JoAnn Armstrong got off to a funny start with her live entertainment career. The Director of Booking at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., entered into the world of live events at the Laff Stop in Santa Ana, famous for its regulars that included David Letterman, Jay Leno, Ellen DeGeneres and Robin Williams.
“I was hired on by Cindy Stewart, who is still my best friend to this day,” she told Amplify. “From there I landed at the Pacific Amphitheatre (in Costa Mesa) working for Nederlander Concerts, my first ‘concert family,'” she said. Armstrong started as a promotions assistant, then hospitality director for backstage and finally operations manager.
“Mike Garcia took me under his wing and Susan Rosenbluth showed me the way,” she said. Eventually, she got a call from Tim Ryan, who now serves as Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer for the Anaheim Ducks. He wanted her to come over to a new arena being built for the expansion team. Today, Armstrong oversees and manages the Honda Center’s master calendar.
“If you want to have an event at the Honda Center, I am your girl,” she said. “I am the liaison between promoters, agents, touring shows and family entertainment for booking the facility. I negotiate, contract, and juggle dates for everyone.”
Armstrong loves to travels and said “I am ready at a moment’s notice to pack my bag and explore new places.” People who know her tend to laugh about her ‘travel file’ with restaurant reservations, local hot spots and must-see destinations all mapped out far in advance.
“I tend to be pretty organized and my travel partners appreciate it,” she said, adding that she still loves visiting venues when she’s out of town or swinging by a Southern California venue to catch a concert.
“My best show buddies are my two girls who mean everything to me,” she said.
So what kind of shows does she enjoy? Amplify recently caught up with Armstrong to discuss her five favorite shows and learn more about what keeps this Rock ‘N Roll Mama motivated and booking world-class events.
Sting at Pacific Amphitheater, Costa Mesa
Ten Summoner’s Tales Tour in 1993
This was the last show at Pacific Amphitheater before I went to work for Honda Center. When I arrived for my last evening the staff told me that I wouldn’t be working the show. They had set up a private dinner for me, plus front row center tickets. If you know me and my love for Sting it was a big night. I know we made eye contact during the concert (or so I remember…)
U2 at Honda Center, Anaheim
Elevation Tour in 2001
U2 had this amazing heart-shaped catwalk that went into the pit on the floor. I was standing inside the part of the pit that was contained by the catwalk. Bono was at the furthest point of it with the spotlight on him, he was leaning into the crowd and the crowd was leaning into him. It definitely was “a moment.”
The Rolling Stones at The Wiltern, Los Angeles
The Licks Tour, 2002
This was the tour where the Stones mixed theater, arena and stadium venues in support of their 40th-anniversary compilation album, Forty Licks. My friend Cindy and I went to the show. We were standing in the pit at The Wiltern with the band playing and we looked at each other and said “We are in the pit for the Stones! We are going to talk about this for the rest of our lives.” And we still do! Fast forward to 2013, when The Rolling Stones performed at Honda Center and I had the opportunity watch them at my building, and then relive it once again at Desert Trip.
Fleetwood Mac at Honda Center, Anaheim
On with the Show Tour on Dec. 7, 2014
I won the Rumors album when I was in high school through a contest on the radio. I listened to it over and over and over with my friend Janet. Fast forward to having the tour come to Honda Center with Christine McVie and all the great hits. It was an amazing night. I took a picture in front of the Step and Repeat and pretended I was in the band for a full circle moment, and of course sent the picture to Janet!
Foo Fighters at Honda Center, Anaheim
September 17, 2015
This was one of those classic, crazy energy shows. Not many people can sit on a throne made of guitars and still rock the audience like Dave Grohl. It wasn’t about dancers or theatrics, it was about the music and rock ‘n’ roll. The tour had done a “Beat the Bots” ale where they only sold tickets at the venue box office and it was so fun to be out there handing out wristbands to all the fans in lines that wrapped all around the building.