"I'm Too Tired To Complain..."
Have you ever felt too tired to complain? I thought I would never reach this point, but this has been a very trying month. My grandfather died, I quit my band, my workload exceeds the number of hours in a day, school has decided to make my life a living hell, and I "function" on an average of 3 hours of sleep a day or less. I have finally admitted guilt to taking on too much. There, I hope that satisfies all those who doubted my superhuman ability!
For this reason, I will not be taking my usual reign in the throne of angst this month. Instead, I would like to share a few of the comments I received due to last month's invitation to a more open forum of discussion in Louisville Rock Lowdown. Then I will bring you the skinny on one of the area's up and coming bands, Element H. First, we'll start off with thoughts from Eric Whorton, member of the local heavyweight group, El Roostars.
Subj: Re: I feel your pain
What's up Jason...I enjoy your column every month. I play in a little band in town called El Roostars. We play our own music, whether people like it or not! (*I think*) The reason people don't come out and support local acts are many... here's a few of the obvious:
1. Many of the local bands are simply new combinations of members of old bands. (yawn...) After a while, people tire of the same old fodder.
2. People dig the cover bands. It's sad but true. It's so much easier to be mindless, and not have to pay too close attention to the music being played. I really don't blame anyone... it's just something that has evolved in people in general. The younger folks, who we all need and rely on to support the scene, have been raised as Zombies. Granted, it pisses me off to no end, but what am I gonna' do? Give in and start a Top 40 Act? I think not. Something to consider is that there's more to the world than the Highlands. We go play other towns and are received as artists. In Louisville, we're simply a band that annoys audiences by refusing to play their favorite Black Crowes tune.
3. Clubs like to stay in business. Need I explain? A current cover band is a sure bet for the sorority-minded Louisville bar scene. Why risk it with a band that may not catch the attention of the Natural-Light-soaked beings? (Of course, there are quite a few cool little places to play that do support local music... don't think we don't appreciate those clubs.) I do not approve of this, but I accept it.
I, personally, am quite pleased with the support that El Roostars have achieved. We have built up a consistent, very appreciative, and receptive audience; but it has taken 5 years of bustin' our asses and putting on a powerful happening at EVERY SHOW. This is the key. Play your greatest show every time you play or stay home. Word of mouth is still the best way of attracting a following in small towns. We're certainly not the best band in town... but we always try to be the best band in the room on any given night, and we try to improve each show. Whether it's bringing along an 8-foot c*ck, or preparing video footage to go along with the set... people like to be entertained. Just playing your songs with your head hung low and a chip on your shoulder, unfortunately, is no longer enough. There's a lot of BS out there to compete with, and truth be told, the BS usually wins. So I guess my message to all my brothers in local bands is... stop crying about why no one comes out and give people a reason to have no other choice than to come to every one of your shows. Two simple words: IMPRESS THEM!!
Thanks for your comments, Eric. (See, someone else did my complaining for me this month!) Seriously, I do have a lot to say about this response. But before I get into my thoughts, here is a viewpoint sent in by another reader (whom I only know as Jeff) with some coinciding points that give a very different perspective.
Subj: Louisville Rock Scene
Hi. I enjoy your column in The LMN. I feel the reason that people here in Louisville don't go out to see and hear original music is:
1) Lack of original venues. When Tewligans died, the scene died.
2) A general sense of "dumbing-down" in most new music. Listen to the Fox. You'll get the idea. Today's new music is very "wigger" oriented, (Yeah, I said it), and lots of Louisville bands are just wet Xerox copies of the directionless, pointless, non-passionate thugs they try to emulate. On the rare occasion that I go out to hear live music, I look for a good cover band or perhaps Bluegrass.
Too many people. Too much information. No badge of honor. No more Us against Them. Just too much access to everything you could ever www.want. My prediction for the next big thing: Nazi Rock!
I can't say that I agree with everything Jeff says, and I do NOT condone the use of the word "wigger." Racism is ignorance, but I left his wording exact to prove a point. There is this kind of thought in the scene. This separation is going to get us nowhere fast. On the other hand, he did echo some solid points that Eric did earlier. These are not new themes. These have been ongoing since the dawn of corporate rock and even earlier. The idea that bands will either struggle or have too much money to know what to do with only supports the socio-economic theories of the rich walking on the backs of the poor. Last time I checked my watch, this was still going on in every society. What about France, and other "socialist" societies? They have things figured out now, don't they? I hear that healthcare is free, college is free and that the French government takes care of their people a little more than the US. We may live in the land of the Free, but sometimes it feels like it costs a lot to rent that freedom. Even the best bands find it difficult to make a living on music. Let's all learn a lesson from TLC's bankruptcy!
Good cover bands do seem to be the major players in the scene, when it comes to money. It is a wise decision for business owners to give their customers what they want to hear, and likewise for the bands to give their "employers" the same. Sad but true, I do agree.
Here are some comments from Todd Groemling, a seemingly disgruntled music lover who is currently bandless.
Subj: Response to your February LMN article
Please keep in mind that everything I say is in the spirit of wanting to help bands, not to put anybody down.
