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Atomic Turtle - Winding Down (1991-1994)
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Mylon & Broken Heart
DC Talk
Michael W. Smith

4HimBy the 90's Dragonslayer was a mature organization that could handle anything that came our way.  Bands that played our concerts trusted us to handle things and gave us a lot of leeway to make decisions.  Dragonslayer was the go-to production team for anyone who wanted to bring a Christian concert into central Alabama and we taught many people how to do it right.

PetraBut things were changing.  Mylon's band Broken Heart ended their long career and stopped touring, Atlanta Fest began to book fewer non-Atlanta concerts, and with Contemporary Christian Music finally being accepted, college ministries began bringing in their own Christian concerts. In addition to this some of the larger tours began using professional production companies in order to avoid the liabilities inherent in volunteer production crews.  Then the economy went into recession, drying up church outreach budgets and generally reducing concert demand across the board.

CarmanDragonslayer leadership was changing too.  A number of key people moved out of the area or took jobs that were not compatible with staying up all night producing concerts.  We began adjusting staffing to use fewer managers and slowly adjusted downward as the number of concerts got smaller.

Wayne WatsonThe decline was gradual and fewer concerts meant we didn't need to recruit as many crew people either.  With college ministries and radio stations starting to do their own concerts there was no longer a need for our services in Tuscaloosa and Huntsville, and we reduced our production teams from four to just the two in Montgomery and Birmingham.  Two years later the Montgomery team wound down as well.

The last concert was a Steven Curtis Chapman show at Birmingham's Samford University.  We provided most of the production crew, managed the concert, went to IHOP afterward, and then put our Dragonslayer shirts away.  We were sad to see it end but the slow decline had made it obvious that this season was over.

First CallIn it's ten year existence close to 800 Dragonslayer volunteers had managed more than seventy Alabama concerts.  Approximately 3,000 people walked the aisles during end of concert invitations and Dragonslayer people were there to talk with them.  Epic concerts were seen, lives were changed, lessons were learned, and lifelong friendships were formed.  It had all been worth it but it was finally over, and the Dragonslayer team exited the stage for the last time.

Dragonslayer was a major part of my history but it was history and it was now behind me.  I am proud of what we accomplished, proud of the people I worked with, and now God had taken me in a different direction.

After that first Petra concert I thought the concert thing was over too, but I was wrong then just like I was wrong now...


Lessons Learned

Dragonslayer was more than the concerts we brought in.  It was a school that taught a bunch of naive college kids how to operate in the real world.  Though most of us were barely eighteen years old we were negotiating deals and signing legal contracts.  We learned how to handle finances, keep records of transactions, and pay our creditors.  We also learned how to set up a business, register with the city, and pay taxes.


Once booked, concert dates do not move and you must deliver on time.  Dragonslayer taught us to effectively plan projects, stick to the schedule, deal with adversity and unexpected surprises, and fix things that went wrong.  We learned try new ideas and to be humble if any particular idea did not work in practice. 


We learned how to recruit, train, lead, and motivate large groups of volunteers.  We learned to keep things simple, not use too much of any volunteer's time, and how to remove volunteers who did not work out.  These lessons taught us leadership we all used in our careers.

The first Dragonslayer concert was held at Central High School in Tuscaloosa in February 1985 with Mylon LeFevre & Broken Heart.  There was no opening band.  Dragonslayer had existed for some time as an organization but Mylon was the first concert we did.  Booked only two weeks earlier, nearly canceled by a massive ice storm, almost canceled again by a misguided announcer at WDJC radio, and plagued by a heating system that plunged the auditorium to near-freezing temperatures, the concert still drew 800 people and was a success.  It was a concert of firsts and every team did their job well, often innovating when something did not work out as planned.  When the ice storm started icing around lunch time the Burger King next door to the school donated enough cheeseburgers to feed our 90 crew, allowing our entire team to stay inside and away from the storm. The two Dragonslayer people who negotiated that deal never told me how they did it.

The biggest Dragonslayer event was a 1988 dual concert held at Birmingham's Shades Mountain Amphitheater with DC Talk/Michael W. Smith and at nearby Briarwood Presbyterian Church with Bill Gaither/Cathedrals.  The amphitheater concert drew 5,500 people and Briarwood hosted 1,400, making this the largest production Dragonslayer ever managed.  A crew of 130 volunteers worked at the amphitheater and 30 additional volunteers were at Briarwood, pushing the human total at the two concerts to a little over 7,000.  Each site had a dedicated command team that ran each concert independently but we all got together for breakfast after the concerts were over.  DC Talk, Bill Gaither, and all the Cathedrals joined us for a memorable 2am breakfast and we all had a great time. 

The last Dragonslayer concert was held in 1994 at Leslie S. Wright Fine Arts Center on the campus of Birmingham's Samford University.  Steven Curtis Chapman was playing an Atlanta Fest sponsored concert and Dragonslayer provided most of the required personnel.  The 2,640-seat auditorium was mostly full and the concert went off with no issues.  Things ran so smoothly it was almost boring to be working, which is exactly what you want as a concert producer because it is the sign of a well-managed event.  Load-out was completed early and the team went to the Vestavia IHOP for our traditional post-concert breakfast.  That restaurant witnessed the final gathering of a Dragonslayer team.  When we shook hands that last time and drove our cars into the night Dragonslayer passed quietly into history. 

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