The outdoor stage rising just inside the fence at Comcast Theatre in Hartford is more than a new venue within a venue. It represents the beginning of a succession plan as veteran concert promoter Jim Koplik trains his son Jeremy to one day take over the business.
Koplik, 62, has been promoting shows in Connecticut for 40 years, starting with Traffic at the New Haven Arena in January 1972. When he recently signed a new five-year contract with Live Nation, the international concert conglomerate suggested that Jeremy Koplik — who had already worked for the company in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New York — go to work for his father.
“It’s an interesting passing of the torch, because I had not expected Jeremy to even work in Connecticut,” Jim Koplik said in an interview. “It was always my expectation that I would do this, and he would find his spot and be a more major-market guy than I was.”
Jeremy Koplik, 31, had most recently booked acts at the Gramercy Theatre in New York, turning a profit with a venue that had been losing money. Now back in his home state, the younger Koplik proposed adding an outdoor stage at Comcast Theatre.
The new Scion Festival Stage will host a half-dozen or so shows this summer, starting with the electronic act Kaskade June 23. (The new platform, located near the long staircase up to the amphitheater lawn, will also serve as a second stage for larger shows, including the WCCC-FM, 106.9, “Big Gig” May 19 with Staind and Godsmack.)
“It’s for an active crowd,” said Jeremy Koplik, who also books acts in the lobby space known as the Dome at Toyota Presents Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford. “Bands like Five Finger [Death Punch], they don’t really want to play venues with seats, and the crowd doesn’t want to sit in the seats. Kaskade, it’s kind of the same thing. Dance acts, some of them won’t even play a place that has seats.”
The Festival Stage is 50 feet wide and 40 feet deep, with standing-room space for 6,000 people, making it the largest venue of its kind in the area. The stage itself is a rental costing Live Nation $200,000 for the summer. If shows there do well over the next few years, Jim Koplik said, they’ll consider building a more permanent structure.
“We’re putting every act in here that we think wants a different type of venue than we can normally offer,” Jim Koplik says.
The other bands slated to play the Festival Stage so far are Gov’t Mule and moe. June 24;
O.A.R. Aug 2; and Five Finger Death Punch with Springfield band Killswitch Engage Aug. 15.
Additional changes at Comcast Theatre this summer include new food options from the Lucky Taco food truck and steamed hamburgers from Ted’s Restaurant in Meriden, and 12-ounce cups of Natural Light beer for $4.
Although Jim Koplik says he’s ready to slow down a little, he has no plans to retire anytime soon.
“I might hand him the reins on a day-to-day basis, but I have a promise from the company that I’ll always have an office,” Jim Koplik says. “I love going to work. I might not go to work 24/7 like I do now, but I don’t see stopping.”
As for Jeremy Koplik, though he didn’t envision himself returning to Connecticut, he’s always wanted to work in the concert industry.
“At my bar mitzvah, everybody who asked, ‘What do you want to do?’ I told them, ‘I want to take over my dad’s business, and fire him,’” Jeremy Koplik says, and both men laugh.