Friday, July 22, 2011

Oh here it comes, another bout with the music industry.

We played our first show of our BC mini-tour last night. After I finish writing about it, I’m deleting it from my performance memory bank. But first I’m going to have a little rant. It’s not because I’m disgruntled – the scene was rather humorous once I made the professional decision to see it that way. I’m going to blog about it because I think it’s a good and fair thing to do. In this industry the performer is constantly opening herself up to judgement, criticism and financial loss at the whims of reviewers, bar managers, booking agents and various inflated heads, and rarely do you hear what the performer has to say about the whole thing. Well, nobody’s writing about me yet, so I’m going to go for the first shot.

When Oliver and I toured out from Ontario, I made sure to write a short, upbeat blog entry after every show. I say upbeat because I was unwaveringly positive in my reviews of our journey. As a very small fish in a very big pond, I was afraid to speak my mind or say anything negative for fear of losing what few contacts I had, or pissing off the wrong people. I don’t believe I’m a noticeably bigger fish now, and the pond looks like it’s grown even, but I’m beginning to feel differently. There are a lot of fish. Good fish and bad fish. And I only want to be friends with the good fish.

A few months ago I booked this show at a Courtenay Bar. I thought it would be a good idea to start the tour in the closest city. Time passed after booking, I sent poster images to the venue owner who approved them, we compromised a ticket price (I’m always pushing for affordable, though some see it as unprofessional, I prefer to play for a big happy crowd, not a few people who are now worrying over their account balance) I put an ad in the paper, and we were set. I was under the impression that things were going as planned until last weekend when I checked to see if the venue was doing any advertising for our evening.

They indeed were. But it was for a different artist.

When I checked in and it was confirmed that the venue had indeed double booked us, I offered to open for the other group. Seeing as we were the forgotten band and the closest to our home base, it seemed smart. 

When we arrived at the venue, we heard the distressed story of how the double booking happened, and how they keep happening. We did our sound check and waited for a few bodies to fill the room.  In a separate oversight, the show had been advertised as “doors at 8:00,” so needless to say, there was nobody there at 7:30, which was the time that the venue owner had slotted us in. Unawares that the other band needed a prompt 8:30 start, and with no soundman in sight, we didn’t get on stage until 8:00 when the panic-stricken owner clambered out of the kitchen and shooed us onto the stage.

After five songs the owner returned and told us to wrap it up. I said “alright, we’ve got time for one more song,” to the small crowd, but the owner shook his head. He meant now. Really. They were breathing down his neck. Whoever they were.  So on that note, which was a C at the end of a slow song that we wouldn’t have chosen as our last, we abandoned the stage under orders.
As the other group played, I looked around the stage and at the booking agent and his ticket person at the door and wondered which of these five people was the neck breather.  This band was significantly more pop-y, the instruments ran through pedals that made them sound like electronic swells of sound, and the songs were contemporary, jazzy mantras that were, in a roundabout way, about being true to oneself, standing strong and loving life. Nothing wrong with that I guess, though I tend to like feeling a little more depressed (and for-real) when I listen to music.

The singer, who’s name the band played under, swooped and danced around the little stage, getting low on the floor, doing that spine bendy thing that dudes seem to like and swaying about as if completely hypnotized by her own carefully orchestrated sound. The crowd seemed pleased by it all.  I wondered, as I often find myself doing, if this was what is took to get people on your side and out to shows. Would I have to become this?

No furrrking way.

Adding up the number of people who were trying to make a dime off of this single performance by a relatively unknown but radio-friendly band in a small, somewhat poorly run venue sort of made me glad that I’m not eliciting the type of support this broad is fetching. I was glad the overdressed booking agent and his big-ticket taking side kick had nothing to do with me, and that at the end of the day, while I could have lent my ego to the whole fiasco by making a big fuss about the double booking and the money we put into advertising, I didn’t. I’m not that. This wasn’t my scene. After Oliver and I finished up a conversation about fishing and camping with a nice, rough-around-the-edges guy from inland, I took my free dinner and caught the next ferry out of town with my man.