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POP MUSIC / THOMAS K. ARNOLD : Wild Animnal Park Opts for Tame Summer Showcase

Contrary to speculation, the San Diego Wild Animal Park this year will not resume presenting a full summer pop-concert season at its 5,000-capacity Mahala Amphitheater.

Instead of showcasing nationally known pop stars every weekend between Memorial Day and Labor Day, as they did from 1982 until 1986, park officials will limit summer bookings to four shows, as they did last year.

“The concert series was originally conceived as a marketing tool, as an opportunity for us to introduce the park to--and draw to the park--individuals who otherwise might not venture out,” said Wild Animal Park spokesman Tom Hanscom.

Initially, he said, the weekly concerts--mostly by oldies acts like Jan and Dean, the Everly Brothers, and the late Roy Orbison--did just that, boosting park attendance and more than justifying the necessary expenditures.

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“But after four years, we found the same people were coming back, again and again,” Hanscom said. “We were no longer attracting new folks to the park, so the investment was no longer paying off.”

As a result, he said, the Wild Animal Park’s summer concert program was dropped in 1987, replaced by a weekly series of wildlife and cultural presentations from around the world.

“Every weekend we would spotlight a different part of the globe,” Hanscom said. “We would talk about and show off animals from, say, Australia, and then present native music by an Australian bush band.

“But we didn’t see the attendance we wanted, by any means, so in 1988 we went to a mix of programs, recognizing that some people like animal shows, some like concerts, and it’s best not to do only one or the other.

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“And that’s what we’re doing this year, as well.”

The park’s abbreviated 1989 summer concert season began last weekend with Friday and Saturday evening shows by the Platters, the Coasters and Bobby Freeman.

Coming up are Blood, Sweat and Tears, July 1 and 2; Jan and Dean, July 29 and 30; and the Kingston Trio, Sept. 2 and 3. Concerts are free with admission to the park, which is six miles east of Escondido, just off California 78.

The search for a fourth act to round out the bill at X-Fest II is finally over. Joining New Order, Public Image Ltd., and the Sugarcubes at San Diego State University’s Aztec Bowl on June 17 will be De La Soul, a hot new rap band from New York.

Originally, Lou Reed was supposed to play the show, but New Order, the headliners, objected. Rumor has it that someone from the band phoned Reed’s manager and said, “Lou’s too good to open for us.”

Yeah, but so is virtually everybody else-- including PIL, the Sugarcubes, and De La Soul. For several years now, the American Top 40 has been polluted by an endless stream of sound-alike techno-pop dance hits by synthesizer-happy Brits, and New Order is one of the worst offenders.

“Technique,” the latest album by this particularly annoying outfit, is a wretched example of what can happen when machines take over: mind-numbing disco in which the only thing that matters is the beat--throbbing, mechanical, relentless.

New Order’s melodies are boring and derivative, and their lyrics are so vapid, so mindless, that the House of Commons should seriously consider passing a law prohibiting anyone with a pretty-boy hairdo and an affected lisp from getting anywhere near a pen and notepad.

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LINER NOTES: The May 19 opener of this year’s Concerts by the Bay series at Humphrey’s got off to a late start when the Four Tops appeared on stage 20 minutes behind schedule. The reason: Half the group, Lawrence Payton and Abdul Fakir, couldn’t pull themselves away from the televised Chicago-New York basketball playoff game they were watching in promoter Kenny Weissberg’s hotel room. “I promised them I’d give them a play-by-play account of the last two minutes,” Weissberg said, “but they told me to relax and continued watching.” Only after Michael Jordan spun his last-second magic to win the game did the two Tops join the other two Tops on stage. Quipped Weissberg: “It’s a good thing the game didn’t go into overtime.” . . . Natalie Cole’s canceled May 12 appearance at Humphrey’s has been rescheduled for sometime in September. The exact date should be announced later this week. . . . Two more additions to the Del Mar Fair’s 1989 grandstand concert line-up: Midge Ure at 2 p.m. and Howard Jones at 7:30 p.m. July 2. . . . Voices, just signed by MCA Records, will be playing tonight at Metro in Hillcrest. It’s the San Diego rock band’s last local appearance before they hit the road for a national tour. . . . Scott Pedersen has left Bill Silva Presents and plans to set up his own concert-promoting business. . . . Tickets go on sale at 3 p.m. Friday for a July 2 concert by Ratt at San Diego State University’s Open Air Theatre. Then, at 10 a.m. Saturday, tickets go on sale for two other Open Air Theatre shows: the newly added second show by Oingo Boingo June 26 and David Sanborn’s July 13 appearance.


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