Music is infinite and freely available. So if you’re a small band it’s hard to get someone to take a look.
If you an admission fee for a small band’s concert, you will win that band no new fans. Who is the consumer that pays for live music from a band they’ve never heard of? That person is a chump.
That’s why it’s my solemn goal to play as many free shows as I possibly can with my band The Push Push.
I do not hate money. On the contrary, I love money. I’d be happy to pass the hat at any show. But charging even a nominal fee for a concert is really counterproductive, because it keeps people from coming into the show in the first place. The artist can’t control many of the most important aspects of a concert. How much you enjoy a band has a lot to do with the audience: how familiar are they with material, how do they react to the venue, do they jump up and dance and, importantly, how many other people are attending? Read more
A few months ago Google announced it had purchased Songza. This should not have had a large impact on music lovers or musicians. The owner of the website that streams their music is not necessarily important to listeners. Unfortunately, Google stopped the streaming altogether.
The fear had been that Google would treat the property the way Apple treated Lala.com. In that case, after Apple bought Lala, they claimed they intended to incorporate Lala into their larger business and only temporarily. Ultimately, Apple just shuttered Lala.
The Horseshoe was dying long before I ever set foot in it. I had heard rumors about a big scandal that had ruined the owners, somebody running off with the money, somebody having to give up on creating their dream bar halfway through. A new owner not perceiving it as an amazing opportunity but, instead, as a burden, somebody else’s unfinished project that was now unfinishable.
But, the bars that don’t make money, the bars that reflect an offbeat sensibility, are usually the best. So I hoped to make this deeply offbeat and out-of-sync bar into a clubhouse for me and my offbeat band(s).
Playing at the Horseshoe was perfect. You could get a gig whenever you wanted. The owner was a funny old guy who liked our music and would give us a cut of the bar tab when we brought new drunks into his bar. No one cut us off when we played over our allotted hour. The Special was always $5 for a beer and a shot of whiskey*. There was never any cover. If you wanted to be paid, you could pass the hat. You could always get a sound check if you wanted one.
But at the same time…
Playing at the Horseshoe was terrible. The sound guy was often late. The venue drew almost no people. One time, my buddy plugged his amp into the wall and it immediately shorted out because the bar had some weird electrical problems. When we were promoting shows, no one had ever heard of the Horseshoe, and, inconveniently, neither had other venues. The food was… uneven. Sometimes it was hard to tell if the bar was open or closed. They left the house lights up until people came in, so people didn’t come in, so the house lights stayed up. The TV was not tuned to any particular type of entertainment, meaning the Horseshoe didn’t show the most important sporting events or movies or broadcast any particular genre; the TV was just turned at random to whatever the random bar tenders wanted to watch. They left the TV sound on well into sound check. Read more
Eyes and ears need training. A photographer can see a beautiful pattern in a heap of scraps; a musician can pick out a subtle difference in pitch that would be impossible for the audience to pick up on.
Travelers are untrained in the sights and sounds of the place they are visiting, especially if they are going for the first time. The more foreign your surroundings, the harder it is to identify what you’re seeing or hearing. This unfamiliarity is part of the fun, of course, but just like it is useful to dip your toe in and get familiar with basic vocabulary of the language in the country you’re visiting, a little familiarity with local music can go along way in a new place.
Both foreign and domestic travel offer the chance to explore music that you wouldn’t otherwise seek out. Some cities, like New Orleans, Seattle and Memphis, are closely associated with the music that was born or grew up within their limits. But places not necessarily thought of as homes for music scenes, or museums to a musical past, can be that much more exciting to uncover.
For example, if you’re going to St. Louis, a quick Google search might lead you to a song like W. C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues,” while a less adventurous traveler might just pick through some old CDs to find a discarded Nelly album. Omaha was the birthplace of Elliot Smith and is the home of Saddle Creek, the label that Bright Eyes and Cursive are on. A little music as cultural background can go a long way.
