Vintage dollar dries up
For many years, Startime, known for a long time as Heineken Startime with its long-term sponsorship by the beer brand, was the only regular large-scale outdoor vintage concert in Jamaica. Then, in October 2000, Stars R Us joined the party, the two operating in the same Corporate Area market for some time.
Stars R Us was started by Horseman, the single nickname by which he operates as a show promoter. He estimates that there have been well over 100 stagings of Stars R Us, as in addition to the Mas Camp, New Kingston, shows, there were also concerts in Mandeville, Ocho Rios, Mandeville and Portland.
The vintage concert series hit an audience peak in 2005 for the 30-year reunion performance of Derrick (Morgan) and Patsy. However, within five years of that overflowing, ecstatic audience at Mas Camp when it was at Oxford Road, New Kingston, there was a noticeable drop-off in attendance.
"We noticed that things were not right, so we started to reduce the number of shows," Horseman said.
However, demand remained consistent in Mandeville, so that out-of-town stop was retained, even as others were axed from the Stars R Us schedule of stops. That, however, was a rare exception in a steady decline which affected the event. It had been a Stars R Us tradition to immediately follow each Kingston show with a Mandeville staging.
The last time Stars R Us was held in Kingston was in 2012 at a ticket price of $1,200 presold and $1,500 at the gate.
"The main reason is we ran into a problem with the turnout. It got low; it must have been the economy," Horseman said.
At its lowest ebb, Stars R Us pulled in about 1,000 people.
"Show business right now get a beating in Jamaica," he said, noting that it is not only vintage but concerts on a whole, including dancehall. "People just don't attend these things like they used to," Horseman said.
However, he also acknowledged that many vintage stars have passed on, trotting out a list that includes the big names of John Holt, Gregory Isaacs and Alton Ellis, but also includes crowd-pleasers like Phyllis Dillon, Justin Hines and Brent Dowe of The Melodians,
Still, Stars R Us continues, with three shows held in Bog Walk, St Catherine, within the last six months. Ken Boothe and Gem Myers performed on one held on January 31 and Myers was also on the December 27 staging with George Nooks and Dennis Walks.
"We experiment with Bog Walk and it work. My friend has a nice venue out there and we decided to try it," Horseman said.
This is the latest phase of a concert series which was started at the suggestion of one of its regular performers and was originally intended to be a one-off event. Horseman, who takes numerous pictures on the entertainment scene, carried some images of Ken Boothe to his house.
"He said like how you know all the artistes, keep a show," Horseman recalled.
The first Stars R Us was held with 10 performers, among them U-Roy, Leroy Sibbles, Ken Boothe, The Melodians, George Nooks, Josey Wales, Gregory Isaacs and Admiral Bailey.
Horseman said he has enjoyed good sponsorship, but pointed out that once the show attracts a large number of persons, the sponsors will be interested, so they can expose their brand to the market, However, the reverse is also true.
Still, Horseman said, "They are willing and ready to come on board once we start again."