We were built to do a good job, make some money, and give something back to the community. We’ve raised millions of dollars in charitable work over the last 15 years. We started a music therapy program at UCSF Children’s Hospital Oakland. The Fox Theater was renovated to include the Oakland School for the Arts in a wraparound building

Scott: We don’t have a one- , five- or 10-year plan. We’re just kind of winging it. I don’t do spreadsheets to show what the year is going to look like. We just get out there, roll up our sleeves, and do it.

Perloff: If you really wanted to identify what’s different about this company, it’s that there isn’t an endgame. There’s a now game.

Scott: We wonder if we’re smart or stupid.

THE APE SPHERE OF INFLUENCE 

Greek Theatre
Location: Berkeley
Type of Venue: Outdoor Amphitheater
Capacity: 8,500
Notable Acts: Bob Dylan, Radiohead, Tom Petty, Paul Simon, R.E.M., White Stripes, Daft Punk
Upcoming Performances: Death Cab for Cutie, Arcade Fire, Phoenix, Leon Bridges
WORDS TO GROOVE BY: “One of the truly great, inspirational buildings in the country.” — Gregg Perloff

The Independent
Location: San Francisco
Type of Venue: Club
Capacity: 500
Notable Acts: Sonic Youth, Bon Iver, Green Day, Beck, Liz Phair, Dave Chappelle, Arctic Monkeys
Upcoming Performances: Carly Rae Jepsen, STRFKR, Blitzen Trapper, Café Tacuba
WORDS TO GROOVE BY: “It’s really important to have a 500-capacity club, because that’s how you really discover what’s on the forefront.” — Danielle Madeira

Fox Theater
Location: Oakland (pictured)
Type of Venue: Mid-Sized Theater
Capacity: 2,800
Notable Acts: Buffalo Springfield, the Black Keys, Animal Collective, Florence + the Machine, Atoms for Peace, Prince
Upcoming Performances: Beach House, David Byrne, Joan Baez, Tenacious D
WORDS TO GROOVE BY: “A lot of people [comment] to us, ‘I’m not sure if this is the nicest theater in the country or the nicest theater in the world.’”

Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
Location: San Francisco
Type of Venue: Multi-Purpose Auditorium
Capacity: 8,500
Notable Acts: Tool, My Morning Jacket, Bruno Mars, Phish, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Skrillex
Upcoming Performances: Jack White, Bassnectar, Arctic Monkeys, Nine Inch Nails
WORDS TO GROOVE BY: “When we went and got the exclusive on the Bill Graham Civic, we changed many things about it — from the dressing rooms to the acoustics to the ceilings — and really made into a wonderful 8,500-seater.” — Gregg Perloff

Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s
Location: Nevada
Type of Venue: Open-Air
Capacity: 8,500
Notable Acts: Stevie Wonder, Sting, Elton John, Lady Gaga, Carrie Underwood
Upcoming Performances: Florence + the Machine, Janet Jackson, Peter Frampton, Dave Matthews Band
WORDS TO GROOVE BY: “There’s this unbelievable golf course that wraps around the amphitheater, and you have Lake Tahoe, which is the eighth wonder of the world. People love it. It has perfect acoustics, and it’s turned out to be very good for us.” — Gregg Perloff

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