The digital music revolution has made finding the music of whatever place you’re heading to so much easier. Once you identify a couple tracks that come from or mention the place you’re going to, you can likely hear them on YouTube, iTunes, or Spotify. It’s easy to sample different styles and find something you like. Then when you are there you can have a soundtrack to play over the sites.
Use the Internet
If you knew exactly what you were looking for you already would have found it. Use the internet to help you find music you wouldn’t normally come in contact with. Start with a general search about the music of the place you’re going to and let the randomness of the internet lead you to places of interest. Once you have found something interesting, use a music-streaming site to dig deeper.
Don’t let the fact that you generally listen to genre X keep you from trying something from genre Y. Travel is all about trying new things. This is your chance.
Check out Smaller Venues
Baseball fans may disagree, but to me a stadium is a stadium. Huge venues have trouble holding as much local flavor as neighborhood haunts. If you can find an act or a place that interests you, try and venture off the beaten path.
Do Your Homework
I may have given this tip before, but it is just as applicable now as it was then. If you can get excited about some music or a venue before, you go you’ll be all the more likely to enjoy it once you’re there.
This article is available en Español
Previous Vámanos Being a Good Houseguest
I had planned to bring you most of the performances from the North and Clark dinner, but we had an audio video meltdown at the last minute. Luckily, my buddy Chris recorded a couple songs on his phone. The video quality leaves something to be desired but the music is what I really care about.
This is Emily Claire Palmer one of the three great performers we had that night. I would call this the bootleg version, the version you might buy from a dude with a beard sitting on a blanket. Emily is singing a song that could be called “New Sled.” She has a gentle and sweet voice that she writes earnest and sweet songs for, and this is one of ’em.
Hear Ye Hear Ye
Thursday, December 3rd
Dinner and Concert
2459 W. Wilson Apt#2
Featuring Singer Songwriters: James Farrell, Tom Fort, and Emily Clair Palmer
Bring 10 Bucks to Cover Costs
Why a Dinner Concert
I love to feature local musician’s on the site. I also like to bring you music in video and audio, but I always feel weird having somebody perform for me alone in my house. Also, I have been talking about homebrew beer for month and been totally unable to share it. I want to take the blog the people.
Enter the chef
All of this was in the back of my mind during a recent conversation with my friend Maren. After hearing that I was a home brewer my dear friend Maren Keeley suggested we host a dinner. Maren is a cook at Uncommon Ground and an all around food ninja, capable of making all seasonal holiday-onal deliciousness.
After Hearing this I immediately hijacked the idea and suggested that North and Clark sponsor a diner concert. Because there are a lot of musician’s I have been wanting to share with you guys on the blog. They are…
So Come on out
To cover the costs of dinner and other nonsense we are asking for people to pop for 10 bucks (I wanted to charge 20, but Maren insists). Either way it’s a steal.
If this sounds good to you leave a comment or write me an email @ email@example.com, but be quick about it cause we can only fit twenty five people and eleven of those spots have already been reserved.
So there are only 25 14 5 SOLD OUT.
See you there,
In the coming month North and Clark is going to feature original music from James Farrell, Tom Fort, and Emily Claire Palmer. These musician’s are all singer songwriters and they are going to be participating in a performance for you, the gentle readers of North and Clark on the 3rd of December. I am excited about this performance but I can’t share all the details yet, because this is going to be a collaberation and we still need to iron out some of the details. In the meantime, here’s a little background on the artists:
What’s been said about James: “In his songs about love, loss, regret, sin and repentance, James expresses what we all think about in the shower but are too afraid to talk about once we’ve toweled off. He sings a simple message, in simple language, for a simple purpose: to get it off of his chest, and allow his listeners to do the same.”
“…Incredibly charming, poppy, youthful music…” –Roctober Magazine
“They remind me of a band that would be playing at a party in a movie that is more fun than a party that would happen in real life” -Mike Raspatello of Kingtello Productions
“If you’re looking for a cool twist to Americana music, SouthSide recommends checking out Cobalt & the Hired Guns at their next show.” -SouthSide of the Town, Fearless Radio Blog
What I am Saying about Emily Right Now: “Emily Palmer is a Chicago-based folky/indie singer/songwriter musician extraordinaire.” –Me, Right Now, Paraphrasing her website.
