Concert promoter Ward keeps party going at Austintown club

Friday’s Snoop Dogg concert at Club Gossip became a real possibility when the Limp Bizkit-Snoop summer tour began to unravel.

That tour was slated to do amphitheaters, including Pittsburgh’s First Niagara Pavilion on July 20 (Bizkit was also to play Cleveland’s Time Warner Amphitheater on July 5, but with Method Man and Redman as support acts).

Snoop bailed out in early May over reportedly weak ticket sales. Limp Bizkit canceled the entire tour about two weeks later.

And Corey Ward, who has been promoting shows at Club Gossip for several years (since it was The Wedge), pounced on the opportunity.

Snoop already had shows set in Columbus tonight and Michigan on Saturday, so it was a natural to squeeze Youngstown in between them.

Ward may have had another factor working in his favor. He had met Snoop — who is a Steelers fan — last August at the NFL season-opening concert at Point State Park in Pittsburgh. Ward expects the hip-hop star to don a Cavaliers jersey Friday night.

Anybody’s who has been to one of Ward’s concerts knows about the party atmosphere inside Club Gossip, which was recently reconfigured to increase stage-front space.

It’s a big reason why people keep coming back.

But the acts themselves are the main reason, and with few exceptions, Ward has delivered bands that people will pay to see.

He pointed out that every show he has promoted in the past two years — including Friday’s Snoop Dogg concert — has been a sellout. Snoop sold a whopping 800 tickets the first day they went on sale. The club holds about 1,200.

Ward’s success has not only earned him a good reputation in the industry; it has helped put Youngstown — a tertiary market — on the radar of rock bands.

Since his first show — Buckcherry in 2006 — Ward has brought in at least 20 bands (some twice), including Breaking Benjamin, Chevelle, Social Distortion, Papa Roach, Shinedown, Saliva, Theory of a Deadman and Hinder.

“The first Buckcherry show was supposed to be a one-time deal, but people had a good time, and they kept asking me, ‘Who’s next?,’” said Ward, who had to take out a loan to make that first show happen. “I had no references, and I had to pay the band up front,” he said.

A 1995 Austintown Fitch High graduate, Ward has been in the promotions business since 1999, when he formed a company to bring in pro wrestling and tough-man shows. He bought the Steel Valley Super Nationals hot rod show in 2005 and has been handling it ever since.

The Super Nats will be at Quaker City Raceway in Salem from June 25 to 27.

His busiest year was 2007, when he promoted 15 concerts at The Wedge. “I’ve got a working relationship with agents now,” he said. “They might say, ‘Do a Fuel concert now, and six months from now, I will throw you Theory of a Deadman.’”

But it’s not all business. Ward has developed friendships with some of the bands — including Buckcherry, Social Distortion, Candlebox and Papa Roach — and sometimes goes out on the town with them after the shows.

After the Papa Roach concert in November, he got the neighboring Wedgewood Lanes to open up the bowling alley.

“The band wanted to bowl, so about 30 of us went over to Wedgewood until about 5 a.m.,” he said.

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