Danny Zelisko, the long-running Valley promoter who launched his own company this year, is one of eight promoters from around the country in the running for Pollstar magazine’s promoter of the year award.
“I’ll tell you what, I was floored,” Zelisko says. “I was getting ready to leave to go to this Ronnie James Dio thing that I was at last week, where Ronnie’s widow, Wendy, honored some of Ronnie’s friends who either had cancer or were just really good friends with him. In my case, it was both. And on the way out the door, I got the mail and there was this large envelope from Pollstar. I thought it was gonna be one of those letters that said, ‘Buy the new edition of the Pollstar booking guide’ or something.”
Instead, it was a letter telling him that he’d been nominated the same year he launched his new company, Danny Zelisko Presents.
Gary Bongiovanni, Pollstar’s editor, says the trade publication’s Bill Graham Award for promoter of the year is “the highest honor we have, in terms of the concert business, for a promoter.”
“The nominations are made by a cross section of about 200 people from across the industry. The only rule is they can’t nominate themselves.”
Pollstar altered the eligibility requirements for the Bill Graham Award this year so that only promoters with personal funds at risk could be considered for the honor.
“In years past,” Bongiovanni says, “Live Nation, AEG, the big companies tended to dominate, which is a little different kind of a game than when you have your own Benjamins on the line. So we made that change, and Danny’s in there competing with the other people who are similarly at risk.”
A fixture on the Valley music scene since founding Evening Star Productions in 1974, Zelisko has been nominated for promoter of the year before but never won.
Is this the right year?
“I’ve been working really hard at trying to re-establish myself on my own in this market,” Zelisko says. “I think I’ve done a pretty good job of it, and it’s really nice that some people have noticed. I’m really flattered. But when I think about it, everything that’s taken place this year has been pretty amazing.”
Sizing up Zelisko’s chances, Bongiovanni says, “Danny has successfully established himself in Phoenix as an independent promoter, which at first, you could think is not that big a deal. But Live Nation is an enormous corporation and you’re also competing with anything AEG might bring into the market.”
And it helps, Bongiovanni says, that after nearly four decades of doing this, Zelisko is both well-known and well-liked in the industry.
“He’s a legitimate character,” he says. “He’s pretty much of a straight shooter. He tells people what he thinks and a lot of people like him for that. It’s interesting that he lasted as long inside Live Nation, being the independent guy that he is.
“But on an industry basis, if you ask, ‘Who’s the promoter in Phoenix?,’ more often than not, you’re gonna hear people come back with Danny’s name. That was the case before he was with Live Nation and afterwards.”
Winners are announced at an awards show on Friday, February 3.
Upcoming concerts by Danny Zelisko Presents include Lady Antebellum at Grand Canyon University on Thursday, Nov. 17; Tesla acoustic at the Celebrity Theatre on Friday, Nov. 18; John Prine and Loudon Wainwright III at the Orpheum Theatre on Saturday, Nov. 19; and Phooson with Selena Gomez at US Airways Center on Friday, Dec. 2.
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