Rich Engler Marks Return

When Pittsburgh promoter DiCesare-Engler Productions was acquired by Clear Channel Entertainment – now Live Nation – in 2004, partner Rich Engler signed a noncompete agreement, went into the energy business with a friend and never looked back. Until now.

Photo: Rich Engler
Rich Engler, his team and Kansas backstage Aug. 17. L-R: The band’s Billy Greer, marketer Ed Traversari, the band’s Dave Hope, Engler, the band’s David Ragsdale, Rich Williams, Steve Walsh, Kerry Livgren, and Phil Ehart, and Bud Carr.

Engler is back in the concert promotion business with a new company – Rich Engler Presents – and returned in grand fashion with a 40th anniversary Kansas show Aug. 17 at Pittsburgh’s Benedem Center.

The venue, formerly the Stanley Theatre, brings Engler full circle to place it all began for him.

“Right after I signed the noncompete, one of my best friends came to me and wanted me to get into the energy business with him, which I knew nothing about at all,” Engler told Pollstar.

“He said, ‘No problem, you’re an entrepreneur, come with me and we’ll do some great things.’ So I got into the energy business – coal, gas and oil – and it was great. I loved it.”

His noncompete eventually expired but Engler looked at the concert industry and decided it was “getting crazy.”

Besides, he was happy where he was.

Still, Engler said, people would approach him about jumping back in.

And he saw independent promoters, citing Jerry Mickelsen and Arny Granat at Jam Productions, being successful competing with the big guns.

Finally, friend and agent Jonny Podell asked him if he wanted in on a Gregg Allman date.

It was an offer Engler couldn’t refuse.

Engler did the Allman date at the Byham Theatre in Pittsburgh and soon heard from another old friend, Phil Ehart of Kansas.

“He says, ‘Rich, do you know it’s our 40th year?’ And I said sure, I think I know that. And he said, ‘We want to do something really special.’ And I thought, ‘Here he goes, he’s going to invite me to Las Vegas or somewhere where they’re going to do this show and they want me to come out.’”

Ehart actually had something else in mind for the first promoter to book Kansas in major markets.

That tour was followed by the release of Left Overture, and the band’s place in rock history was cemented.

“He tells me, ‘There’s only one person we want to produce this show, and that’s you,’” Engler explained. “‘And we want to do it where you started, at the Stanley Theatre,’ which is now the Benedum Center. I got pretty emotional. What an honor.”

Engler and Kansas put together a show that included a 40-piece orchestra for the first half, an intermission, and an all-rocking second half. Former band members, including Robby Steinhardt and Dave Hope, reunited for the gig, former DiCesare-Engler partner Ed Traversari marketed the show and Mike Gentille handled production.

Photo: Courtesy Rich Engler
Kansas drummer Phil Ehart (L) welcomes longtime Pittsburgh concert promoter Rich Engler back to the biz during intermission of the band’s 40th anniversary fan appreciation concert Aug. 17 at the city’s Benedum Center for the Performing Arts.

“I had my old team back together again, which was great,” Engler said. “We went on sale and it just blew out right away. It was a very special night. We tracked the tickets – people from 12 or 13 countries came, and from 36 states, to this event. So it was quite phenomenal.”

And it convinced him it was time to get back in the game. He’s putting out his shingle in Sewickley, Pa., near Pittsburgh.

He says that instead of Rich Engler Productions, he should have named his new company “Tread Lightly Productions,” he said, laughing.

“I’m not going to try to get everything,” he explained. “I’m not going to reinvent myself as how it was, because it will never be that way again. But I think there’s still some relationships out there that know it’s about quality and promoting that I did.

“I think people will say, ‘You know what? Let’s work with him.’ So that’s basically it. I’m going to get some things and I’m not going to get some things, but I’m probably going to surprise some people with some big things.”