I consider it a privilege to perform in a public music venue.
A privilege FOR THE VENUE! This is because I bring in a lot of fans, thirsty for my music and thirsty for beverages served at said venues. It’s a win-win, really.
But you see, in this modern age, I don’t need a public music venue to get my music heard anymore. Or more accurately, my public music venue is the entire Internet. Public music venues are a thing of the past for me and I am selective in what public music venues I play nowadays. I am surprised how many artists and venues have not recognized this huge uncharted territory for live performance, but I am glad because it means the Internet niche is still wide open for me, like when amphibians came up on land in evolution…they had free reign because there were no predators to exploit them.
Sure, I like to get out and play an “analog” acoustic show now and then in front of real live fleshy people whose enjoyment I can appreciate via their applause and compliments after the show (often via tips or merchandise sales). But when it comes to inquiring about performing at music venues, I adopt Honey Badger’s philosophy: “I don’t give a shit.” Only the best venues for Cactus Joe. I don’t settle.
Music venues often are exploitative of artists. Historically, there have always been way more artists desperate to perform than music venues for them to perform at. So naturally, venues could be selective. They are still selective, but desperate artists now have lots more alternative venues at which to perform, particularly online, and that’s leveling the playing field for the performing artists who recognize this gold mine. As an introvert (mostly), I can honestly do without the anonymous, drunken hordes at most sh!tty music venues. Drunken hordes bring revenue to venues, but not to me. So why should I give a sh!t?
My rock-n-roll band HIATVS actually has a strict NO SH!TTY MUSIC VENUES policy for picking shows. We mainly do private house parties and the occasional fest or prestigious music venue (like Capital Brewery in Madison WI, for example).
I recently solicited a local music venue that shall remain unnamed about performing there, providing dates, a bio, and, importantly, a sample video of me performing my music. This is a fairly elitist establishment, with some big names that perform there (some of them musical colleagues of mine, like Beth Kille). I fully expected a rejection, but much like Honey Badger going into a bee hive to get honey, I submitted anyway.
Rejection from venues usually comes in the form of no reply at all, or a polite rejection delivered months after any dates you first proposed playing there. This is par for the course.
Here is the rejection I got within 24 hours from the local music venue that shall remain unnamed:
“We are going to pass! Thanks for the interest!”
Local Music Venue That Shall Remain Unnamed Booking Team
Ouch! … is what a lot of artists other than me might say in response to that. But Honey Badger gets stung all the time and he still goes for the honey. That’s me. However, when I told some friends about this, they said it was a totally rude and unprofessional response from a venue that is supposed to be classy. I could go into why, but I just don’t give enough f@cks. I am surprised I even wrote this much about it. I am just bored I guess.
But back to the real point of this post…even dickish rejections like that don’t matter. I can go home tonight, set up a microphone and camera in my music room and broadcast a great sounding song or entire show LIVE STREAMED to the Internet all over the entire PLANET and then archive it for later viewing by anyone who missed it. Can a sh!tty music venue do this?
Nowadays, I favor house concerts as my primary vehicle for analog public performances. They have a lot of pros and few cons. They are live shows for a present audience of nice, like minded people, but can also be streamed online and recorded for later. I have organized my own house concert parties with a few close friends, raising money for concert food and drink with a crowd funding campaign. Funding is acquired up front and you know how many people are coming. When people show up, all the food and drink is free until it’s gone. No $7 beer in a plastic cup! They are usually held in residential houses and there are no parking hassles. People can even stay the night, if they party too hard. Best of all, I can host my own house concerts and set any dates I want. I am not beholden to the finicky booking calendars of public music venues.
Public music venues can’t offer any of this. They are completely disenfranchised from the house concert scene, and that’s a good thing. It is about time.
I’ll be performing some solo acoustic numbers and maybe some duet material (with Stefan of GUPPY EFFECT) at the Cardinal Bar in Madison WI on Sunday May 31, from roughly 4-5 PM.
Since it’s an early show, stop down for a craft beer and have a listen.
Hearts: <3 <3 <3
The Open Jam at Funk’s in Fitchburg WI every Sunday night has been a boon to my band’s practice and performance skills. We really encourage people to attend because we want…nay, need…it to keep going for the benefit of excellent rocking in and around Madison. This town can’t have nice things musically, in general, because the residents don’t support it. That’s weak, and if you want to challenge me on that, you may do so, but only at the forum of Funk’s Sunday Night Open Jam. See you there, weak sauce loser. Ha ha. I kid. I kid. On the square.
