Promoting & Booking 101:

Venues typically work in a few different ways:

1) In House Talent-Buyer:

Some venues have an internal staff member who handles booking. This person is typically paid directly by the venue and works for the venue. Mid sized to larger rooms will often have a talent buyer. They handle the booking of (usually) national touring acts. They are the one responsible for dealing directly with national agents. They also handle booking the local talent. Sometimes as openers for the nationals shows, other times (especially for the mid sized rooms) as all local bills. For smaller venues the owner himself may function as the rooms talent buyer.

2) Outside Agency:

Some (usually bigger) venues will bring in outside companies to handle booking their national acts. Examples would be Bowery Electric or The Knitting Factory. There are many different ways venues handle hiring outside agencies. They may pay them a flat fee, share in the gains and revenue from the events, or a combination. Regardless, their is always a cost to the venue for using an outside agency. Many venues use this model simply to outsource all or a portion of their booking and leverage the relationships these agencies have with national agents.

3) Outside Promoter:

The Promoter is typically someone who books shows at the local level. This is the person most local acts receive their shows from, other than directly from the venue. The promoter does not work for the venue. He or she may work with one or various venues within and across markets. Some promoters also deal with booking national acts. In the outside promoters case, they typically have to pay the room where they are putting their show, as well as the national agent. As explained below, their costs may be higher due to the deals they get and their rooms costs as an outside promoter.

4) Other:

Most rooms will allow bands to contact them directly to book a show. They will also rent their room out for functions and other events. The person renting the room may be involved in the industry or may just be someone that wants to host a function such as a bachelor/bachelorette party, birthday party, dance party, etc. These costs vary. (More below on door deals, splits, bar deals, and room fees)

5) Combination:

Most rooms use some sort of combination of the above. Venues that have outside agencies or in house talent buyers will often still allow outside promoters to book their room for a fee.

Mixing Terminology | Promoter vs Booking Agent:

A booking agent, also known as a talent agent (not to be confused with talent buyer), typically represents a band or many bands. They are the one a promoter would negotiate with in order to book an act (usually at the national level). An example would be The Agency Group, The Windish Agency, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), Paradigm Talent Agency, and many more. Some specialize by genre, others cover a broad spectrum of clientele. As you can see by their job descriptions, a promoter is not a booking agent.

If a local promoter wants to books a particular national act he or she would typically contact the artists agent. For national touring bands their is actually a bidding process that takes place. A bid/offer is placed with the agent. This is a legally binding process. Sometimes it is done formally. Other times not so much. There is an element of who knows who. Sometimes an agent or act has been working with one particular venue/talent buy/promoter for so long that they will strike a deal with no more than an email or phone call without a competitive bidding process.

Determining Cost:

A lot of factors go into determining cost of a national acts. There is a major difference between a band that had a hit in the 90’s compared to an act that is currently in rotation. Some bands are simply past their prime, on their way up, or at their peek. Pop artists at their peek playing stadiums can command anywhere from 250k to a million, whereas a band with a hit a few years back may only cost a few a grand to book. Also, the cost of the the national act may vary depending on the market. It is not uncommon for there to be a few thousand dollars difference between what a national can fetch in a primary market as opposed to a secondary market. Even the day of the week the event falls on can factor in to price. Ultimately, like anything else, the price (or the value of the band) is what someone is willing to pay.

Most promoters starting out try to stay under the 5k mark. But some will go up to 10k or a little above. Venues that can seat a few thousand people will often be in the 20k to 100k market. In addition to costs such as the national bands guarantee, the size of the room, expected draw, and ticket price-point are obviously critical factors.

The issue for the local promoter booking nationals is he or she is the smallest person fish in the pond. There is a lot more than just the money (though that is at the top of the list) that factors in. An agent needs to know they are working with someone competent who has (a respected) history. Established venues and talent buyers usually have a reputation in the industry. Often times a promoter must be willing to pay more for an act than the talent buyer or other venues are willing to do in order to get the bill.

