Red Light Management’s Jonathan Shank got the bug for the music industry from his first concert in 1984. After seeing the Jackson Family, Shank kept his concert ticket – and every ticket from every show after that. Shank now has boxes filled with thousands of printed memories and a large collection of concert posters, old and new, that range from a Rolling Stones print designed by Obey founder Shepard Fairey to a Guns N’ Roses one signed by the entire band.
“There’s something about live events because they are tangible in some ways. You can go and have an experience, but it is also fleeting because it’s not something that you can experience on a constant basis,” Shank told Amplify. “It is never the same twice and there is this synergistic energy that everybody is sharing in when they are at a great show. It is really hard to match that feeling.”
The Senior Manager/Executive Producer for Red Light knew he wanted to be part of creating that same experience for others and, during college, made his way into a nearby up-and-coming venue.
“I was living about half a mile down the road when the House of Blues, New Orleans opened,” Shank said. “I showed up and asked if they had any interns and they had never had any interns, never really had an intern program. I just tried to fit in where I could. I was helping them do the most random things like sort bios and hang flyers in bathrooms and take promos to record stores.”
From there, Shank convinced his college to give him credit for doing an internship with music industry legend Kim Fowley, who was based in New Orleans at the time.
“He immediately took me in. He was a really kind soul,” Shank said about the music producer. “Literally, I would listen to him talk for hours straight. Sometimes he would have meetings, but since we were in New Orleans everything was by phone. It was the mid-90s so nobody was emailing at that time.”
Fowley encouraged Shank throughout his career, including signing his name on the back of Shank’s business card as an endorsement.
Shank now works with acts like Magic!, Victoria Justice, and Sam Tsui and executive produces Disney Junior Live, Peppa Pig Live, and Power Rangers Live. Amplify caught up with Shank who whittled down those thousands of experiences to his five favorite shows.
The Jackson’s Victory Tour at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia
Sept. 2, 1984
This was the night that changed it all for me. My parents surprised me at the last-minute with second row tickets to The Jackson’s Victory Tour in Philadelphia on Labor Day weekend in 1984. I was eight years old at the time and this was the first major concert production I had seen. I was instantly engaged in every aspect of the experience and never looked back on my desire to be part of the music business after that evening. It was the height of Michael mania and I have a specific memory of him coming to the edge of the stage and sitting down within reach of the audience. The energy was through the roof. Even though it was billed as Jackson Victory tour, this was really a showcase for Michael with most of the setlist coming from “Off The Wall” and “Thriller.” I also recall he didn’t perform “Thriller” that night which made me question why a performer would skip his biggest hit. Luckily, I got to see Michael a few more times over the years and he did perform “Thriller.” I sometimes look at my ticket stub from that show which had a face value of $29.75 to remind myself to keep it real on our ticket prices.
The Dave Matthews Band at The Boot in New Orleans
April 29, 1994
I had heard about The Dave Matthews Band and had a few cassette tapes from Trax in my collection. In the spring semester, I began seeing generic posters around campus for a Dave Matthews Band show at The Boot. Anyone who has been to Tulane’s local bar, The Boot, knows the smelly joint doesn’t even have a stage. It was a $5 cover that evening and the room was about half full. I believe this was the first ever DMB show in New Orleans which had a legal drinking age of 18 at the time, allowing me to get into the establishment at the tender age of 18! Dave blew the roof off the place and anyone who was in The Boot that night left a core fan. A huge “Ants Marching” and “Jimi Thing” highlighted the sweaty set. It was amazing to see the immediate growth in the market and beyond. Next up was State Palace, then House of Blues at Mardi Gras, then Jazzfest. By May of 1995, I was seeing DMB open for the Grateful Dead in a stadium in Vegas. It felt like we were helping the band grow, spreading the word and music to anyone who would listen. I became such a fan. I remember Bobby Reynolds and I seeing DMB five times in one week.
