By Hip Hop Saved My Life by Snarley Brown
It’s a tough racket up in Alaska as far as artistry is concerned.
For one, we don’t really have the population to support that type of community as a means for living. For musicians up here, we’ve almost always had to venture out to find an audience large enough to support us.
Secondly, if I can be candid for a moment, Alaskans are a fickle bunch. Over the years I’ve seen more than a few concert promoters come and go, so I congratulate those I’m prepping to speak about. What is it that sets this group apart? Consistency.
Showdown Productions has been consistent in bringing current headlining acts to Alaska, not to mention some favored classics. These folks behind this company have taken countless shorts, and an numerous amount of losses over the years. Still, through all the bullshit, drama, bad press, and cancellations, the show must go on. I’ve been acquainted with the big three (Ray Flores, Hellen Parayes, and Mac Holtan) over there for more time than they’d wish to admit.
I’ve known Ray and Hellen since high school, followed them through the rise of Showdown Productions and their survival of a promoter’s nightmare of early 2017, which saw rapper DMX stand them up at the airport and weeks later, Canadian EDM band Zedd’s Dead cancelling due to illness.
In my opinion, of all the three aforementioned heavyweights at the mast of this company, Mac has always been kind of the guy behind the curtain. Don’t get me wrong, Mac does just as much running around as Hellen and Ray, his face just hasn’t been in the public eye as much as his counterparts. What I’ve always admired about Mac is his cool, calm, constantly professional demeanor. Regardless of what chaos may be brewing, it’s very unlikely to see Mac losing his shit. He’s always been a straight-shooter with me, which is all you can ask for in this business. With his upcoming show this next weekend at Williwaw, it seemed as good a time as any to do a little profile on my friend.
SB: I met Ray in High School, and Helen while she was working at Mammoth’s CD store in the Dimond Mall. Out of curiosity, what brought you into the picture?
Mac: The band I was in in high school (Ready Aim Timber, now Griffith) was getting booked frequently at The Downstairs. I believe it was before my high school prom that I showed up to a show wearing a Miami Vice tuxedo and a mohawk. Hellen happened to be looking for an intern to help learn the ins of running a venue/show promotion. We clicked and I had an unofficial college internship that Fall. This was 2011. Hellen and Ray were always close friends, and I was the first name recommended when Ray started expanding his print shop (Shirts Up) in 2013. Hellen and I always managed to work together somehow between venues and companies, until inevitably Showdown Productions was formed out of a mutual love and knowledge of concert production — but I came on as a partner instead of intern.
SB: I think when doing anything artistic in Alaska, you’ve really got to be doing it for the love. There are so many obstacles for us, how do you feel that translates for promoters?
Mac: A lot of agents and artists view us as a second-tier market, but many are understanding how special Alaska is. I think we are in a better spot than ever to connect beyond Alaska — look at the success and recognition Quinn Christopherson has gotten lately.
Definitely the biggest obstacle is balancing the show budget; making sure the artists are paid fairly, that you have killer lights and production, and are asking a reasonable ticket price. Alaska, in particular, is a hard market to read, and at the end of the day our relationship to the community is call and response. Alaskans don’t follow top 40 trends or who’s headlining festivals as much as you’d think.
SB: I’m sure you’ve had some interesting experiences with performers you’ve brought up. Any you care to share with our readers?
Mac: My most interesting experiences have been from when headliner personality collides with Alaskan nature. Like being in an RV with Waka Flocka Flame in 40 below temp Fairbanks in December listening to his TM talk about going to the Christmas Village to see Santa.
The last time we had Grieves here, we almost got kicked out of Crossroads Lounge for putting $20 worth of “Who Let The Dogs Out” on a loop on the jukebox.
SB: Of all the artists you’ve helped to bring up, which one was your pride and joy?
Mac: Honestly, booking K. Flay was a personal favorite. Pre-sales were super-low until day of show, and then 600 people showed up day-of. Also the first female headliner at Williwaw. K.Flay, besides being a kind person, also later hired me to stage tech a tour, fulfilling a personal daydream to have a bonafide tour experience.
SB: Which artist/s has been or, was the easiest to work with?
Mac: Truthfully, 95% of artists we book are either very kind, professional, or a combo of both. DJ Fan Service, Lloyds Noise and DJ GRE are always great assets to show, and guys like Ben Swann and Darius (Dossman) always go above and beyond to help promote.
SB: Any advice to give for all the dreamers out there?
Mac: Find friends who encourage your creative ideas, and work ethic tends to come with that need to share your art and build a culture. People who chase clout and want to be seen on stage tend to come and go — authenticity lasts far longer. Like what you do, pursue what excites you.