For more than 20 years, the co-founders of Chicago's Jam Productions, Arny Granat and Jerry Mickelson, have done business with Ivan Fernandez, co- promoting numerous concerts and booking shows at the historic Aragon Ballroom.
Fernandez's company Viva Entertainment now operates the Chicago venue known officially as the Aragon Entertainment Center.Jam promoted all of the 15 top-grossing shows presented at the Aragon during the past two decades, according to Billboard Boxscore data (see chart, opposite page), and numerous other concerts across the years.
"The Aragon is one of the most legendary ballrooms ever built," Granat says. "Generations of Chicagoans, from the early days of big band dances through some of today's hottest new artists, have performed there."
Two brothers, William and Andrew Karzaz, built the Aragon in 1926 at the then-astounding cost of $2 million. Named for a region in northeastern Spain, "it was designed to replicate a Spanish palace courtyard with its crystal chandeliers, mosaic tiles, garishly painted plaster, terra cotta ceiling and beautiful arches," the venue's website says. "The shiny bentwood floor was created for dancing and rests on a cushion of cork, felt and springs [while] artificial stars twinkle overhead and the projectors beam clouds scudding across the domed roof some 60 feet above the dancefloor."
In its early years, the Aragon featured radio broadcasts of its dance concerts on WGN and hosted all the greats of the big band era: Frank Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Harry James and many more.
Changes of fortune and ownership led to the Aragon's incarnation in the '60s as the Cheetah Club until rock'n'roll took hold of the venue in the '70s.
Granat recalls, "The rock era began in the early '70s with shows by such legendary artists as Sly & the Family Stone, the Eagles, Queen and Aerosmith, then into the '80s with acts like U2, R.E.M., Depeche Mode, the Smiths; then the '90s with the Beastie Boys, Phish, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day, Tool."
Over the years, such legendary buzz shows as the Rolling Stones and Prince have made massive underplays there just because the place is so great," Granat adds. "More recently, headliners have included the Black Keys, LCD Soundsystem, Phoenix, Kings of Leon, the White Stripes, the Strokes."
Granat equally praises Fernandez as the venue's owner. "He has helped shape the landscape of the live entertainment business. He is a premier promoter and has great insight in the entertainment business. He has been an excellent source of knowledge as well as a good partner, and most importantly, a friend."