It was early March, roughly five months ago.
Jeff Trager, 77, was long on music promotion experience but short on technology acumen.
Kevin Frazier, 59, had parted ways as general manager with the Empress Theatre a short time after the downtown Vallejo venue installed state-of-the-art video and sound.
The two Vallejo pals would unite as a music promotion venture.
It seemed like the perfect match.
Until COVID-19 caused it to go up in flames.
“It was pretty crazy,” said Frazier, recalling the inauspicious start of Frazier Trager music production and promotions.
“We put this together just pre-COVID. We hadn’t even made an announcement yet,” said Frazier. “We were meeting with venue partners, about to bid on a show and ‘boom.’”
“And down goes Frazier Trager,” interjected Trager, borrowing the late Howard Cosell’s line when George Foreman knocked down Joe Frazier six times in the abbreviated two-round 1973 heavyweight championship bout.
Frazier and Trager hope Frazier Trager puts up a better fight, starting Saturday, Aug. 22, 8 p.m., with a live-streamed concert at the Downtown Theatre in Fairfield by “The Sun Kings,” a Beatles tribute band.
There will be no in-person audience and the presentation is free, with the promoters, the band and the venue hoping the generosity of the online viewing public complements sponsorship by Syar Industries.
With entertainers struggling, live-streamed events may be the one way they can keep their financial head above water, hinted Frazier, joining his business partner recently for an in-person interview.
“It’s tough times for everyone,” Frazier said. “And in tough times, if you can get creative, you can find opportunities and that’s what we’re hoping to do.”
Frazier sees three keys to a successful Sun Kings show: “How many people stream it? How many get involved on the donations side? And how many talk about it after the show … if it really resonates.”
Frazier said he’s “pretty confident” all will go well from the tech side, with seven cameras available for live-streaming, recording and post-production. All the participants — the band and tech people — will rehearse the night before the actual public live-stream “so we know if we have to make any adjustments.”
There’s likely no returning to what the music industry was pre-COVID-19, believes Frazier.
“I think we’re realizing that it will morph into a hybrid model at some point where people come back to attending a live show and where we can also stream. If we’re filming an event that’s a huge success, we’re able to show it again,” Frazier said.
With plenty of time to kill as the virus ravaged the nation, Frazier said he and Trager continued to talk a few times a week to discuss battle plans.
“Jeff is a people-person. He’s out there meeting people, building relationships. I’m more versed on the technology side,” Frazier said.
The focus for the next 10 days is to pull off the Aug. 22 performance at the 350-seat Downtown Theatre, a venue Trager established as his “home court” several years ago as he also booked surrounding smaller venues.
“Right now, the Downtown Theatre will be our home. With a big stage and without having an audience, we have the ability to create the (camera) shots and move around the theater without getting in anyone’s way,” Frazier said. “The theater is struggling, too, so we’re hoping we can do several of these events and give them some cash for a rental fee.”
It is a bit risky to offer a show for free, depending on the kindness of a mostly-invisible crowd. No matter.
“You’re hoping people will want to support the arts and they’ll give. If it’s only a buck, it’s a buck,” Frazier said. “You’re hoping they’ll be enough compassion out there.”
Musicians need to realize it’s a different world, Frazier said.
“You’re on TV now” with live-streaming, he said. “The ones who succeed are the ones who have the personality. It’s not just about your music anymore. When you’re on stage, there’s lights and glamour and now your audience is distant. You have to keep their attention. You have to be more interactive.”
So far, this two-heads-are-better-than-one concept works entering the first event, Trager said.
“There are certain things he can do and I can’t do. We both have different ideas musically,” Trager said. “But, basically, if you have two people thinking, someone will come up with an act and give you the key to why you should do it.”
Trager noted that even the icon of rock promoting, the late Bill Graham, sought advice “from his minions” in booking acts “instead of doing everything himself.”
“You have to have someone out there shaking hands,” Frazier said, acknowledging his new partner.
Frazier and Trager agreed that The Sun Kings would be a good launching point. Both have worked with the band several times and Drew Harrison — the John Lennon of the group — said he and his mates were all for it.
“It’s a work in progress for all of us,” Harrison said. “There are lots of new moving parts and plenty of opportunity for foul-ups.”
It helps that Sun Kings have played the venue before, Harrison said, believing the sound and lights crew “knows their stuff. You have to trust they know what they’re doing.”
Obviously, it’s rare during COVID-19 that a five-person band gets to take the stage — with social distancing protocols in place.
“My job is to put the band back together. I hope I know what I’m doing,” Harrison said.
When the show is done, “we’re going to debrief and put everything on the table and see what worked and what didn’t,” Harrison said.
Yes, he said, “we’re all reinventing the business model. We’ll learn.”
“We’re going to be part of history,” Trager said.
“A magical history tour,” grinned Frazier.
For more information about the Saturday, Aug. 22, 8 p.m. life-streamed show, visit downtowntheatre.com.