Park Rock Kibosh

Susan Suffecool, operations manager of Balboa Park's Starlight Bowl, works for the San Diego Civic Light Opera Association. For 61 years, the outdoor amphitheater has been used primarily for musical plays. Suffecool says even though the facility is owned by the city, her group must pay for facility upkeep.

"It's really hard to get grants.... Everyone goes to the north end of Balboa Park. People don't come to the south end. People don't know the Starlight Bowl exists. It's very sad, but when you have a place that holds 3574 people, this place needs to be in use."

To help pay for maintenance and improvements, Suffecool says Starlight Bowl started producing its own shows and allowed outside promoters in to do live shows.

"They had, like, 12 Sunday rock shows this year," says Jason Lee, lead singer of Loss of Control. "We played at 3 of them." Lee says Van Halen tribute band OU812 and local bands such as Hydroplane and Deverb have also performed.

"I would say each show would draw a couple hundred people," says Lee. "The Starlight provided the venue, the PA, and the staff. All we had to do was show up with our band gear and play."

Suffecool says she was disappointed that some of the self-produced Starlight rock shows only brought "...10 or 20 people."

Ads recently distributed by promoter Willie Tuckerson announced a two-day, 24-band "Southern California Rock Fest" on June 30 and July 1, but all plans for future Starlight rock shows have been scuttled.

"I got some very disturbing news from my doctor," says Suffecool. "I don't have the stamina. For health reasons, I had to cancel those events." She says she also canceled a show headlined and promoted by local band Bedpost Buzzard. However, two-week-long productions of Ragtime, Aida, and Oklahoma! are scheduled for this summer.

It's been five years since Ganeshfest drew 2000 fans to the 72-year-old city-owned venue. Unwritten Law, Sprung Monkey, Fenix TX, and seven other local bands shared the bill.

"It was not entirely a financially successful endeavor," says someone connected with the concert. "There's numerous costs involved in producing shows at this particular venue."

The Starlight Bowl is a "union facility," which means union labor must be used to handle production needs; that factor, plus an abundant amount of necessary security personnel, increases the cost of producing an event at the Starlight.

Before 2002's Ganeshfest, it had been eight years since the Starlight Bowl hosted major-name rock headliners. Anthrax, the Allman Brothers, the Beastie Boys, and Jewel played the Starlight in the '90s. Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and the Doobie Brothers played there in the '80s.

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