Archive for the ‘underground’ Category

The All Ages Era

November 23, 2009


With the cost-effectiveness of touring remaining up in the air, fewer bands are meeting the necessary requirements to hit the road. As a result, patrons and fans are less inclined to go out to shows, and venue owners are facing more dead nights. How to deal?

More than ever, venues are opening their doors to all ages. It’s not a mystery why, with the obvious fiscal benefits gained by doing so. But is it the best choice for underground music? The strategy for coping with hard-hit finances calls for change. It’s putting a mark on the face of live shows every calendar day. Early performances are more frequent as well as a surge of music that caters to suggestible minds. It’s an unnatural mingling of underground live shows with a young hipster coffee scene. Could it work? Yeah, but why? An alternative to this desperate solution would be simple — reduce cover charges, and advertise tactfully.

When a venue like Marilyn’s — a place marked by licentious behavior and good times — opens its doors to all ages, it would seem that all hell would break loose. Underage drinking and jail-bait everywhere; things nobody wants to see. Instead there are more frequent patrols, with the Man watching much closer.

At this rate, the pride of live underground shows will only be found in ill obscure places, driven further into midtown and the back fringes of the capitol city.

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Coping With a Dead Night

August 21, 2009


On Thursday a crowd gathered at the Blue Lamp for the appearance of the Hollowpoints, a Seattle-based punk rock band in the midsts of a grandiose summer tour. The local Sacramento band Final Summation followed with a performance worthy of their conclusive name. These bands crossed the stage for a stellar night of performance, serving the needs of Sacramento’s punk-loving community for several heart-racing hours.

That was what I had hoped for.

What really happened wasn’t quite so lively.

I had to buy a rum and Coke. Several websites gave me misleading information, stating the Hollowpoints were playing at eight o’clock, followed by Final Summation at nine. In the natural order of how capricious the Sacramento music scene is, only a few people showed up to watch the performances at that time, so the bands delayed. No people, no play.

At nine-thirty I dully stabbed at the ice in my now nearly drained and watered-down rum and Coke. Where was the loud music? Where was the audience?

I nearly got up to leave just before a thirty-something-year-old guy in a yellow T-shirt began playing guitar and singing. It was an interesting form; the lighter side of acoustic punk rock.

The performer introduced himself as Danny from the band The Secretions, and the voice of Sacramento State student-run radio station, KSSU. He improvised some lyrics, calling out the fact that the only other people in the room were members of the bands.

Noticing me, he said, “I want to give a big thanks to the support we are receiving from non-band members tonight.”

There were chuckles.

He was staring at me, and I was speechless.

In response to my taciturn expression, he asked me, “You’re not with the band, are you?”

Silence. I looked over my shoulder. There was a member of the band sitting next to me at the bar, and he shook his head for me.

Was I really the only non-band-member?

The bartender kept attempting to make eye contact, pressuring me into another drink.

I couldn’t relax. The attitudes of the others were demoralizing.

Between being called-out by Danny Secretion on the mic, and feeling hounded to purchase more drinks as the only paying patron, it wasn’t exactly the type of blood-pumping fun I was expecting.

For twenty cantankerous minutes I listened to the music, imagining more people and a full band loud enough to drown out the awkwardness.

Instead, there was light acoustic punk rock — solo.

Finally at ten o’clock, after mostly two hours in waiting, I rose from the barstool and walked out of the Blue Lamp.

In the air, there was a faint essence of overcooked brussels sprouts.

Sacramento’s underground shows can be very capricious. It’s hard to know what to expect when, even though the bands may be great, the entertainment-value of the show arbitrarily lacks motivation and an audience. It’s a real hit-or-miss.

Even more striking to me is the demeanor of people in a nearly empty and restless venue. In my case, their attitudes expressed such a bizarre and craven need to pester me. I felt assailed, but understood that everyone in the venue was just dealing with the same thing I was, but in a different way. We were all coping with a dead night.

Interview With GGM — Part One

July 24, 2009

It’s a rare opportunity indeed to sit down with the members of a busy indie band, much less a far-sighted group like Goodness Gracious Me. To pick the mind of a talented lead vocalist and guitarist such as Jeremy Green, bassist Sean Arrent, and drummer Skyler Henry is a profound honor — and that is exactly what happened on Wednesday the twenty-second day of the Babylonian year of our Lord, two-thousand and nine. It was a chat that this writer would be hard-pressed to deny as one of the most intrinsically amusing interviews in the history of Sacramento indie bands. Full of interesting quips and facetious humor, the trio of musicians had me struggling to keep my feet planted as a journalist. Yet despite the spattering of comical flavor, the group presented many intriguing and relevant observations about the current state of the music industry, and delivered some of the most valid points from an inside perspective.
This is how it went down:

When did you, as a band and individually, decide to devote your lives to music?