The issue here is others have determined that the price point they would have to pay is just no longer profitable. They determined the event not worth the risk. In other words, the local promoter often makes bad deals. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes the other venues may not have bidded on the national act because the date falls on an event they already have or they simply may not be interested in the show. Regardless, the local promoter is typically at a disadvantage in the process. Besides over paying for acts promoters (and even venues) can get stuck with bad deals in a variety of other ways. Just like as at the local level some look at the talent buys and promoters as the “gatekeepers” the same is true for agents at the national level. Agents typically represent many bands so a promoter often finds his or herself doing favors and booking shows they really didn’t want. They do this to build a relationship with the national agent. Also, most promoters have to work their way up and book some of the smaller acts the agent represents in order to round off a tour for the agent. A promoter may do this for a show they weren’t interested in in order to get the agent to consider them for the bigger acts. Also, it is not uncommon for an agent to say something like “If you want <awesome band> in September I need you to book these two acts we represent in August.” This is why you’ll often see a promoter known for one genre with an unexpected bill outside of what they normally work with.

All of this is why promoters (who book nationals) tend to be the ones most up in arms when local artists begin to organize and speak out against unfair practices. They have the most to lose. They spent (sometimes) years building relationships and doing favors and often losing money on bad deals to get themselves to the point they can land better acts. Yet, they are still the most inconsequential in the game. If they get a bad reputation in their market to the point locals and venues won’t work with them then the national agent can simply continue working with other venues and talent buyers directly or move on to the next local promoter on the block.

I Want to Open For A National Act:

First, I hope after reading this you will be a bit more cautious about what you agree to with promoters knowing that a common practice is for them to make many bad deals they think will later benefit them. But here’s how the process typically work for local support.

National touring acts come in a few varieties. Sometimes a national act (depending on their level or popularity) may not have any opening acts, others come as a package with openers, and many come needing local support. When a national bill comes ad a package the openers could be anything from a band (often a newer act) that is represented by the same agent, on the headliners label, or may have bought on to the bill. Yes, pay to play is common at the national level and independent artist will often “buy on” to either an entire tour or to select shows and markets. The national may use a portion of this money to offset tour costs like hotels and travel expenses. There are resources available that list what acts are touring with available buy on spot available and contact information for independent artists. The “value” the act buying on is they get to get in front of the nationals crowds often in new (to them) markets. So in other word, “exposure” is the common reason. Independent acts will often try to offset this cost buy selling merch at these events.

(Tip: If you ever pursue this option work out all the details ahead of time. Read contract thoroughly and know what you are signing up for. Bands have often agreed to these deals thinking they could sell merch and shirts at, for example, 10 bucks only to find out there is a clause that their merch prices can’t undercut the national acts. They may then be forced to sell shirts as high as 25 or 30 dollars. This can financially cripple an independent act on tour. People will often support an opening touring act who they liked by buying a shirt at 10 bucks but may not be willing to spend 3 times that on a band they really don’t know.)

The Cost of Doing Business:


Overhead is simply the cost of the event. It’s the amount financially that needs to be covered before a profit can be made. This could be tens of thousands of dollars for bigger national bills in bigger venues when the cost of a the tour package; staff, including sound personnel, door person, security, etc.; any rentals, and even taxes and insurance. For a smaller bill it may only be a few hundred books. Overhead depends upon the size of the venue, the amount of staff needed, the cost of the acts (including local openers).

Understand that there is different “overhead” for everyone involved. The venues “overhead” can the include the costs associated with just being open including lights and electricity. The promoters overhead may just be the cost of the sound guy for the night.