The Grateful Dead at Seattle Center
May 26, 1995
Some of my Grateful Dead aficionado friends may take issue with me picking a ’95 show to highlight here. I spent a lot of time seeing the GD in the 90’s before Jerry passed and saw lots of amazing shows in that era. Most Deadheads don’t touch 1995 because Jerry’s health was failing and, for the most part, the performances were uneven and inconsistent toward the end. It’s important to highlight late era GD because it spawned a new inspired audience, as well as many future music business executives which would bring rise to the “Jamband” community in the late 90s and early 2000s. On this fateful night, we wondered into the venue with an air of looseness, listening to the band soundcheck Dylan’s “Tough Mama,” which was a treat unto itself. The venue was situated under the Space Needle and in sight of Mount Rainer. We made our way to the front of the stage just in front of Jerry, where the same group of heads assembled each evening. The band was locked in during the first set which featured a peppy “Franklin’s Tower.” The magic kicked into high gear at the outset of the second set with a monstrous 28-minute “Scarlet->Fire.” What sets this one apart is the introduction of the magic wand, a new effect in Jerry’s arsenal that produced an alien like guitar tone. With complete confidence Jerry placed each note perfectly using his new effect with ease and taking the band and audience on an auditory journey that seemed to keep peaking. Weir layered in some spacey rhythm guitar, complimenting the soaring guitar solos to make this one of the best late era Scarlet->Fire’s with the band firing on all cylinders one more time! I looked around and people were literally in tears all around me watching the sunset below Mount Rainer as Jerry screamed “Fire on The Mountain” over and over. I’ve gone back to listen and it does hold up on tape as one of the most unique and recognizable Fires ever played. There I said it. A 1995 jam that stands up.
Particle w/ Special Guests at Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee
June 23, 2002
This was one of the most unique events I ever attended….the very first Bonnaroo. No one knew quite what to expect and it exceeded all expectations. It was a massive gathering of friends from across the country and very well curated as a fan-friendly festival. Jam bands of all shapes, sizes and genres were on the sold-out bill. Particle was playing an afternoon set right after Col Bruce (RIP). During their set, I remember having a conversation with the partners at Superfly about trying to pull off an unscheduled late night show beginning after 2am. In the inaugural year, music was slotted until 4am, so there was an opportunity for someone to capitalize on all the people hanging out after the music stopped. We got permission that evening to hold the late night show at the cinema tent which wasn’t even a tent at the time. There was no PA, so we had to scramble and find one. We found a band that came just to perform on the campgrounds and had brought a PA so they agreed to let us borrow it if they could sit in during the set. Around 2:30am we began moving some metal barricades toward the tent to create a makeshift stage. I remember getting on the mic and telling people we were going to have a show here and I could see people starting to roam toward us from the campgrounds. Particle went on around 4am and played until sunrise to a huge audience. At one point, there were musicians lined up to sit in so it turned into a huge superjam. Afterwards I remember seeing a clip of the sunrise jam on MTV and the NY Times called my office for a quote about how the late night surprise set came together. The next year at Bonnaroo there was programming all night long. It made me realize that anything can be pulled off at anytime. People still talk to me about that night.
Your House Band Featuring Mickey Hart, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Warren Haynes, Bruce Hornsby, and Mike Gordon plus Special Guest Wyclef Jean at National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.
Jan. 7, 2007
Looking back on this now all seems like a dream. I had been a lifelong fan of The Grateful Dead and had the incredible opportunity to work with and manage Mickey Hart & Bill Kreutzmann for a handful of years between 2005 and 2009. Mickey called me one day and said that I should produce Nancy Pelosi’s Inauguration when she became Speaker of The House in 2007. Anytime Mickey had an idea he would always see it through to its fullest potential. Mickey and I put together a special band for the evening that he dubbed “Your House Band” as a play on the fact that this was now Nancy’s House of Reps. The one-time only band featured Mickey, Bill, Weir, Hornsby, Mike Gordon, and Warren Haynes. The other artists that night were Tony Bennett, Carole King, and Wyclef Jean. Mickey wanted Wyclef to sit in so I connected with him on the phone prior to the show. Wyclef didn’t know “Iko-Iko” (1960’s New Orleans song), but was willing to give it a shot. When he showed up I went into this little private area with him and we listened to “Iko-Iko” and went over it. When the time came, Wyclef and The Dead brought the House to their feet (no pun intended) with an amazing rendition of “Iko-Iko.” I think its the only time Wyclef & The Dead did any type of collaboration. I also possess the only recording from the show. At the last second, I sent out for a hard drive and we grabbed a feed from the board. Brad Serling later transferred it for posterity.