20 Years Of Bowling

When Bill Silva and Andrew Hewitt started booking the iconic Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles in 1990, they knew there would be a learning curve.

But with the help of the L.A. Philharmonic’s forward-thinking executive director, the late Ernest Fleischmann, they are celebrating 20 years of a unique collaboration.

“This year has been about recognizing where we started, what we hoped we would create and acknowledging that the vision that we and the L.A. Philharmonic, especially Ernest Fleischmann, had has actually come to fruition,” Silva told Pollstar.

Silva and Hewitt agreed to come on board to assist the Philharmonic, which operates the Bowl for the city, and help Fleischmann realize his own dream of restoring the Bowl to its glory days in the 1960s and ’70s. Back then, the venue was famed for programming not only symphonies, but rock royalty like The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd.

Early on, Silva and Hewitt realized that the business models for running a philharmonic and running a concert venue were not entirely in sync. Their first, and perhaps biggest, challenge was to educate their new partners on the finer points of rock concert promotion.

“Andy and I spent a lot of time educating the Philharmonic on business practices that were common in the other major arenas around the country,” Silva said. “Slowly, over the years, we got them to really work with us to create the most hospitable environment to encourage more artists to play there. It really worked.”

This season, Silva and Hewitt are booking more than 20 nights at the Hollywood Bowl, and the Philharmonic books the rest. A look at the Bowl’s itinerary won’t give much of a clue, however, as its booked by the pop impresarios and the orchestra – testament to the successful navigation of that learning curve and vision.

In addition to eclectic programming and focus on younger audiences, the Bowl’s stature among fans and artists increased after a major 2004 overhaul of the 18,000-capacity amphitheatre. It’s won the Concert Industry Award for Best Major Outdoor Venue every year since.

“The tandem of both of us booking has made the venue much more visible to the artist, managers and agents than would have thought about it at any time previously,” Silva said. “But it’s also been all the planning and construction they’ve done over the last 10 years, including $25 million to $30 million in bonded improvement.

“It’s enabled us to have an entirely new stage house that fits the productions of most major touring artists. In the past it was almost impossible,” he explained. “Tours had to adjust shows to fit the Bowl. The audience amenities have gotten better [and] there’s new video screens so the experience is better. The package has developed kind of slowly over the years but it really has come together.”

And it’s provided Silva and Hewitt with a lot of amazing concerts and career highlights at the Bowl over the last 20 years. He cites shows with Jason Mraz, Bonnie Raitt (including a surprise duet with her late father, John), and the Police and Sting.

“Roger Waters still has the record for the most nights performed at the Bowl on one tour, with four nights of ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ James Taylor and Carole King easily sold out their three nights this season, and left plenty of demand unfilled. The Eagles also played three nights this season,” Silva said.

“For all of us, The Rolling Stones was a highlight. Having the Stones back at the Bowl for two nights in 2005 was just amazing. They were out on a large tour, so of course they had to adjust. They made it great, and what an experience for the crowd and for us. We’d tried for years to get it on the itinerary and that was amazing.”

But one of Silva’s biggest thrills in his 20 years at the Bowl is a little more personal. It was the chance to bring his mom to work.
“I would say one of the great joys for me was bringing Luciano Pavarotti to the Bowl for his final performance there, and one of his final performances anywhere in the world. He was such a delight to work with, as was Harvey Goldsmith, who was producing his world tour.

“It was a proud moment for me, because my mom came to the show and I was able to give her great seats, and we were able to watch the show together.”