Overhead and room costs are determined and negotiated between the venue and the the outside promoter. No artist should ever hear the word “overhead” when locking up a bill. Promoters have many options in terms of where they put their shows. This a business decision. Their deal with the venue is a business transaction. Both the promoter and venue decide if they feel the event in question is worth the financial risk (and possible gain). Once this is all determined the promoter will reach out to acts that he or she feels g

This is VERY important. It is the promoters job to know the market he or she is working in order to determine if a certain artists is right for their bill after factoring all of their costs and risks. By the time the band is contacted the promoter should have done their research. Their

However, don’t confuse a promoter who is lamenting their “overhead” aloud in order to get you agree to some deal that may or may not unfairly benefit them as someone that gives you information as full disclosure. It is not uncommon for a promoter to tell a band “I have to pull 100 out of the door for sound and then the rest of the door revenue will be split among the bands.” This is actually the type of promoter you want to work with. The red flag to look for, and the promoter you don’t want to work with, is the one outright telling you they are in over their heads and are essentially trying to pass the buck (or a portion of costs) to the artist. No professional will ever go into too much detail on the behind the door dealings with agents, venues, etc. If they do, expect their follow up line to be asking you for a “deposit”, to agree to X amount of tickets, or to outright pay for your slot.

Venture Capitalism:

Many businesses operate much the same as a venture capitalist would. They make many deals knowing some will end up being a lose, some will break even, and some will be a home run.

The promoter tries to insulate themselves against their bad deals and shows that happen to go bad nobody’s fault. This model undervalues the artist. Here the promoter is trying to minimize downside risk by having artists absorb some of their risk and costs yet they are the ones who enjoy the upside potential. When the promoter has that home run show where a few grand profit was made, even if he is a decent promoter who honest about the nights numbers with the local artists (something else to be cautious of) he or she knows that most bands are pretty happy to receive a few hundred bucks. This is only because the bar has been set so low and artists are quite accustomed to pay that equates to the cost of a pizza or gas money for one member. The issue here is the band absorbs much of the risk on previous shows, limiting the promoters downside, but the promoter receives far more of the upside when it’s there.

Normally, I would say band gets paid what they get paid and that’s the end of it. Traditionally, a band shows up, performs, gets paid, and that’s it. However, when the promoter has decided to bring the artists (knowingly or unknowingly) into their business model as a buffer against risk they have now partnered up with the artist. They cannot just partner up to share the nights expenses and possible loses and then not so the same with the successes. This, at it’s core, is what the scam is all about. In other words, it’s not a zero sum game. The model disproportionately favors the promoter even though his role and risk has been limited profoundly.

Making Good Deals | Making Bad Deals

Room Fee:
Classic Pay to Play:

Variations on Classic Pay to Play:

Pay to Play in Disguise:

How p2p Is Bad For Venues:


Lazy Promoting:

The Scam:

The Free Market Argument:


The “Exposure” Fallisy:

Strategy For An Artist Looking For Gigs (National or Local):

We are going to list this in order. Your strategy should be to pursue your options in this order.

1) Contact the venues directly.

MUCH is to be gained by working directly with the venues. The obvious is you cut out the middle man, i.e. the local promoter. But building a relationship with various venues yield more results. When you contact a venue they may have an event with an open slot that you can jump on or may give you your own date to book. When you do this your value to the venue just skyrocketed. You’ve gone from just being a band looking for a bill to someone willing to work, get their hands dirty, and bring the venue business. You essentially now have the value of both an artist and a promoter. When a band does this successfully for a period of time they earn the venues and communities respect. They are the first the venue will want to give an opportunity to if that venue also books nationals.

IMPORTANT: Building a relationship directly with the venues will lead to bigger shows and supporting national acts. So for both local and national gigs your best strategy is to work directly with the venues. If you work, promote, and bring something to the table early on, it will pay dividends in the end.

Build relationship with local radio stations:

In Providence, many stations like 95.5 WBRU, 90.7 W , 94 HJY, and others are very active within the local music community. The same is true for stations in other markets. These stations often book and/or sponsor local events, as well as sponsor the bigger national shows. A good relationship with them will actually lead to better events, as well as possible promotion for your smaller events and releases.

