Many go to college with dreams of glamorous careers, but by the time Peter Kernan had left his home in Michigan to attend the University of Notre Dame, he had already launched his career as a concert promoter. But even he couldn’t have realized how far that would take him.
As president of his high school class in Gross Pointe, Kernan was in charge of booking bands to play at school functions. Naturally he turned to local talent to fill those bills, but in Michigan that talent was just a bit better than the average garage bands. Groups like Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes, the Bob Seger System, Brownsville Station and the MC 5 were among those he booked, which provided a pretty deep list of contacts when he served on Notre Dame’s concert committee. Having rubbed elbows with some of the biggest names in music, it’s not a surprise that Kernan stayed in the business after graduating Notre Dame – and remains in that business to this day.
His efforts are still felt throughout Indiana and Michigan, with many of the shows booked in Kalamazoo, South Bend and Fort Wayne going through Kernan’s Pacific Coast Concerts.
But from the beginning, Kernan also diversified, handling not only concert promotions, but ticket sales, merchandising and record sales via his chain of stores, River City Records. The 1970s and 80s were a good era for a music entrepreneur before larger corporate entities took over those areas.
“It was the pre-Ticketmaster era, so I would sell tickets at various locations, dropping them off for sale. That was before online sales, so getting those tickets out helped get them to people.”
In a 2007 interview (also for whatzup), Kernan told the story of when he first met Mick Jagger following a South Bend concert, an encounter that would have far-reaching implications in Kernan’s career.
“It was Mick’s 32nd birthday, which tells you how long ago that was,” recalled Kernan. “He walked up to where I was standing, and I wished him a happy birthday and told him the next time they were on tour, he should come to South Bend. He didn’t know where South Bend was, so I told him it was where Notre Dame was. He said, ‘I’ve heard of Notre Dame, but I’ve never heard of South Bend. But don’t mind me, I thought Bloomington was a department store.’”
Eventually Kernan began handling merchandise sales at Rolling Stones concerts, a role he also served with the Allman Brothers some years later. But nearly a decade ago Kernan, who had moved to the West Coast to be closer to the hub of activity in the music business, was ready to settle down a bit.
“I had been on the road for 40 to 45 weeks a year representing bands interests with merchandising and such, but I had hit 50 and didn’t want to be on the road anymore. I was tired of all the driving and flying and crazy hours. I still wanted to do something related to music, but I didn’t want to still travel like I did before. I was also tired of all the ridiculous traffic problems in L.A. It would take two hours to get to Dodger Stadium, and life’s too short to deal with all of that.”
Kernan found a way out of that rat trap by returning to South Bend and focusing on the areas he had before in Michigan and Indiana to establish a way to bring music to his own backyard. Locally, Kernan was able to bring bands to the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum as well as the Embassy Theatre, making the most of two very different venues to bring in a variety of talent to the area. In the last couple years, he has been particularly helpful in stepping up the efforts of the Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation Department as they plan their annual Summer Concert Series at the Foellinger Theatre. He says his contacts with bands that had already appeared at the Foellinger helped him realize what potential the stage had.
“A couple years ago they had booked Kansas and Chicago, and I know some of those guys and asked them what they thought of the Foellinger, and they said that they liked what they saw. It’s a nice venue, and the artists really like it. So last year I worked with them to book some of the bands that appeared.
“Mike Love of the Beach Boys said it was like playing inside the Spruce Goose, which was Howard Hughes’s plane. But he said great things about it, and Styx, REO Speedwagon and Foreigner all thought it was a great place. I took a lot of pride in having those shows at the Foellinger last year, and the people at Fort Wayne Parks are great to work with.”
The outdoor aspect has been especially appealing to not only the performers, but concertgoers who get to enjoy summer weather while being protected from the elements.
Kernan is involved in the lineup just announced for this year’s Foellinger series, including a return by the Beach Boys who will share the bill with the Temptations, a remarkable blend of historic musical talent. He’s also working with Wooden Nickel to sell bus and ticket packages for the upcoming Rolling Stones show at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the Fourth of July. Having parlayed a gig booking shows for his high school into a career which allowed him to hang out with some of the biggest names in music history, Kernan still clearly enjoys what he does and is grateful for the experiences the job has afforded him.
