Middle man

Local music promoter Roland Fuentes struggles to describe what he actually does in the industry. His job description has changed so much over the last 18 years, it’s hard for him to keep track.

“I’m not a banker,” says Fuentes, 38, owner of the San Antonio-based promotions company Nightrocker Presents. “Everything’s not in black and white. I’m just a cog in the whole machine and I’m okay with that.”

Instead of trying to explain what he does as a facilitator for local bands, it would be a lot easier for him to list the things he doesn’t do. He wouldn’t be talking for long.

“I learned the business by immersing myself in it,” says Fuentes, who also answers to Nightrocker, his alter ego. “And I got really lucky.”

Fuentes’s good fortune began in 1989, a couple of years after he graduated from Fox Tech High School. Attending San Antonio College to study Radio, Television and Film, he found his way into the radio booth of KSYM, the on-campus, student-run radio station, and joined the Monday Night Thrash Attack as an on-air personality. A year later, he was running the show.

“I thought I was going to be a radio guy forever,” Fuentes says. “I liked being the talent behind the mic.”

Fuentes soon found himself shying away from his soundproof room more and more when, in 1991, KISS-FM, the local rock station, changed their format. That’s when career opportunities rushed in on Fuentes like headbangers into a mosh pit.

“All of a sudden I was the only `heavy metal` game in town,” he recalls. “All these record labels — Warner Bros., Geffen Records, Sony — started calling me and saying, ‘We’ve got these small bands — Korn, Rage Against the Machine, Soundgarden — we want to bring into town. Do you guys do radio shows?’ I was like, ‘What are radio shows?’”

Bands across the nation began calling him to book gigs for them in San Antonio, but Fuentes didn’t let his newfound glory as a music promoter lure him away from his roots. His passion for the local music scene led him to work with the late Ram Ayala at Tacoland, where he would devote much of his time to helping up-and-comers.

By 2003, Fuentes had “worked with everyone from AC/DC to ZZ Top.” He says at one point he even landed a job as a dishwasher for the Rolling Stones while they traveled on their 1989-90 Steel Wheels world tour.

In an attempt to capitalize on his considerable experience, Fuentes created Nightrocker Presents, initially a splinter company of Clear Channel Communications. Through this venture, Fuentes set himself up as the point of contact in San Antonio for all events handled by concert promoters Live Nation.

It’s through this position that he has been able to provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for a few local musicians. This started in August 2003 when Suzy Bravo and the Soul Revue opened for Dio and Motorhead at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre. In 2005, Fuentes gave his friend Spider Mike’s band Double Clutch the chance to open for Judas Priest and Queensryche.

Then on the morning of January 25, 2006, while enjoying a quiet breakfast, Fuentes was approached by his supervisor from Live Nation, who delivered some news about a concert happening that night at AT&T Center.

“My boss tells me, ‘Lenny Kravitz is sick and the studio needs someone to open the show for Aerosmith,” Fuentes recalls. “Then he says, ‘You’re our guy in San Antonio. We need someone here by 1 p.m. Who do ya got?’”

After brainstorming for a few minutes about who would best complement Steven Tyler and his crew, Fuentes picked up the phone and gave Sexto Sol guitarist Eddie Hernandez a call.

“I said, ‘Hey Eddie. This is going to sound very weird but Lenny Kravitz cancelled and I need to find an opening act for Aerosmith tonight. What are you guys doing?’”

“I got the call around 9 a.m.,” Hernandez says. “At first, I thought he was just joking around. He said, ‘Round up the guys and be at the AT&T Center by 1 p.m.’ It’s kind of cool that he thought of us.”

Sexto Sol’s percussive Latino soul might have sounded like a quirky match for the hard-rock titans from Boston, but it worked. The crowd response was overwhelmingly positive and Fuentes had defused a potential crisis.

Since the successful Aerosmith-Sexto Sol show, Fuentes has had one more opportunity to deliver exciting news to a local band. This past August, it was Maneaters of Tsavo, another of Hernandez’s bands, which was summoned to open for Deep Purple at the Majestic Theatre.

“`Eddie’s` gonna have to name his first-born after me,” Fuentes jokes. “It makes me feel good to see the homies up there. These are all last-minute-dream-come-true gigs.”

“One thing Roland does is look out for the local music scene,” says Greg “G Money” Payne, promoter for Live Nation. “What he’s done for us is great. He always wants to make San Antonio better.”

For any show he’s coordinating, Fuentes says it’s all about chemistry between the groups. Although Fuentes primarily considers himself a middle man who may or may not be expendable, he also sees himself as a matchmaker, and matching bands is a skill that takes more creativity than people would think.

“When I book bands for a concert, I think of myself as a 16-year-old spending momma’s money to go see a show,” Fuentes said. “I think, ‘What do the kids wanna see?’ Then when you figure it out, you’re like, ‘Yeah! That would be an amazing show. Let’s see if I can make it happen.’”