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Fair Play

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo wii do whatever it takes to keep its revolving stage from going dark.

In those binders, Shafer and his staff have determined that entertainment is the top reason someone elects to buy a rodeo ticket roughly 55 to 70 percent of the time, though superstars like Strait or Miley Cyrus can push that figure as high as 80. This makes the talent Kane books a critical part of the rodeo's success. (Season-ticket holders and committee volunteers account for 72 percent of an average night's crowd, the rodeo says, leaving around 20,000 seats to the general public per show.)

One of the main questions the rodeo asks its audience is which entertainers they would like to see the next year. Even still, that leaves Kane with a relatively small talent pool to work with. This day and age, few entertainers in country music or any other genre can draw the kind of mass crowds the rodeo needs for even an almost-full house.

So he starts early, usually in early summer when the survey results start coming back, and works from a list of about 40 names he hopes to have narrowed down to the final lineup by Thanksgiving. (It's 22 performers this year, minus the Strait show.) And, unfortunately, the budget precludes making an offer to a Madonna or a Rolling Stones.

Kane also has to walk a fine line between who's available and who's appropriate. Even something like Spring Break, which became a factor when the rodeo moved into Reliant Stadium and a week or two further into the year, can complicate artists' availability. The rodeo has had great success recently with crossover acts such as KISS, Kid Rock and the Black Eyed Peas, but Kane has to make absolutely sure they agree to give their G-rated, "state fair or festival" presentations.

Still other artists test through the roof with rodeo audiences, but other factors come in.

"Carrie Underwood is the hottest country star that we've never had at our show; it drives our people crazy," Shafer says. "All those little cute animals that those kids show are market animals. They're going to slaughter. She's got an issue with that. She's a vegan.

"We all know that," he adds. "That's her preference, that's fine, but that's a star you'll never see on this stage that we would love to have."

But other than that, the rodeo has learned to never say never. Except about one thing.

"Not performing a show is not acceptable," says Shafer. "It's just not acceptable."

chris.gray@houstonpress.com

RODEO SCHEDULE

February 25: Toby Keith

February 26: Gary Allan

February 27: Alan Jackson

February 28: Zac Brown Band

March 1: Mary J. Blige

March 2: Brantley Gilbert

March 3: Demi Lovato and Austin Mahone

March 4: Styx

March 5: Lady Antebellum

March 6: Dierks Bentley

March 7: Bruno Mars

March 8: Tim McGraw

March 9: The Band Perry

March 10: Julion Alvarez/Los Invasores de Nuevo Leon

March 11: Jason Aldean

March 12: Kenny Chesney

March 13: Jake Owen

March 14: Pitbull

March 15: Blake Shelton

March 16: Luke Bryan

March 17: George Strait, Martina McBride, Randy Rogers Band (concert only)

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7 comments
Robusto
Robusto

What a cool article. I knew about Eddie Rabbit cancelling but didn't know the whole story

David Rozycki
David Rozycki

Look for has-been soft rock acts desperate for a buck?

Tina Greenwood
Tina Greenwood

I have seen 4 of George's 20 shows at the Rodeo but my first George Strait concert was the last day of the Illinois State Fair in 1983 (Free day) and he OPENED for the Bellemy Brothers. I took my Grandma with me to the fair that day and we had a BLAST. She loved George Strait.

 
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