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House of Live Nation 

The country's top concert promoter is getting bigger.

Nickelback's Chad Kroeger, July 3 at the Q. - WALTER  NOVAK
Concert promotions giant Live Nation has announced plans to purchase House of Blues, a move that would combine the top two promoters in the country and put an end to their Cleveland turf war.

Spun off from Clear Channel in late 2005, Live Nation is the local corporate incarnation of the long-running Belkin empire. Its 153 venues across the country include Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland State's Wolstein Center, Tower City Amphitheater, Plain Dealer Pavilion, and Akron's E.J. Thomas Hall.

Since its 2004 arrival, House of Blues has dominated Cleveland's small-concert market, holding as many as 35 shows a month at its 1,200-capacity Downtown Music Hall and more intimate Cambridge Room. Blossom Music Center is also among the 18 venues booked by House of Blues nationwide.

The deal is expected to go through by year's end, according to a press release from Live Nation. Local and national reps for both companies declined comment on the merger or the fate of Cleveland employees.

In a statement, HOB co-founder Dan Aykroyd said, "The majority of our 2,000 employees will now be assured of a bright future in a well-funded company poised for exciting expansion."

The buyout is contingent upon the approval of the U.S. Department of Justice. Critics claim that such a merger of two industry giants would create an unfair monopoly that could lead to increases in already skyrocketing ticket prices. Others suggest that the larger business would have the clout to circumvent expensive middleman Ticketmaster.

"The Live Nation people have done a lot of work in recent years to rid themselves of the Clear Channel stigma they once had, and are making great strides," says Dave Ciancio of the Syndicate, a promoter that works with both companies. "As long as they can be creative and support small bands as well as gigantic touring acts, everything will be fine."

· The hyperactive, quirky rockers of Smiley Baldazar are taking a few months off to spend time with their families and get to work on a second LP, tentatively titled Relax . . . It's Out of Control. If you've seen them lately, you've heard most of the tunes from it.

· Fast Chester's Angelo Incorvia and Jon Epstein are hosting happy hour every Friday at the Hi-Fi Concert Club (11729 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood). Bassist Epstein will tend bar, and guitarist Incorvia will host acoustic jam sessions. The power trio has also returned to the live circuit following the addition of Mike Gilmore, a lifelong drummer who's spent recent years playing jazz.

· Akron's WAPS 91.3 the Summit is one of six candidates for radio-music trade magazine Radio & Records' Noncommercial Station of the Year in the Triple-A category.

· Cleveland garage-punk label Sonic Swirl has new releases from Columbus' B.A. Baracus, Vancouver sleaze-rock act Chinatown, and Phoenix's hard-riffing punks the White Demons. Baracus' self-titled full-length debut features a cover of the MC5's "American Ruse." The Demons feature Tony Krank, the founder of Krank Amps, which was endorsed by Dimebag Darrell Abbott.

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