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Old 08-19-2020, 10:03 PM   #1
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Default Globe and Mail-Bernie Fiedler and Massey-Nov.2021

Happy to help out with the photo!!

Gordon Lightfoot’s booking agent Bernie Fiedler can’t get a date


With the live music industry more or less shut down these days, you would think a semi-retired booking agent who only has one client wouldn’t have much to do. You would be wrong, though. Bernie Fiedler, who has been handling concert arrangements for Gordon Lightfoot for longer than they’ve been putting men on the moon, is busier than he’d rather be.

“Everybody’s scrambling to get new dates in 2021,” says Fiedler, speaking from his part-time home in Germany. “And we don’t even know if anybody is even going to be giving concerts next year the way things are going.”

The way things are going is that no one is quite sure how things are going. Concert promoter colossus Live Nation Entertainment recently announced that “live events would return at scale in the summer of 2021.” But Marc Geiger, until recently the global head of music at talent agency William Morris Endeavor, doesn’t expect to see concerts coming back before 2022, mostly because of liability issues. “There is no insurance against COVID currently offered,” Geiger said on a recent episode of The Bob Lefsetz Podcast, a music-insider chat fest. “And even normal insurance policies are pretty scarce and hard to come by.”

While the bigwigs pontificate, relative small-timers such as Fiedler book, scratch out and rebook shows again as the timeline shifts in front of them. Lightfoot, who at 81 years old still hits the road regularly to sing about a legend that lives on from the Chippewa on down, was forced because of illness to postpone shows in Fredericton, Ottawa and Montreal in the fall of 2019. Rescheduled for April of this year, the concerts were subsequently postponed because of the coronovirus pandemic.

The shows were pushed to September, “but they’re not happening now,” Fiedler says. Venues are currently restricted to 50 attendees, which is an economically unfeasible proposition. There is also a run of dates in Western Canada on the books for later in the fall. “Those,” Fiedler says, “are falling apart too.”

Fiedler, 81, is among a colourful, extroverted group of survivors from the old days of Toronto’s music scene who still hang around on the fringes. He first began booking Lightfoot in late 1964, when he stole him away from Steele’s Tavern on Toronto’s Yonge Street strip for his own club, the Riverboat Coffee House in the hippie hood of Yorkville. Fiedler, a former coffee salesman who never lost his talent for counting beans, offered Lightfoot double what they were paying him at Steele’s.

“There were 25 or 30 coffeehouses around, so you needed to have a draw,” Fiedler says. The Riverboat’s attraction was top-flight musical talent, for which Fielder had a discerning eye. The gimmick at the nearby Penny Farthing was a swimming pool and bikini-wearing waitresses.

“I never swam there,” Fiedler says. “I had my own swimming pool, at our house in Rosedale on Roxborough.”

That would be the pool Lightfoot once jumped into from the roof, fully clothed. “Everybody swam there,” Fiedler says. “Gordon, the Band and many, many others.”

Fiedler says the pool cost him $15,000 to build. He had planned on using the money from the first show he ever promoted at Massey Hall, by the Lovin’ Spoonful. “I had this incredible imagination that I might make that kind of money,” Fiedler says, with a gravelly chuckle. “The profit I actually made on that concert was $150.”

Fiedler would go on to book more shows at Massey Hall, most famously with Lightfoot (who has played the venue more than 165 times). Apparently there’s more of that to come.

According to Fiedler, a pair of Lightfoot concerts were considered for Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall. The plan being thrown around was to limit the seating to 800 people, for health precautions, in a venue with roughly three times that capacity. “The problem is that at 800 tickets, we wouldn’t make any money,” he says.

Why not, I ask, triple the ticket price to make up the difference? “We can’t do that,” Fiedler says. “That would be $350 or more a seat.” Surely his fans would pay that, wouldn’t they? “They would. But Gordon would think that was ripping people off. He doesn’t even like it when I charge $135 a ticket.”

So, the Roy Thomson Hall shows won’t happen. Instead, Fielder says he has four dates on hold in November, 2021, for the grand reopening concerts at Massey Hall, currently closed for renovations.

Lightfoot would be 83 by then. With a recent history of respiratory issues, you’d think he wouldn’t want to risk crowds and coronovirus. “He looks like death warmed over, but he’s in good shape,” Fiedler says. “He walks everyday, and he tells me that he’s discovering houses and parts of his neighbourhood he’s never seen.”

Lightfoot’s neck of the wood is the tony Bridle Path. He wouldn’t need to go far to come across his famous neighbour, hip-hop superstar Drake, who built an opulent compound right across the street from the Sundown singer’s more modest mansion. “I don’t think they’ve met yet,” Fiedler says. “But I’m sure they will.”

Maybe Drake will have Lightfoot over to the small lake he calls a swimming pool. Who wouldn’t pay money to be at that party?
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Old 08-20-2020, 06:36 AM   #2
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Default Re: Globe and Mail-Bernie Fiedler and Massey-Nov.2021

Cool article! Thanks for the link, Char!

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