What about...
This is a hard interview, huh?
[laughing] Yeah, I'm asking all the hard hitting questions. I'm shaking you down.
You're like one of those investigative reporters.
Yep. Well, you've been doing this for 20 years. What has changed the most and what surprises you?
Well, expenses have become much higher. It used to be, when I started, that a fairly new band would be coming through town and if you gave them beers and gas money that would make them happy. Now when a band comes to town they have a rider with all the food they want, the liquor they want, the buyout that they want, and they're all traveling with sound guys and light guys. It went from jumping in a station wagon and making it happen to a bigger production. Bands are getting agents and managers a lot earlier now, and they're expecting more out of the promoter than they once did. In the old days, if you got a band a case of beer they were happy. I'm trying to figure out a way to put this without cutting my own throat here.... it seems like young bands expect more for less. I don't how to put this without bands getting pissed off at me [laughs].
It seems like bands had to work a lot longer and harder to get to a certain point than they do now. Part of that is there are so many festivals, and they've had an effect on things. Sometimes what a band expects and thinks they deserve rides above what I think they deserve. Today I had an email from an agent wanting to put a band in town. And normally a new band that's never been to the area, I prefer to have them open up for a local band. But a lot of these bands that are touring are young and they're expecting to come in as headliners when they've never proved themselves in the area.
When I first started out, bands like moe., the Disco Biscuits, yolK, Schleigho, and all those bands, they all started by opening up for Dr. Jah and the Love Prophets, because Dr. Jah had an audience. Now, a lot of bands come in and expect the local band to be the opening act. I think that's hurt things a bit. It hurts the building process. They've never had a chance to develop an audience, instead of working their way up the ladder. I don't see a lot bands really focusing on building an audience... it used to be that a young touring band would play once a month, and once they started to build an audience they come back every two months, then three months, to the point where they would only come to town once a year. Now it feels like a lot of bands are only coming to town once a year. So, they don't build as strong of an audience. It's a college town, you know? Every year you have people leaving and new people coming in. You basically have two years of students that don't know what's going on. If you only come to town once a year, it takes away that whole aspect of a friend saying to another friend, "I saw this fantastic band -- you have to see them live." You know? You would have to wait a whole year to see them again and who knows what happens then.
Another thing that I see is that bands that I personally believe should be playing areas on a more regular basis to build their audience, they think they're going to build their audience by just playing festivals. Well, festival season now goes from April to October. I think the festival scene really hurts the club scene and it hurts bands building a market. A young band doing twenty festivals and playing crappy slots is not helping them develop. I'm not sure how well that works. I think they should play the club in the same market four times a year and get in front of people. I don't think regional and semi-national acts hit the area as much as they used to. A band like moe. would play fairly regularly in Albany until they built a big audience. They would hit Buffalo, Syracuse, Plattsburgh, Burlington, and every few months they would make the circle wider and hit new markets. What I see a lot now is bands hitting a place like Albany once and then touring across the entire country instead of playing in the same circle, and pushing it out further and wider. A young band playing a market once or twice a year: I just don't see that helping in the long run.
Yeah, that 90's grassroots touring strategy. moe. definitely comes to mind. When they were starting out, they slowly built markets in a close proximity where they could draw and make money. Once they had that down, they could afford to take the opportunity to go into a new market where they wouldn't get paid as well and make the touring circle wider.
Yeah, and I think what's happening is a lot of these bands are getting agents and management sooner, perhaps before they're ready. And the focus is on the now, not the future. Like I said, a lot of bands are only doing festivals now. I prefer seeing bands in a club, sweating and playing their hearts out for an audience, and really connecting with their audience. I just don't see that happening as much at the festivals.
Did you ever think you would be promoting shows for this long?
Basically when we started we were just going to do a couple shows and have some fun. I never intended this to become like a career. We did the first couple of shows and they went OK. And then we did a few more and they went OK. And then we had a few shows that lost money, so we did a few more shows to try and make our money back. It sort of snowballed. If someone told me twenty years ago that I would be a concert promoter for twenty years I would have thought they were nuts.
It's been really interesting. I've made a lot of good friends. I've seen a lot of good bands. I've seen a lot of great people not get the recognition I thought they deserved. There's been some really talented people that I've done shows with who I cannot believe are not famous at this point. A lot of it is just a matter of luck or being in the right place at the right time.
I know one we both probably agree on is Peter Prince [Moon Boot Lover]. He's probably one of the most dynamic performers I've witnessed.
Peter had some issues of his own that held him back a little bit, but yeah, I always thought Peter should have been famous. Peter Prince is one of the reasons I'm still in this business. His performing in Albany started bringing people out. It was through doing shows with Moon Boot Lover and Dr. Jah that I met the moe. guys, the Disco Biscuits, Strangefolk, yolK, Schleigho and that whole crew. Schleigho is a band that I always thought should have been famous, you know?
Sure, amazing talent in that band.
And my friend Ed Hamell [Hamell on Trial]. That guy is one of the most talented, funniest men that I've ever met in my life. That fact that he's not famous amazes me. But you know, a lot of that is timing, luck, not being in front of the right audience at the right time. And a lot of bands just get sick of being on the road. It's a tough life. I couldn't do it. I can barely make through a 3-night Dead run. I couldn't imagine doing that for a month [laughs].