Now...There are 2 reasons why people in the Kentuckiana area do NOT go out to see bands.
I offer Reason # 2 first because it's not as obvious as Reason #1.
So many top recording acts and `2nd tier' acts on major and large indie labels do not even stop here, so people aren't in the habit of even thinking, `hey, I wanna see a band.' So having mostly big(ger) name bands come to town conditions people into believing 1) it costs a lot to see a band, 2) only those bands are worth seeing, and 3) any band having a low cover charge isn't worth their time. People don't even realize they've been conditioned by this sad reality. But if people don't get a healthy number of chances to see prominent bands, they just don't get in the habit of even thinking about going to see any bands.
Reason #1: Most people are unfamiliar with most local bands.
Musicians and non-musicians may interpret this fact as a lack of a sense of adventure by local area residents, but grumbling about it won't negate the truth: People like what they know.
Bands expecting people to go see them when people don't know who they are is like picking a name out of the phone book, calling him/her up, and asking him/her out on a date, then expecting #1, the person will say yes, #2, the person is worth your time and vice versa. It's just too much of a crapshoot, not to mention unrealistic.
But are bands stuck with no way to get (more) people out to their shows? No!
Here's my solution: Bands have to take it upon themselves to have web sites where they post snippets (in MP3 format) of some of their tunes available to be downloaded or streamed. This way, no person looking for something to do can say, "I didn't go see a particular band because I didn't know what to expect."
Bands also need to promote this free 'service' on their flyers. Bands also have to realize that people may listen to these MP3 song snippets and NOT like what they hear. So unless the songs get `better'.
I also think clubs owe something to current and prospective patrons and bands. All local clubs should 1) have web sites and 2) post on their sites snippets of songs by bands with upcoming performances.
I believe, however, that clubs and promoters aren't going to be lining up to do this. Bands, then, have to take the lead. If enough bands do this, then hopefully a few clubs will get a clue and offer to post on their sites MP3 files of upcoming bands...as long as the bands provide the MP3 files.
P.S. Most bands just believe that all they have to do is play music. For die-hard music lovers, that may be enough, but to attract a wider audience, maybe more bands should adopt the mindset that they should be showmen/entertainers, not just musicians or live, human juke boxes.
I think that e-mail sums up what we have been trying to get at recently, and that is the musician's point of view on what is wrong with the scene and the lack of support. In a nutshell, we have decided: 1) There is a very high demand for cover bands, due to businesses wanting to stay in business. 2) There is some amount of discrimination and favoritism amongst different groups in the scene that needs to be eliminated. 3) Original bands need to learn how to push themselves and promote their music as best as possible, instead of just expecting success. I think we can leave this subject alone for a while now. Thanks to all those who submitted comments to me.
Your New Homework Is "Ways To Promote Your Band"
Send me your suggestions that you would like to share with others on your promotion methods. If you don't want to give away your secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices, then don't bother; but I do not think there is any harm in passing on advice to your fellow brothers and sisters in the music scene.
I thought I would pass this along to you. It is a clip of an e-mail I received that had tons of names on the mailing list, sent by locals downSIDE. Bulk e-mails are great for promoting your events and information efficiently.
Come cyber with us ((downSIDE)) . . .
Help kick off our first Live Chat Sessions at our own www.LouisvilleKore.com
10-10:30PM, Wednesday February 7th
A sphincter says WHAT?
Something as quick and simple as this can serve as that boost you need to get the word out about your group. One group that is no stranger to using the Internet to serve as a tool to promote themselves is Element H. Here they are, element by element.
Element H is "hybrid rock" created by Teague Ridge on bass/ backup vocals, Chuck Wills on lead vocals, Josh Clark on drums, "Critter" on guitar, and Rahul Borkar on guitar/ backup vocals. The band has a hard-core sound with intense vocal patterns backed by licks that stay crunchy in milk. They have played such venues as Headliner's Music Hall (opening for national act, Diffuser); Phoenix Hill Tavern (with such local giants as Supafuzz); the former punk-palace Pandamonium; Maple Inn; Louisville Pizza Company and the BRYCC House (see my cover story this issue to learn more about this venue). Oh, and, of course, ... their basement.
You can call and request the group on WLRS's Kentucky Fried Radio Hour, where they have been played and asked to do a live performance of a song on-air. The group has also been accepted to Billboard's Broadband talent.com. The group is making plans to visit music conferences across the country in search of a prospective record deal. Good luck to them in their efforts.
I watched their video performance from "Live at Mom's" (a TV show you can catch every Thursday night on WYCS Channel 24 broadcast and Insight cable) and saw "elements" of Godsmack and Disturbed immediately. This band has a wide range of sounds and a great deal of potential. I particularly liked the enthusiasm of the band and was impressed by certain riffs and hooks. Be on the lookout for this band in the near future, because they are determined to make some waves in the music scene both locally and on a large scale. You can learn more about them from their web site at www.elementh.com.
You know the drill, send me your stuff to JJKSLACKER@cs.com or leave me a voice mail at (502) 262-8728. Rock on Louisville!