In the concert industry, the term "showcase" usually is used to describe a live show designed to introduce promising young talent, often to a room full of record execs, journalists and other music biz tastemakers. But while Frontiers Records’ inaugural Rockin’ Christmas Bash at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills on Saturday, Dec. 2, is billed as a showcase, it's not part of any music industry event — nor are any of the bands performing all that young.
Indeed, the Rockin’ Christmas Bash — which features veteran rockers L.A. Guns, Warrant and Jack Russell, former vocalist of Great White, as well as Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell's band Riverdogs — might well be the first showcase that its performers have played in decades. While it's a star-studded lineup for enthusiasts of ’80s glam metal, the show isn't designed to let fans relive the glory days of the Sunset Strip so much as to serve as an unofficial American coming-out party for Frontiers, the Italian independent label that continues to fly the flag for classic hard rock.
Although the company was founded by owner and head of A&R Serafino Perugino in 1996, Frontiers didn't begin making true inroads in the United States until it secured a domestic distribution deal in 2008. Nearly a decade later, Perugino — who already oversees an annual multiday label festival in Milan — thinks the time is right for Frontiers to further raise its profile in America.
“We felt it was an appropriate time to have a live show showcasing the label and its artists to the local fans who supported us so much during the last few years,” he explains. “Obviously for the whole nature of our catalog, L.A. was the most appropriate city [for a showcase], and the setup that was presented to us was ideal.”
"Frontiers has provided a valuable service by giving these artists a home and outlet to continue to create and evolve beyond their amazing catalogs," says former That Metal Show host and all-around metal expert Eddie Trunk, who will host Saturday night's showcase. "Some of this great music may have never seen the light of day or been given an opportunity without the efforts and support of Frontiers and their team."
In addition to the pop-metal personified by the acts who will perform on Saturday, Frontiers – named after Journey's multiplatinum 1983 album – specializes in what's commonly called AOR, a term that once signified a popular radio format (“album-oriented rock”) but nowadays applies to acts whose airplay is marginal. The label's roster also includes progressive-rock legends such as Yes and Asia, classic rock radio mainstays Boston, veteran British hard rockers Uriah Heep and the aforementioned master balladeers Journey, whose last two albums Frontiers distributed in Europe.
Still, Frontiers remains best known for its unabashed support of bands like the ones who will play at the Canyon Club. Other notable artists who currently call the label home include Mr. Big, Whitesnake and Night Ranger — groups whose MTV glory days have long since passed but who continue to tour and release new material on a regular basis.
Their style of music is "the portrait of an era which is still very dear to many people,” Perugino says. “Like the musical and movie Rock of Ages showed, the reality is that this music never went away, and those songs have become classics for life for everyone who lived through those years. Certainly, we now live in different times, but I feel this music has an identity and a dignity that we — as a label and artistic outlet for our artists — have contributed to re-creating, and this is something we are extremely proud of.”
Frontiers isn't focused on the past exclusively, as the label also champions a number of promising up-and-coming hard rock groups such as Sweden's Eclipse, the U.K.'s Inglorious and Finland's One Desire — acts whose big riffs, big hooks and occasionally big hair hearken back to a time when Poison and Mötley Crüe ruled the charts.
Perugino believes having a “good balance” of heritage and newer acts is important. “Working with established artists actually opens doors for the new guys,” he says. “The challenge in both cases is to manage expectations. The new guys may dream a bit too much and think that only because they are on the same label with, say, Whitesnake or Journey, then automatically their records will have the same exposure or sales. For the more established guys, the problem is to make them realize that the golden ages are gone and that to reach certain results nowadays, you need to double or triple your efforts.”
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Frontiers will double or triple its own efforts in the coming months as it launches a new prog-rock imprint and expands its focus on reissues, Perugino says. The label — whose 2018 releases will include new albums by the likes of Rick Springfield, former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Jake E. Lee and Christian hard rockers Stryper — is also working with Dominic Pandiscia, former general manager of the Capitol Music Group's Caroline Distribution, on a new venture with an eye toward developing what Perugino calls "more mainstream artists."
Then there are live events, such as the annual Frontiers Rock Festival, the fifth installment of which will be held overseas in the spring, and the Canyon Club showcase, which Perugino says is only the beginning. “There are plans already to do bigger and better live events [in America] moving forward, which may hopefully open doors for some of the European label acts, whom U.S. fans must get better acquainted with,” he says.
While England and Scandinavia have replaced the Sunset Strip as the best places to discover new hard rock acts, Perugino believes it's only a matter of time until the genre returns to prominence in America. “I can safely say I am investing more and more resources into A&R within the U.S., as this country should go back to the place where it belongs when it comes to hard rock.”
The Frontiers Rockin’ Holiday Bash with Warrant, L.A. Guns, Jack Russell's Great White and Riverdogs takes place at the Canyon Club on Saturday, Dec. 2.