SHOW REVIEW: PUFF Daddy
Tacoma Dome, December 12, 1997-Seattle, Washington
By: Gene Dexter
Everytime a major hip hop tour rolls around, I am awed by the amount of energy, time and physical effort it takes to put on a single show. As for World Tour, well, fawgetaboutit, it's too boggling.
Besides running Lost & Found Recordings in Seattle, I also handle Seattle transportation for most national R & B and hip hop appearances on tour. To date, I have to admit, Puff Daddy and company was by far the most exhausting, frustrating and exciting fourteen hours of service I've ever provided. To begin, there was the venue itself, Tacoma Dome, south of downtown Seattle by forty minutes driving and not exactly the epicenter of the city's music scene. The Key Arena somehow missed out on this event, even though it is the new home of the Seattle Sonics and state of the art including user friendly artist and staff entrances with plenty of room for the five vans and stretch limousine, which we needed for the Puffness himself, Lil' Kim, Usher, The L.O.X., Busta Rhymes, Mace and Foxy Brown (an eventual no show this night).
We started out at 4:00 P.M. for the Sheraton Tacoma. After a test run through between the Dome and the hotel, all vans sat until 7:30 for service. The limo was sent back to Seattle to wait at the Four Seasons Hotel, as we were told Puff would be there instead. It made sense to me. The president of a company with One Hundred Fifty Million Dollars in sales would not usually stay in Tacoma suffocating in rooms that wouldn't fit his luggage, much less the music industry's cash machine of the moment.
It is not unusual during a pre show lull for artists, assistants, security, hanger ons, everyone really, to start looking at local transportation services as their individual and private fiefdom, available for their every whim. Of course, each one had very special demands for food runs, store visits, etc., with no recognizable authority to approve these side trips. In fact, throughout the night we were fooled twice into taking two "runs" that didn't please the tour manager or coordinator. You see, when they want a van now, they mean NOW. No body wants to hear how a stylist or makeup person took a vehicle out for a mineral water at 7-11, when the hip hop gods are ready to move. So it was two to three hours of delicate refusals, referral back to coordinators, an occasional argument with lots of Chiefs and no Indians. In fact, I had to laugh at a couple of guys presumably from the L.O.X., who tried to get into locked vans screaming something about "man, it's cold. Do you know how much money is standing here?". I didn't mean to embarrass anyone, but I thought that was hella funny, considering what a typical recording contract looks like.
After the limo sat at the Four Seasons until 8:00 PM, we were informed that Mr. Daddy never made it to the hotel due to a late start from Vancouver, Canada's show the night before, and would we please send the car back to the Dome? Meanwhile, the transfer began of artists. When the hotel booked two floors of this tour, I don't think they had any idea how it would become hip hop central for the night. Fans were everywhere, holiday parties trying to get to their banquet rooms were intimidated by the mob scene and security asked us to use a secret driveway on the third level of parking. Very smart, as word was reaching hotel officials that chaos is bad for business!
As the transportation service for artists this night, you would think someone would have told me Usher was not staying at the Sheraton but at La Quinta, across town. We tried to get to him, but his people ended up with a shuttle van after waiting an hour . We took him back later, though.
The concert itself was good, no real surprises. Busta Rhymes stayed to watch the show after his set, moving into the pit for guests. Usher was making use of his toned body, stripping down as he went. Lil' Kim was, well, Lil' Kim. Puffy, who had two of the biggest bodyguards you have ever seen, interacted with the mostly teenaged crowd in a style reminiscent of an old Ed Sullivan show. At about 10:15 PM, we got a call from Mace from a private airport in Tacoma, even though his stage time was set for 9:30. Apparently he flew back east after the Vancouver show to attend his mother's wedding, and was trying to get back for this appearance. Unfortunately, that call was the first we were hearing of it. A van was sent to the airport to meet the Lear jet and even with police escort, I couldn't get him back in time. The union crew guys were contracted until 11:00 PM and if you have ever worked with unions, it's non negotiable.
For me, the end of a show is the most exciting time. Artists are rushed through traffic, security is serious, and the artists are usually happy it's over for the time being.. On this night, Puffy wanted to say hello to everyone at the Sheraton before the ride back to Seattle. Vans kept moving back and forth to get everyone together. All were carrying gift baskets filled with Moet Chandon Champagne, Nautica cosmetics, Hilfiger wear, all courtesy of those companies trying to be down for hip hop. Funny how free lots of things can be when you are already successful, when one can afford it!
It all ended around 6:00 AM, after my argument with the visiting manager from Bone Thugs and Harmony, who was pissed that I took back some marketing people from Bad Boy Entertainment to the hotel before he was done at the Dome. It didn't matter to him that we waited an hour for his ass and just got tired of watching him pontificate to local students about staying in school. Oh well, that's show biz!
It'll be a while before the next hip hop show comes crashing down on Seattle, but when it does, I'll grab a latte with extra foam and start all over.