Sean: “Last Wednesday”

Jeremy: [concurring, with a malicious grin] “Wednesday”

Sky: “High school.”

Have you experienced any setbacks?

Sean: “Yeah — Goodness Gracious Me”

[Rolling laughter]

Jeremy: “Aside from being broke?”

Sean: “I think all of our projects have been failures before this one”

Jeremy: “Well, minor successes that didn’t lead anywhere”

Sky: “We’re always broke all the time. Sean’s the only one with a real job.”

What music has inspired you in your life, and more recently?

Jeremy: “Barbara Streisand, Cher.

[More laughter]

Jeremy: [With sudden conviction] “Rock ‘n roll!”

Sky: “This band has a bunch of 60’s glam kind of influence.”

Jeremy: “Desert rock — or even stoner rock. A lot of throwback stuff, pretty much across-the-board”

Sean: “It kind of doesn’t matter, because at this point everybody’s listening to a lot of everything.”

Sky: “I actually get a lot of my inspiration, at least for my drum parts, from other local bands. I see Prieta every other week”

Sean: “Yeah, you start to take an analytical view of music in general, especially the musicians around you. You start to wonder, ‘how can I do what he does’ and not just for the pure aesthetic enjoyment of it.”

Jeremy: “A lot of the people we play shows with actually push us to be better.”

Do you find that there’s more of a sense of camaraderie among Sacramento bands, or more competition?

Sky: “There are little crews and cliques, but I would say in general there’s definitely a sense of camaraderie. Everybody’s stoked for everybody.”

Jeremy: “We all go to each other’s shows. There’s a lot of support.”

Sean: “I can’t even think of one person I don’t like here.”

Have Ipods killed the mixed tape?

Sky: “Ipods kind of are a huge mixed tape.”

Jeremy: “I’m out of the loop, because I’m probably the last person on the planet who doesn’t own an Ipod.”

Sean: “More than the mixed tape, it’s killed the whole album format!”

Have you thought of putting out a concept album?

Sky: “That’s the thing, with everybody downloading singles, what’s the point?”

Jeremy: “The internet has changed everything.”

Sean: “That’s a tough nut to crack. Just putting together this album [slated for late Fall] is difficult enough, let alone coming out with a concept album.”

Jeremy: “But it is important for whatever you release to have some sort of general feel, you know.”

Sean: “Yeah, like right now it’s more of a stylistic mold we’re trying to match — nothing intellectual — but the songs do flow into each other aesthetically.”

Is it possible for a band to reach a level of financial success, yet still retain a genuine underground sound?

Sean: “Good Lord if I know!”

Jeremy: “Maybe not the point where you’re buying your own jets, and gold toilets, but at least to the point where you get to go on tour — and maybe see some money in the end– yeah. Independent music is a lot stronger than it was ten years ago. There’s a lot more of a need for it”

Sean: “If there’s any revenue stream that’s going to corrupt us, I think it’s the other way around. We don’t have enough money to make our sound exactly what we want, and we keep dumping everything we have into it. We need to be able to portray the music the best that we can.”

If you had ten-grand to invest in the band, how would you spend it? Recording equipment, Sound reinforcement, cross-platform marketing?

Sky: “Recording equipment, and a large chunk would have to go into touring.”

Jeremy: “Recording. That’s the way you can reach as many people as possible, because not everyone’s going to have a chance to come and see us live.”

Are you planning a 2010 tour?

Sean: “We’re hoping to start before then.”

Sky: “As soon as we’re done with this album — late fall.”

With the sun dipping behind the rooftops of the Sacramento skyline, the interview drew to an appropriate close. It was time to let the band members begin doing what they do best — play music — and to let the information they divulged find its way into the minds of astute readers. The views they presented, embedded in a sense of camaraderie and the good-natured need for entertainment, would certainly last for interminable lengths of time, as a kind of manifesto for the underground life of *not just* aspiring musicians, but those who have been down that sterling silver path of self-fulfillment, and who have waltzed headstrong into the full knowledge of what they are really doing. Thank you Goodness Gracious Me for being you, and showing us what it is like to be tried-and-true.