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Hip-hop concert at Allentown's PPL Center was troubled from the start – Allentown Morning Call

The hip-hop concert Saturday at Allentown’s PPL Center that caused a controversy when headliner Fabolous was cut off after performing just 15 minutes, then saw eight people were arrested for fighting outside the arena, seemed troubled since it was announced a month and a half ago.

Marc Hunt of LSP Enterprises, the outside promoter that produced the Spring Break Takeover show, said Monday it was the promoter who cut the show short. He said the concert was approaching an 11:30 p.m. deadline after which LSP would have had to pay a higher fee for renting PPL Center.

In a short telephone interview, Hunt would not say who set that deadline, and declined comment on further detail about the show before abruptly hanging up.

But the truth is, Spring Break Takeover had problems since it was announced Jan. 16, and it continued right through the night of the concert.

Here are five ways Spring Break Takeover stumbled:

1. Announcing a concert by … whom?

When LSP announced the concert, it said it would be “the biggest hip-hop concert the Lehigh Valley has ever seen,” but, strangely, revealed none of its lineup. Two days later, it said PnB Rock would be on the show, but gave no indication whether he was an opening or headliner. A week later, tickets went on sale with most priced at $113.50 to $203.50, when PnB Rock had 10 months played Easton’s intimate One Center Square for $20. Why would anyone buy a ticket?

Even after it announced A Boogie wit da Hoodie, then finally announced Fabolous less than three weeks — three weeks — before the show, was nowhere near a $203 show, and little time to promote it. Not that there was any promotion, anyway. As the show approached, there was no publicity campaign, and as ticket sales badly lagged — just days before the show, you could still get seats in the second row and even a good number of the cheapest $43.50 — there was none of the usual desperation discounts or Groupon sales.

2. A headliner who isn’t

Less than two weeks before the show, promoters, still employing no traditional publicity, announced that the hottest artist in hip-hop, Cardi B, was joining the show. But just two days later, she was off again.

Hunt said he made the booking through a third-party agent who was not authorized to book the rapper. By the time he was in contact with Cardi B’s representatives, it was too late to confirm the date.

That at best was stunningly inexperienced. Who would announce such a huge act without being in touch with her representatives? And why was such a big act being announced so close to the show’s date?

Hunt did not reveal the agent, leaving you to wonder whether the booking ever existed. It also might have made people wonder who else would back out.

3. The wrong venue

Again, it was, at best, over-optimistic in booking the show for PPL Center. Even with Cardi B on the show, 10,000 seats would have been a lot. Sands Bethlehem Event Center drew just 3,000 people with Lil’ Wayne in 2016. Musikfest was able to draw only 5,000 with Snoop Dogg in 2016, and 4,700 for LL Cool J when he still was selling old albums.

The 3,000 people who eventually showed up at PPL Center would easily fit in Sands Bethlehem Event Center.

PPL Center also was the wrong type of venue for such a show. Even had the show sold well, it was a cavernous for hip-hop, which really is a genre best experienced in a club-sized venue

That leads to …

4. Insufficient security

After the post-show arrests, Allentown police said they had officers working overtime at the event and the arena had hired off-duty officers for additional security. But inside the arena, security was far from visible.

That allowed most of the 3,000 people to leave their chairs — some climbing over the arena’s seats in the process — and flood to the front of the stage. That meant people who had paid as little as $43.50 for tickets stood where people who paid as much as $203.50 for their seats were — or worse, in front of them.

That was inexcusable for a larger venue, where crowd separation is part of the exercise. At places such as Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center, and even seated shows at Sands Bethlehem Event Center and Musikfest, people who try to get closer to the stage are summarily returned to their seats, or escorted out.

5. Blame for the short show

Hunt’s explanation for cutting the show short was equally inexcusable.

Before hanging up, he said the show ran late because the earlier acts took up more time than they should have. That’s debatable: Albie Al played for just 27 minutes, PnB Rock for 40 minutes and A Boogie wit da Hoodie just 31 minutes. Between the sets were long stretches filled by DJs that totaled more than an hour and a half of down time.

That was a failing of production, whose job it is to keep the show moving and on time, and knows when a show is supposed to end.

PPL spokeswoman, asked about the venue’s policies regarding curfews and stop times, did not immediately provide an answer. The venue has said in the past the event was an outside promoter and referred questions to Hun.

But when a show is allowed to run late, a promoter doesn’t short the fans — he takes his lumps and pays the extra money it costs.

Hunt maintained the shortened show made no difference.

“Everybody was happy with that show with the exception of Fabolous,” he said.


Twitter @johnjmoser


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