One of the most divisive issues to face Southern Californians in recent years is concert conservation. While everyone agrees that there isn’t an unlimited stream of headline acts to quench the entertainment desires of a thirsty populace, no one can agree on which method to pursue to insure a steady supply of show dates for the years ahead.

Charles Parker, director of the Colorado Tour Project, the system of date canals, concert aqueducts and festival reservoirs that pump fresh show dates from the Rocky Mountains to Southern California, predicts that Angelenos may have to conserve, or even ration concert dates such as Kenny Chesney, The Waco Brothers or Janis Ian by the end of 2001. “It’s not an endless supply,” says Parker. “Yet, for the past 60 years, people have grown accustomed to using as many dates as they please, like Insane Clown Posse, Jude or Rita Coolidge, regardless of the supply, or current touring conditions.”

At Tour 2001, the advocacy group lobbying for tighter tour date controls, group founder Randolph Agarn is behind what is probably the most controversial proposal on the upcoming California November ballot – tour meters.

While tour meters are the norm in most of the United States, Californians have long looked at concert usage as a right, and have opposed all past metering initiatives. “The ‘all-you-can-eat / flat rate approach’ isn’t working,” claims Agarn. “With tour meters, concert utility companies can monitor the flow of dates like Reverend Horton Heat, Rod Stewart and Charlie Daniels Band, and charge their customers for only the shows they use.”

Agarn says that maintaining the delicate balance between nature and the concert needs of millions of people is one of the biggest factors of concert conservation. “People see those big tour reservoirs, the William Morris Dam, or the HOB Hydro-Eclectic Project, and feel that all their tour needs are taken care of,” says Agarn. “But unless we can guarantee the replenishment of the itinerary tables, Southern California may once again revert to the desert from which it sprang.”

If tour conservation advocates didn’t have enough to deal with, there are unpredictable weather factors, including routing droughts, sponsorship monsoons and tournados. “That’s part of living in Southern California,” says Bernard Rubble of the Creative Aqueduct Agency, as he looks over the stored dates for Dave Davies Kink Kronikles, Guy Davis and Starlight Mints. “But perhaps the most unpredictable factor of all is the phenomena known as ‘El Haymo,’ which blows into the west coast about once every three to seven years, disrupting all touring conditions and laying waste to everything in its path. Totally unpredictable.”

Regardless of opinions and proposed solutions, no one expects an answer to be found in the near future. “Concert conservation has been a controversial issue for the past 60 years,” says Rubble. “It’s caused a lot of history and corruption that’s unique to the Los Angeles basin. I’m reminded of that famous line in Roman Polanski’s 1974 tour noir that’s set against the L.A. concert wars of the 1940’s. When that guy turns to Jack Nicholson’s character and says, ‘Forget it, Jake. It’s Concertown.'”