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Top 5 ways the hip-hop concert at Allentown's PPL Center went wrong – Allentown Morning Call

Saturday’s hip-hop concert Saturday at Allentown’s PPL Center seemed troubled since it was announced a month and a half ago.

Headliner Fabolous was cut off after performing just 15 minutes, and then eight people were arrested for fighting outside the arena.

Marc Hunt of LSP Enterprises, the outside promoter that produced the Spring Break Takeover show, said Monday it was his company that cut the show short. 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, he said.

In a short telephone interview, Hunt would not say who set that deadline, and declined comment on further details about the show.

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 … ?

When LSP announced the concert, it proclaimed it would be “the biggest hip-hop concert the Lehigh Valley has ever seen.” But, strangely, it 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 act or headliner. A week later, tickets went on sale, with most priced at $113.50 to $203.50. PnB Rock had 10 months earlier played Easton’s intimate One Center Square for $20; so why would anyone buy a ticket?

It later announced A Boogie wit da Hoodie would perform, then announced Fabolous only three weeks before the show. Even with Fabolous, it was nowhere near a $203 show. And now there was little time to promote it. Not that there was much promotion, anyway. As the show approached, there seemed to be 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 at $43.50 — there was none of the usual desperation discounts or Groupon sales.

2. Cardi B is coming! Uh, no she isn’t

Less than two weeks before the show, promoters announced that the hottest artist in hip-hop, Cardi B, was joining the show. At that point, it seemed the show might live up to its hype as the biggest hip-hop show here.

But she was off the show two days later.

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.

3. The wrong venue

Again, it seemed overly optimistic to book 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 albums.

The 3,000 people who eventually showed up at PPL Center would easily have 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 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 many 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. So people who had paid as little as $43.50 for tickets stood in the area where people had paid as much as $203.50 for their seats.

That’s inexcusable for a larger venue, where workers and volunteers enforce crowd separation. 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 returned to their seats, or escorted out.

5. Blame for the short show

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

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 Katie Nork, 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 Hunt.

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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