Anthology gave Michael Pritchard the opportunity to establish himself as a talent buyer during its 2007–2012 run.
By bringing artists such as Natalie Cole, Wynton Marsalis, India Arie, and Michael Buble to the Little Italy venue, he built Anthology into a showcase that competed with Humphreys Concerts and the Belly Up.
But for all the success, he says his five years at Anthology was a tumultuous struggle with co-owner Howard Berkson.
“It was always a battle.” He says Berkson often wanted headliners who were way too big for his 272-seat dinner house.
“At one time he wanted Earth, Wind & Fire. I told him he was crazy, but he insisted. For starters they wanted $150,000, plus we had to tear out our stage to make room for their setup.”
Pritchard says he usually won the battles. “The entertainment [balance sheet] made money for the last 11 of 12 months we were open...but food and beverage kept losing money at an amazing rate. They brought in these celebrity chefs, but there wasn’t room for celebrity chefs.”
...as performed by Keiko Matsui
Pritchard’s track record helped him land the talent buyer’s position at Yoshi’s, the Oakland jazz club that he says was in deep trouble when he arrived three years ago.
“They used to run mainstream jazz artists like Oscar Peterson and McCoy Tyner who would play for a two-week run, two shows a night. That did well in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, but the whole business started to change.”
Pritchard brought more than jazz to Yoshi’s. “This year we had Graham Nash, Steven Stills, Herb Alpert, Booker T, the Stylistics, Ann Wilson of Heart...Stevie Wonder just had an after-tour party there.”
But Pritchard and his wife had always planned to move back to San Diego. “We never sold our house. Our daughter is going to SDSU.” Plus, Humphreys wanted him to drop some of his famous friends into Backstage Live for occasional concerts.
At first Yoshi’s balked. But a plan that included weekly teleconferences and a once-a-month trip to the Bay Area let him keep the gig.
Under new owners, the Anthology space (now the Music Box) has undergone a remodeling that took out seating and more than doubled its capacity.
But Pritchard says his longtime relationships have allowed him to keep old Anthology headliners, such as Robben Ford and Poncho Sanchez, to play for him at the smaller Backstage Live. “We have Keiko Matsui on Valentine’s weekend. But when you have an artist as big as that, there is no room for error. You have to have two shows a night and all your shows have to sell out.”