This is why we advocate being a relentless networker. Promoters often prey on younger bands who haven’t yet developed many relationships or even bands that have been around that seem to have few options. You are absolutely in control of your success at the local level. There is a directly relationship between how much work you put in and the results you will get out of all this.

Work With Promoters Who Don’t Book Nationals:

As described above, promoters who book national acts are prone to bad deals and often have the stress of thousands of dollars on the line for one event. This is always on their mind and absolutely affects their local bills. If a promoter took a bad hit last week on a big national show he is hoping his local show next weekend will start the process of making up for that hit. In other words, the local community is nothing more than a casino for most promoters working with national agents. This is why they are the first to advocate for derivative p2p models, even at the local level.

In contrast, local promoters that book only local bills are often doing it as a means to give back to their community by putting heads in the venues and giving bands opportunities. Some made an active decision to stay away from the business of booking national acts. These promoters are dealing in thousands of dollars. With most local bills there is typically only a few hundred on the line.

WARNING: This is not to say there are no bad or unreputiale promoters at this level. This definitely seems to be an industry that attacks its share of scam artists. This is why working with a promoter is at the bottom of the list. At the local level, booking through a promoter is almost completely unnecessary. There are plenty of smaller rooms with open calenders a band can contact. And as described above, working with a promoter for national bills is gamble, to say the least. I may be one of the worst gambles a band can make.

Also, this is not say venues can’t be unreputable. There are definitely a few that come to mind. However, most venues understand the business. Just like a local restaurant that doesn’t want bad reviews, the same is true for most venues. Also, in Providence, we do NOT have any pure pay to play venues. In fact, most venues, especially the smaller rooms, are active participants in the community and supporters of local independent arts. Providence is VERY lucky in this regard.

Summation On Booking:

If after pursuing all these avenues and artist still consistently finds themselves without shows then it may be time to reconsider which band member is handling the booking. We know that sounds cold but no one is a victim here. Bands that complain no one will book them are either not working hard enough, have made a bad rep for themselves, or just not good at developing relationships and networking. Also, let’s be honest, as much as we are staunch supporters of our local independent artists let’s some people and bands are just jerks. No one wants to work with a jerk. There are a few really good bands that come to mind that we would never work with and could never recommend anyone else to work with because they just are not the most pleasant of people.

What Venues Look For In A Band:

If you just gig to have some fun with the boys, have a few drinks, and get a night out, while there is nothing wrong with that just be aware that you’ve telegraphed it to everyone, including the people you may want to work with on future bills. For a venue to want to work with a local band consistently they are looking for a few things:

1) Draw.

The reality is if you are packing venues you’ll probably never find yourself with a shortage of available shows. Venues stay in business by getting heads through the door and drinkers at their bars. Some would put this on the same level of promoting but is not. Promoting is a close second. If you are, for some reason, filling the rooms without making a single post or flyer you will still find plenty of shows in your future.

2) Promoting. <IMPORTANT>

While this isn’t number one it is very close to it and is a surefire way to get you to number one. You will never increase your draw if no one knows who you are. And you will never get on decent bills to get in front on new crowds if you are known as a band that doesn’t lift a finger to promote their events. It is a cycle that too many bands get caught up in. Some bands have a strange attitude towards promoting. Yet those same bands want good shows. And the shows they tend to get often don’t go very well because again, no one really knew about the show.

Bands often fall back on, “Well, it’s the promoters and venues job to promote.” Well, yes. Yes it is. It is as much their job as it yours. The bands or artist is in the best position to reach their friends, family, and fans. At the local independent level a promoter or band could relentlessly promote a bill but still have band turn out because they weren’t reaching the people that are interested in seeing relatively unknown bands. The most successful shows are the ones where all involved work hard to make the night a success. The venue promotes, the promoter (if there is one) promotes, and all the bands promote.