Like I said at the top of the blog I am going to try and bring this to you in a different way than we I have been bringing you content here in the past. I am still waiting on a couple of details, but if you are in Chicago and you are intrigued by any of these musician’s or like North and Clark you might want to consider leaving December the 3rd open.
I wish I could give you all the details right now but this is a collaboration with a bunch of different people and I need to make sure all the ducks are in a row before I make too many announcements. If the suspense is killing you and you really want more details you can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise keep checking this space for more info.
Last week H for Hombre (my band) got a chance to play the Elbo Room. It was a such a fun show to play I was smiling all weekend. I finally got my hands on a recording of the show and I am posting a couple of the songs today.
When I’m Gone
This is a bluesy duet we put together for Amanda and me. Its got a “Hit the Road Jack” vibe and it got a great response from the completely awesome audience we had at the Elbo Room that night. I love songs that involve bragging and competition and think Amanda was more than game to be my foil on this one.
We always have to be careful where we put this song in the set because I am worried that I am going to shout myself horse. The other thing on this song is that the horns completely deepen and change the sound. If you listen you can hear that ae added an instrumental verse late in the song just to feature that alto and tenor sax
Lord Deliver Me
This is what Amanda and I are playing in the picture at the top of this post. Its one of the first songs I ever wrote and brought to the band and we could rip through this song in our sleep.
If you want to download the MP3s of any of the songs you hear here just write me a comment below and I will give you a link and a password.
Photo Credit: Fabi Lima
It can be infuriating for a young musician trying to get gigs playing original music. They are often passed over for cover band or tribute bands. If you ask any musician trying to book gigs, engage audiences, or get attention, one of the easiest gimmicks is playing covers. “When you play a cover someone has already done the work. Not just of writing the song, but the work of making the world love that song” (Tom).
That said, I still love a good cover. It doesn’t take long to think up some truly great songs that are covers. Jimi Hendrix version of “All Along the Watchtower”, The Flamingos version of “I Only Have Eyes for You, Marvin Gaye’s version of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” and The Fugees version of “Killing Me Softly” not only stand up to the original versions, but would stand up against anything in popular music.
Then there are those classics that get new life each time they are reinterprated. Some great Blues, folk or country songs are so old or have been done by so many people that the songs aren’t thought of as belonging to the person who wrote them, but band that did them the best
My favorite example of a song like this is Quizas which has been played by:
Trio Los Pancho
Nat King Cole
Celia Cruz, Lila Downs, Paco de Lucia, Ruben Gonzales and a host of other great artists.
As a consumer of music I can admit that when I am hearing a band I don’t know, I often enjoy the songs they cover more than their original songs. A lot of what we enjoy about music comes with familiarity. So while I sympathize with artists composing their own music, I can still see it from the perspective of audiences and venues that prefer to hear the songs they know the like to those that they may like. Full disclosure: my band H for Hombre plays some covers and they are a lot of fun. We try not to cover songs that stretch us out of the songs we would generally play or audiences would generally hear. But, its great fun playing songs that people know.
Also, I think that while it may be easier for cover bands to achieve a certain level of success, they also have to deal with a lower ceiling. Who is the world’s most popular cover band? How many albums have they sold? I think there is something great about a person or a group of people loving a group enough to dedicate themselves to a recreating a group or style of music that they love, but I still wouldn’t pay 15 bucks to see one.
What about you gentle reader? Are tribute bands a help or a hinderance to creativity in music? What is your favorite or least favorite cover?
My buddy and all around design genius Mike Johnson, put this logo together for H for Hombre.
My band and my website have a logo. Now, I just need something to put on my cape.
The show’s next Friday at the Elbo Room, we go on at midnight. Hopefully the cops will let us finish this one.