Q’s With Kelly Kapp: Inspiring Women In Rock

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Kelly Kapp (courtesy of Live Nation)

Kelly Kapp realizes that, more than anyone else, she’ll be associated with her father, legendary concert promoter Bruce Kapp, who worked with bands including Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, Ted Nugent and more. But her father isn’t the first name who comes to mind when she shares her mentors in the music industry. Instead, she thinks of Jane Holman.

“Jane Holman was actually my dad’s assistant when I was born,” Kapp tells Pollstar. “And then Jane went on to have a huge career. She worked at PACE Concerts in Houston. She essentially was the person with Sharon Osborne who curated Ozzfest.”

Kapp may be a second-generation concert promoter, but she recognizes stood on the shoulders of the women who came before her. They allowed Kelly Kapp to make a name for herself outside of her father’s shadow. She’s not synonymous with Bruce Kapp, but instead a powerhouse all of her own. And, when it comes to metal and hard rock, there’s no promoter anyone would rather work with. 

  She doesn’t dismiss the influence her father had on her career. Perhaps she never would have gone into concert promotion if it weren’t for him. She had been a fashion design student in Los Angeles, after all. But she was thrust into the industry, telling Pollstar in a 2019 interview that she “begrudgingly took this project manager job working for Jane Holman.” But concert promotion was in her blood, and once she started her first gig in the early 2000s, she realized was better at it than she ever imagined.

Now, with her father gone and many of his friends older, Kapp is seeing a change of the guard. No longer can she list off the influential women on her fingers. Instead, she sucks in a deep breath and rattles off a dozen or so names while they fly from the top of her head. And she knows she’s missing some many more.

Pollstar: What is your take on the state of women in rock music?
Kelly Kapp:  Jane was my mentor. Through her and seeing how she interacted with Sharon Osbourne and Marsha Vlasic, who was Ozzy’s agent for a time, I was surrounded by powerful, influential women back when you could count them on your hand. And I really believe these women let me stand on their shoulders.

You work with quite a few female-fronted rock bands.
I’ve been able to be a small part of some up-and-coming female-fronted metal and hard rock acts. JINJER, a Ukrainian female-fronted band. We went through the war situation with them and how to get them to be able to do their art with such a horrifying day-to-day situation in their country.

Spiritbox is another one I am just so unbelievably excited and proud of. They are a band that started out the first of five on a package. Now they have a tour that sold out on the onsale. Not only am I excited to see what’s going on with the artists, but there are so many women behind the scenes that people don’t talk about.

Can you tell us more about those women?
People like Jen Varani [production manager] in Raleigh at the Ritz is a woman who onboards and helps train other production managers, whether it be female or male. Melody “Scooter” Porter at our Charlotte venue, every band that goes in and out of the venue just says what an amazing woman she is.

And we have Kayleigh Werthmann in Grand Rapids, who is just unbelievable. These women that do production, I’m just in awe. It’s the hardest job in the whole entire world. Let’s be honest, I can sit in L.A. and I can book shows all day long. If these bands don’t have a good experience, boots on the ground, I’m never going to be able to book them again. They’re gonna go, “Oh, I had a bad experience at that venue.” They’re going to tell their agent they never, ever want to play there again. So these women in production spend more time with the artists than we do, even as the promoter, the marketer, the ticketer. They’re really our conduit to the bands having a great day at the venue.

The same thing with Kayle Metzger at Ace of Spades. She’s now a general manager and was that building’s assistant general manager for a long time. 

Maggie Gessner, who was our general manager at the Silver Springs Fillmore moved over after COVID, and she essentially oversees all clubs for Live Nation. She’s a woman that came from boots on the ground. Really saw the day-to-day operation, and she was able to take that knowledge and come up on a national level. 

You start to deal with women like Danielle Rubio in Belasco, who really saw the venue and has had so many transformations. She had a whole vision of how to rebrand this House of Rock. And it’s gorgeous, there’s all these bands now underplaying this room. And that came from her vision of sitting in that space and seeing these rock bands coming in and out of this venue, and how could she play more into that situation.

Margaret Holmes up in New York has done double duty for a really long time. She was the general manager at Irving Plaza and Gramercy. Having to do two of the biggest venues in the country as far as volume and underplays, that sort of thing. This woman wasn’t holding down one venue, she was holding down two. 

You start to look at where we were back in the day with rock. You’re backstage and the women would be very few and far between. But you could see the hard work, the dedication. They were working 10 times harder than the men. And now it’s really exciting to see in production, in general managers. I just put up my biggest tour of the year last week with Pierce The Veil… and Michele Abreim, who’s their manager, has been with the band through it all. Seeing her hard work, her dedication.

Kristen Mulderig from the RSE Group. And, unfortunately, with the passing of Mastodon’s manager, she’s taken on the day-to-day. She navigates with Ghost and all the special nuances they do. 

Corrie Martin has been booking punk rock and rock for a long time, and has had tremendous success with commercial bands. But she also books Rise Against and the Descendants. 

Kasey McKee over at CAA. I do day-to-day with her both for Bullet For My Valentine and Chevelle.

It’s really exciting when you start thinking about Women’s Day and you take that minute to breathe and look around. It’s exciting to see how many women are in every facet of what we do now, whether they’re pushing a road case, settling the show, booking the show, managing the band. 

The other exciting thing is I do believe there’s a lot of men out there trying to help push the agenda of women. Megan Glendinning at CAA was Jared Martin’s assistant for a really long time. She was a superstar. Jared and Andrew Simon have done a lot to empower her. Even seeing in the next generation of women that have put in their time and energy to be an assistant, and sponge all of that knowledge, then seeing men say, “Hey, I see you and I’m going to help you.” That’s exciting, too.

There are so many inspiring women! 
When I was sitting down and thinking about this, where I came from there weren’t a lot of women. It really is exciting that now, you look left, you see women. You look right, you see women. That’s super exciting in the hard rock and metal space. Even seeing it on stage is really cool. And it feels like this is a genre that does have the door wide open.

Are there any changes you would still like to see?
It’s always been hard as far as training goes. I feel like training is on the job, right? You have to be in the thick of it and pick it up. That’s why I think there’s so many brilliant production managers. These women start out as stage managers. They see what needs to be done. They are able to identify the issues, jump into them, change them very quickly. 

In a perfect world, you would think it’d be really cool if we had a women’s boot camp where we could send these women. They could hang out and talk. I know there’s so many mentorship programs. But right now it’s still like back in the day, where you’d sink or swim. 

Having that buoy or live preserver, that there’s another woman you can call and talk to, and it’s not going to be used against you. That person can help you navigate. 

Is there anything you feel has been overlooked that we should start talking about?
It really is the stagehands who are pushing the road cases. It’s your front of house people, it’s your production people. We’ve gotten better at pulling the curtain back during COVID… If I didn’t have the people who are boots on the ground running these venues, making sure the show actually has sound and lights and the doors can open on time. This industry wouldn’t be an industry without those people.