“I’ve had the opportunity to see the world,” he says. “I’ve been to China, I’ve been to Europe eight times, I’ve been to Australia, not to mention all over the United States and Canada. It’s also been rewarding to have artists that I’ve worked with go out of their way to make note of the work I’ve done. I worked with Steely Dan, and both Donald [Fagan] and Walter [Becker] called me to thank me for a job well done. When performers who are at the top of their game take the time to recognize you for your efforts, to tell me that the work that I’ve done has been good, that’s very rewarding. It’s not an easy job, but it has definitely had its rewards.”
Thursday, April 27
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Community Unity — Community dinner, games and prizes, and neighborhood safety forum, 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, Jennings Recreation Center, Fort Wayne, free, 427-6028
Issues and Ales — Panel of experts discuss important issues in the community with audience Q&A , 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, Calhoun Street Soups, Salads and Spirits, Fort Wayne, free, 456-7005
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Chris Worth — Variety at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Fort Wayne Comedy Connection — Comedy at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Hubie Ashcraft — Acoustic at River View Tavern, Decatur, 7-10 p.m., no cover, 724-3500
Open Mic — Hosted by Mike Mowry at Pedal City, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 415-6167
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Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Karaoke at Pine Valley Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 8:30 p.m., no cover, 490-9464
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at AJ's Bar and Grill, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., no cover, 434-1980
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Josh — Karaoke at Columbia Street West, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., no cover, 422-5055
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., ,
Karaoke w/Bucca — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Karaoke with Rooster — Variety at By: Belle Haven, South Whitley, 8 p.m., no cover, 866-716-9243
Shooting Star Prod. w/Stu — Variety at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., no cover, 478-5827
Shut Up and Sing — Karaoke at Duesy's Sports Bar, Fort Wayne, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 483-5681
Three Rivers Karaoke — at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 483-1311
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Little Shop of Horrors — IPFW Department of Theatre performance of Alan Menken-Howard Ashman musical comedy, 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, April 26-29, Williams Theatre, IPFW, Fort Wayne, $5-$18, 481-6555
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37th National Print Exhibition — Juried exhibition featuring contemporary printmakers from around the nation, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
41st SOCA Student Exhibition — Works from students currently enrolled at USF’s School of Creative Arts, daily thru April 30, Weatherhead Gallery, USF Rolland Art Center, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Diane Allen Groenert — Exhibition of local artist’s Downtown Series and new works, Monday-Saturday thru June 24, West Central Microcreamery & Cafe, Fort Wayne, 415-9293
Expressions of Existence — An exhibition of works by artists through history, including Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and others whose works have been influenced by disabilities, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Fort Wayne Artist Guild Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru April 30, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Fort Wayne Photographers Club — Exhibition featuring local photographers, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 30, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
Jan Krist-Finkbeiner — Exhibition of ceramic reliefs, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
Kathy Funderburg & Diane Schafer-King — Acrylic paintings (Funderburg) and works in marbled paper and fabric (Schaefer-King), Monday-Saturday thru April 29, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Rhoda Gerig: The Hope of Eagles — Photographic images of eagles, daily thru June 4, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102
Sharon — An exhibition of Leon Borensztein photographs chronicling the struggles he faced raising his severely disabled daughter, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
SOCA Graduate Program: Student Highlights — Juried exhibition of works by students enrolled in USF’s School of Creative Arts graduate program, Monday-Friday thru April 30, Lupke Gallery, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Exhibition of works by IPFW graduation seniors, daily thru May 3 , Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery, Main Library, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Senior thesis projects from Bachelor of Fine Arts candidates Brenda Drayer (sculpture), Derek Hibbs (printmaking), Ellen Mensch (painting), Nathaniel Morris (sculpture) and Kyle Snodgrass (sculpture), daily thru May 7, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring Palette — New original works by more than 50 nationally recognized artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru April 30, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568