City Stages Taps AC Entertainment

City Stages organizers have hired a Tennessee firm behind the successful Bonnaroo festival in hopes of eliminating debt and boosting next year’s entertainment lineup.

Knoxville-based AC Entertainment, which co-produces the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., will help produce the Birmingham festival and advise City Stages for the next three years.

"We want to get back to the glory days of City Stages," said City Stages spokesman Guy McCullough. "AC Entertainment enjoys a special relationship with every act on the planet. I firmly believe 2008 will have the best lineup you’ve ever seen."

City Stages is about $230,000 in debt as it enters its 20th year, McCullough said. The festival has struggled with financial and lineup problems since 2000.

AC Entertainment President Ashley Capps said he doesn’t intend to turn City Stages into a mini-Bonnaroo. That wouldn’t benefit either festival, he said.

"What we look to do is create a very distinctive lineup for City Stages," Capps said. "We’ll use many of the same principles as Bonnaroo to create a distinctive event."

City Stages had a budget of $2.25 million this year.

Bonnaroo and City Stages both take place on Father’s Day.

That means Bonnaroo books prestigious headliners and buzz bands. The contracts that such acts sign prohibit them from playing at City Stages when they’re booked at Bonnaroo.

Although City Stages’ agreement with AC Entertainment won’t loosen the non-compete clause, it will ensure that Birmingham has a good shot at booking acts that have forged relationships with Bonnaroo’s organizers, McCullough said.