Too Big For Their Britches

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!

Did anyone realize how unimportant their music is in this world? Music?! Stop there! I should say Total Existence on Planet Earth!

Whether you come from a small, tight knit suburban music scene or a tight middle sized New Haven-esq type scene or a “little fish in a big pond major city” type music scene, let’s face it: Reputation Matters.

Not just, reputation but the way in which you treat others. I work and live within the confines of a tight middle sized music scene in the New Haven area. Many of the musicians in these parts know and work with each other in some degree or fashion. I’ve even known some of these musicians since high school and our garage band days. In fact I’m quite proud to see some of the guys I first played with grow into serious musicians and see their success. Some have even made it a habit of working with some heavy hitting groups and artists. Just recently I got to talk with a pal who I haven’t seen in years but is climbing his way up the indie rock ladder. I’m sure some of you have heard of The Stepkids. Great band and its awesome talking with their drummer Tim, a classmate of mine in college and talking shop. Don’t forget the little people when you spend a day in your gold plated jacuzzi someday!

Since creating the Jazz Series at the Outer Space in Hamden in the winter of 2011, I have been able to work with many more musicians from all around and see the business side of the scene from a different perspective. I started to realize why so many talented musicians never seem to get the amount of work that you would expect. Mostly, because they act like jerks to people.

You wouldn’t believe the demands I receive from musicians when booking a date for the series. From money to food to crowd expectation. I mean don’t get me wrong. Musicians deserve their earnings. I support that just as much as anyone else. However, I know when not to be an asshole to people. Talking down to a fellow musician or booker while talking yourself up, is no way to make a career. I learned from Eddie Henderson once: “You never want animosity on the bandstand, because its the music that suffers the most.” Can’t get any more simple than that.

We all have stories to tell and retell again and again of a time someone was a serious dumb ass on a gig. (I won’t get into firing a bandmate when I found out he said some inappropriate stuff to my friend’s girlfriends…. and mine own… at the same party.) But honestly, are these cats aware of their behavior? Sometimes I hope not because it would be quite irritating knowing they’re aware of it and think its ok.

Maybe I’m just a bleeding heart liberal who thinks of a perfect society where a jazz club exists on every block and every musician treats each other fairly and the gigs are plentiful and the money is astronomical and there’s free candy day and gas costs barely anything and you can watch Looney Tunes  again and your girlfriend doesn’t turn the TV off when you want to watch Lethal Weapon for the 2nd time that day in between Rocky marathons!

I digress.

Let me get to the point of this post because if you’ve read this far, well, I owe you.

When a musician treats you badly, you can just hire another. Simple. When a show promoter treats you badly. It affects the scene. We have such a show promoter in the Nutmeg State. Someone who thinks they are the only game in town and just because they work within the network they can treat people like shit. It grinds my gears this Naplolean-God like complex and I’ve noticed that some club owners embrace it because let’s face it, the organizer brings business. I can’t blame the club owners for it, I want them in business just as much as anyone else. But, I can bitch about it on the internet! Booyah!

I like to think that I treat each musician I work with, whether on the bandstand or as a booking agent for the series, equally. I offer them the same fair deal as everyone else and do my best to spread their sound when I can. But the organizers of one particular booking agency in Connecticut (face it, we all know who I’m talking about) need to realize you can’t act like an asshole to people. It creates negative karma for you. One day there will be a young kid like you, trying to do the same work and they’ll have a better situation because they’ll know your reputation and how 99% of the people who work with you think you’re a fucking scumbag. Lastly, stop treating people like dirt because its only a matter of time before someone “socks you in the mouth.”

Just be cool, people.

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Breaking into the scene.

Hey folks

I’m writing to you on a beautiful day in Somerville, MA. Despite the tragedy that occurred two days ago during the marathon, there’s a sense of community happening. The two best parts of the day so far is the sense I feel like I’m back home in New Haven, and the guy next to me is reading this month’s Avengers. I took time off from comics a couple of years ago because big boy adult bills needed my money’s attention. He was kind enough to give me an update on what’s going on with my favorite Marvel heroes.

Ok so the point of this post is to just get some ideas out in the internet about how freakin’ hard it is to book gigs in other cities. I remember back in my old ska-punk days we used to play shows in MA, RI, NY and NJ all the time and I mean our music was pretty terrible, and our stage show was even worse. Yet how did we manage to play to so many audiences. I began to ponder.

First off, I realized most shows in the punk scene are put on by show promoters renting out a local VFW hall. Most of the profit went to paying for the space and the rest divided amongst about half a dozen bands who got to drive 60 miles to play a 30 minute rushed set to a bunch of sweaty teenagers who were certain no one felt the pain that they did.

So ok, I won’t be bringing my band into any VFW halls any time soon but I did open my eyes when I thought about how many times my old ska band tried desperately to get a club date and didn’t succeed. We opened for Rise Against in GA agreeing to play for only 15 minutes. Fuckin’ desperate times.

I have been emailing and calling so many venues in the northeast its insane. It seems like everyday I’m either sending a follow-up or a brand new email to a venue. It’s funny how you have to talk yourself up so much, but in the end the club just wants to know if you’ll help them make money. Not being local is not a good thing to admit. The club assumes immediately that you won’t draw and they’d hang up the phone if they knew I couldn’t guarantee a draw back home.

Also, when you are networking a venue in another state you don’t get the chance to sit in with a band or go on a busy/dead night, have a drink and bullshit with the owners. Sometimes its worth the investment to have a couple rounds and get the vibe of the joint before you play there. You never know who you’re talking to. Once I was having a drink at a bar, minding my own business when I started chatting with a woman next to me. I thought she was a cougar on the prowl which at the time I was totally cool with….turned out she was the owner’s wife and put in a good word for me. Needless to say I got some work out of that joint and I’ll let you decide if I saw her again.

So anyway, I’ll quit here before I really start to rant but wish me luck. If you know any club owners in Boston and Providence, I’d appreciate any good words you can throw in.

Peace