GUPPY EFFECT (my band) has practice on Tuesday nights. We usually pick 3 to 5 rock-n-roll songs to hone and solidify for that week, adding nuances and embellishments to the songs as we play through them several times. We experiment with different ideas and veto the ones that suck, keep some of the rest. We also record the song takes on my laptop, so that we can remember the cool things we did the next time we play the song.
Because it is a QUALITY practice, rather than a QUANTITY one, we can spend more time on polishing fewer songs to an awesome blinding sheen.
Then, on the following Sunday, we head down to Funk’s around about 8 PM and sign up for the open jam. This gives us an opportunity to perform 3 or 4 of the songs from the prior Tuesday in front of a live audience. In this way we get a little live performance experience with the songs, which helps iron out any possible technical difficulties we didn’t foresee at practice, and it also allows us to assess the public’s reception of the material and its theatrical presentation. Because we learn fewer songs, we have more brain power available for stage antics, which are highly entertaining.
This is especially good to do for our original songs, because ours do not suck, but people sometimes want to hear recognizable things. If an original song rocks super hard, thanks to the band putting in that little extra bit of elbow grease the prior Tuesday, then people might have their faces so melted off that they just accept it and involuntarily bow down before it.
A lot of my prior band incarnations have focused on song QUANTITY, rather than QUALITY. This was largely to develop a large repertoire of songs, so we could play gigs before we had another “personnel crisis,” as band members succumbed to whimsy and went off to pursue the mundane. To some extent, it worked. We played a few shows, and could fill the whole night with music, albeit a lot of it filler. But the presentation was always kind of mediocre. There was no nuance. No extra little push over the cliff that makes a song tight and awesome. Sometimes we would be cramming to learn so many songs that we felt good if we could just get through the songs on stage without any major biffs, and when you have to focus that hard on just playing the song and remembering how it goes, then how the heck are you going to unleash a Bacchanalian stage presence and entertain your crowd. One thing I have learned about patrons at venues that have music – they are not there for the music. It is sad but true. They are there to party. It’s a multifactorial thing, the top three factors being a large group of fun people, alcohol, and some form of good music to distract people from the misery and boredom of their own thoughts. Have you ever been in a bar where there is no music? Of course you have, and it’s lame. Likewise, how often do you go to an alcohol free all ages rock show? That’s what I thought. The band has to be pretty f-ing amazing for you to go to a show stone cold sober. And I know there are a handful of people who do prefer those kinds of shows…I am one of them, truth be told, as long as the music is something I really want to experience live.
My band selfishly does not want the Funk’s Open Jam to end. It really makes our rocking thrice as awesome, in keeping with our brand tagline: “Thrice the rocking power of other name bands.” We create our alchemical magic on Tuesday night and then unleash it on our victims at Funk’s on Sunday nights. The fun is short and sweet. The house band limits guests to about 3 songs…4 if the audience calls for it…that way no one bogarts the stage. If your band has tons of good songs, that’s cool. But just pick the top 3 GREAT ones and play those. We are not there to admire your entire body of work, no matter how impressively engorged with songs it is. We will admire your body, if you are a cute girl. But even so, 3 songs then get off!
People have to attend the open jam and see the awesome rocking to know how great it is. I think some people are deterred because they think it is a weak sauce open mic night. But it is not that at all. It is, in fact, your last chance to party on the weekend before you have to go back to work. Why would you waste those precious moments sulking around your house?
Funk’s Jam is more of an open stage and the back line (drums and amps…even a stand mountable key-tar) is provided by the bar. They treat the house band amazingly well.
So you can bring your entire band, if you have one, and simply plug and play 3 songs. No elaborate set up and tear down of gear. A couple seconds of tweaking the sound board and your band is off and rocking. Or you can just bring yourself and your axe and join the house band MUDROOM for a few jammy numbers. I have done that on two occasions now. The first was when I went to the debut open jam on Sunday February 9th, and my band got the memo a little too late. The second was last night, when the usual house bass player was absent and I filled in on some stuff (I had the list well in advance to learn it). MUDROOM is really into Phish and the Grateful Dead and hippie sh!t like that. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It’s fun to play and generally pretty easy to jam along with. They have a list of tunes available that they are willing to play with you. I like that it is a short list, unlike the Gomers, who host Gomeroke and know like 80 million songs. This open stage kind of attracts bands that have their own repertoire of material. If there is some overlap of material, they can sometimes join forces with MUDROOM at the end of the night for a group jam.
Anyway, my mad quest this week is going to be to get a bunch more people down to the Open Jam at Funk’s. Please tell your Madison friends. They won’t be disappointed. I can guarantee it with respect to my band, because of our well oiled practice and performance model outlined above. Your band could be blowing rectums out too. But you have to come.
I literally cannot believe there are people who find excuses not to come to this thing. It’s priceless.