Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rehearsal Space Good Bad and Ugly

Rehearsal space

I have probably played in at least ten or more rehearsal spaces over the years. I'm talking about those places that you rent, the ones that are devoted to rehearsal, not your Buddie's basement. What makes up a good space? Why are they almost always in terrible neighborhoods? What do you look for in a good rehearsal space, or is it a "take what you can get" situation every time?

Heat in the winter and A/C in the summer is always nice. I recall a long, cold winter of drumming with cold hands back in 1998. The former sausage factory we practiced in had no utilities. Restrooms are always nice. That same factory had no working plumbing. The band we shared the space with would use two liter bottles for "bathrooms." Not pretty. Security is probably a top concern in any space. It's one thing to have a shared front entrance. Having your own key to your specific space is a must have. An alarm system for your building would be great, but that rarely is the case.

Sometimes the inspiration comes at off hours. If I can get over to my space at 1am and hammer on the drums, that's a good thing. If I have to wait until the retail store below the space is closed at 9pm, that's not so good. If the person renting you that specific place is adjusting the rent to fit the limited hours, then go for it.

Check to see what other action is going on at the space. Are other bands lighting candles, thus risking lives? You should then think about buying a fire extinguisher, or bring your cheap gear to the space. Better yet, insure your equipment. I sleep better knowing that my stuff can be replaced.
I never expect a space to be there forever. Most times, the buildings that house rehearsal spaces are about to be torn down, or renovated. That's why they are allowing you to practice there.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

WAMI Awards at Turner Hall | My First Time Down That Road

WAMI MilwaukeeDoes Wisconsin need the WAMI's? The WAMI organization hands out awards to deserving artists, to be sure. I like the fact that they are based outside of Milwaukee. I can respect the fact that their board is made up of local musicians. One thing is for sure, any award-handing-out body is certainly going to miss the overwhelming majority of talented musicians that just put their heads down and play. I'm talking about all of those musicians that have a devoted fan base, but never seem to get the props from their peers. After all, the WAMI's are pretty much peer ratings of your talent.

One observation worth noting is that the WAMI board is never going to hand out an award to my next door neighbor who has played amazing music on the biggest stages in Wisconsin, because she isn't schmoozing and pimping herself. She works her butt off, gets great gigs, gets paid well, teaches music in her off time, and focuses on raising her two kids. When I hear that she just played the Marcus Amp. or Riverside, or Potowotomi, it's after the gig, not before. She doesn't jam her amazing talent in my face. I like that. She will never win a WAMI, but I'll bet that she's performed in front of more people than the entire WAMI board combined. She keeps her profile low, but manages to get bookings because she's got an amazing talent. Is that the smartest way to get paid? I'll say that it's a great way to get steady work, and yes good pay.
My guess is that she never once put together a promotional package, or subjected herself to CD Roulette.

What's good about the WAMI organization? It puts on clinics on how to brand yourself as an artist, how to promote your project with "pitching sessions" for possible bookings, and more. Some think that it's great to be part of the somewhat famous CD Roulette, where your band is judged worthy of potential bookings by a panel of judges who listen to a whopping 90 seconds of your hard work. If I sound a bit snippy on that last bit, it's just that this style of "judging" is what we musicians fear the most. Can I get this club owner or booking manager to listen to more than one minute of the first track on my website? Good luck with that.

What CD Roulette says to me is that when a booking manager gets a promo pack, or link to your web page, they will look at your image, play about 90 seconds of one track and either toss it, or move forward to consider you for the noon slot at State Fair. How do I back that opinion up? CD Roulette involves "blind taste testing" in that the judges have no idea who you are. Okay, if I were an aspiring artist, I would think "hey cool, it's not about my connections or look, it's about my sound." Yes, that is pretty cool, and that one paid gig at Bastille days might lead to more, but the judges are certainly not going to risk losing money by booking you for a headline slot at any one of their events. Those slots are reserved for bands that have a following. Take a look at where those "winners" end up on the schedule.

Yes, it's a way to get your name out there, to test the waters, etc. Yes, you win a paid booking. It's all great, but in a backhanded way, I can't help but think that CD Roulette brings to the surface what really does happen when you put yourself in front of the powers that be. Is that what you worked so hard for, one minute of some local booking manager's time.

If I were to take advantage of what WAMI has to offer, I would avoid CD Roulette, and those "pay to get your 60 seconds in front of someone from Summerfest," events, and attend their branding and Promos 101 seminars instead. There is so much that you can do on your own. Work your way up as an opening act, play for free on off nights, build a Facebook following, prove that you can get at least 50 people to pay money to see you, then work from there.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mike Watt Returns to Shank Hall with Couch Flambeau

Couch Flambeau
Mike Watt, founding member of the band Minutemen will be performing at Shank Hall this Saturday night, April 16. Opening for Watt will be none other than Couch Flambeau. I never had the chance to catch the Minutemen back in the day, but I did see Watt perform his solo work from the disk Contemplating The Engine Room. That disk has some serious sounding songs.

The opposite of serious would have to be Couch Flambeau. Jay Tiller was a drummer that inspired me. I stole some of his licks, to be sure. (Thanks Jay.) My favorite song from Couch Flambeau would have to be The Zoo Is Cool, off of the album The Day the Music Died.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Theme Music to Space 1999

Space 1999 theme song
 I was reminded last night of the sci-fi show Space 1999. It was the 1970's when this show came out. That means it was disco time. The theme music to space 1999 certainly had a disco feel, but the song was schizophrenic in that the disco music was split up with cheese ball symphonic melodies, and lots of brass. I do like the guitar work on the song, and that's certainly the part one can remember decades later.