Alice Cooper left the nearly 2,500 fans who crowded into The Q Centre on Tuesday in awe, amazed at how a 68-year-old rock star – with the help of a collection of talented younger musicians – can still put on a wildly entertaining show.
From his intro by gothic horror legend Vincent Price and opening number “Black Widow,” to the rousing and timely finale, “Elected,” the singer who once shocked audiences by hauling around snakes, wearing strait jackets and bringing guillotines on stage offered fans in Colwood a memorable rock theatre performance a couple of weeks before Halloween.
For Albert Berns and Matt Laundrie, the dynamic duo behind Ghostfinger Productions, the concert promotion company, bringing Cooper’s show to The Q Centre was somewhat of a watershed moment.
The company is based on the West Shore and Berns says the goal is to offer up to half a dozen shows at the arena, which has not traditionally hosted many rock concerts in its more than 10 years of existence.
“There’s tons of bands that can sell 2,500 tickets, which is perfect for this place,” he says. “We’d really like to see it grow here. What we tell people is ‘it’s safe, you guys live here and there’s no parking issues.’”
The latter comment is a swipe at hosting concerts at larger venues like the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, which have higher costs for promoters – which can mean higher ticket prices and require patrons to scramble for parking.
Laundrie, who ran busy Victoria concert promotion company High Tide Entertainment for 13 years until shutting down the company and joining Berns at Ghostfinger this year, likes the idea of bringing concerts to the people, in smaller, more cozy venues.
“We want to make people realize that we aren’t stuck with one arena here,” he says.
High Tide brought the Steve Miller Band to Esquimalt’s Archie Browning Sports Centre in 2013, Laundrie says, and “people thought we crazy.”
“We put 2,000 people in there and we totally transformed that venue,” he says of the normally nondescript hockey arena.
Counting the Alice Cooper show, Steve Vai in Nanaimo on Monday and the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band earlier this month at the University of Victoria, Ghostfinger has put on more than 40 events so far this year.
There’s another 10 on the docket for 2016, including Celtic Thunder at the Royal Theatre and Ziggy Marley.
Berns, a lawyer by day and a self-professed “hack” guitar player and music promoter by night, recalls the germ of an idea that led to him founding Ghostfinger.
“I was at Sonisphere (Music Festival), travelling through Europe to catch these professional acts, when the clouds parted and a beam of light shone down,” he says. “I figured after seeing 150 shows I want to go behind the scenes and create the shows.”
The name came before the first date. Berns was trying somewhat unsuccessfully to teach his son guitar chords when the youngster looked up and said, “Dad, it’s like you have ghost fingers.”
That was late in 2014 and four months later Berns and his new company were promoting local band The New Groovement at Lucky Bar.
Having Laundrie come on board has taken this fledgling company to the next level, says Berns, noting that his partner “put on 600 shows on his own” before the merging of the minds.
“Matt has brought the weight of his experience and connections with High Tide to roll into this company,” he says, adding that Laundrie began helping out before High Tide shut down. The pair hope to make music at The Q Centre a more regular occurrence, and not just when there’s a political campaign on or a quasi spooky holiday.