Greatest response a venue or promoter can give a band complaining about a bad event is simply, “Well, did you tell anyone?” If you didn’t tell anyone you were playing then how could you expect any type of a crowd? This is the start of the cycle. The band has shown that they are not worth the venues time or effort. Not because of low turn out. Many bands promote hard and still have low turn out. But because the band did nothing to help make

The Lie Bands Tell Themselves:

“Well, I shouldn’t have to promote. Bigger artists don’t promote. I should just show up and play.” First, bigger artists spend thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands promoting their events. They even hire agencies who sole job is to promote the band and their upcoming appearance or tours. This cost national artists far more money than what is expected of a local artist on a local bill. Bands that make these statements are the ONLY ones in the entire industry not promoting themselves and their events. In our experience, most local promote their events.

The Midday Social Goes Down TONIGHT!

Midday RecordsTonight! (Thursday, August 28) Come meet local music industry reps from all across New England! FREE / ALL GENRES / ALL AGES

Final details on tonight’s The Midday Social!

Due to this event being reschedule to tonight from a previous date Joe Graham of The New England Music Awards and Amy Nachbar are unable to join our industry panel. They will be on the panel at our next event. In their place we have:

Marc Clarkin – Music journalist for Motif Magazine
Phil Fleming – Local music DJ at WMFO 91.5FM (The Dweezil Show)
Tony Pacitti – Music journalist for Providence Monthly

John Laurenti of Boston’s Classic Rock, 100.7 WZLX will be moderating.

The Studio Cellar podcast will be set up on location for interviews again. They’ll be on the backside of the bar. Ask for Jim Schultz, Tom Ribeiro, or Jax Adele.

Also, Scarpetti of 94HJY-The Home of Rock and Roll (host of Soundcheckand The Metal Zone) and DAve Crespo of Boston’s WEMF Radio and co-host of Bay State Rock on WAAF are unable to join us due to prior commitments. They have both asked that Midday Records collect CD’s from the artists in attendance tonight for airtime consideration on their programs. So if you’re in a band make sure you turn in two separate CDs with your material to me. I will be hand delivering these to both stations.

This will be the first time Scarpetti has not been available for this event. We are honored that both he and Crespo are still providing the same opportunities for the artists that attend as if they were here. Scarpetti has played MANY of the artists that turn in material at this event. Crespo also gives artists a spin and helps promote when the bands have upcoming shows in the Boston area. Again, this is a great opportunity to get these stations, and others, your material so don’t miss out on this tonight.

I’d also like to remind bands to bring plenty of CDs to give to other stations, promoters, and the music journalists tonight. And don’t forget to turn one in to our DJ by 8:00 the latest if you want us to spin your songs at tonight’s event.

Our sponsor MusicTown (Seeking Local Musicians) and Circle-Jam Productions will still be setting up gear in the back room for impromptu jam sessions. On our main stage we have:

Tracy and Shawn of VulGarrity
Mardi Garcia of Mardi and The Astral Seekers
Jenn Lombari Jenn-Kitten of Lucky United
Mike Baker of Sgt. Baker & The Clones

And closing out the night will be a full live set by The Skinny Millionaires.

Lastly, Providence Night Out (Providence Nightout) have been good enough to bring out Elwood’s Dog House food truck for us all tonight!

We start PROMPTLY at 7:00 at Platforms in Providence, RI (industry reps should be there by 6:00 to set up). ALL AGES / ALL GENRES / FREE


Satellites Fall opens for KONGOS at the 95.5 WBRU Dunkin Donuts Summer Concert Series

KONGOS 95.5 WBRUSatellites Fall is opening for KONGOS at Waterplace Park in Providence, RI TONIGHT (7/25/14) for The 95.5 WBRU Dunkin’ Donuts Summer Concert Series. This is a FREE show! They go on at 7:00 PM.

TONIGHT! “Perform at The Midday Social” Contest at Fatt Squirrel in PVD!

Midday RecordsTONIGHT! Get over to the Fatt Squirrel in Providence, RI for the “Perform at The Midday Social” competition presented by Midday Records and featuring The Dust Ruffles | Brother Ghost | The Skinny Millionaires | Tomorrow and Tomorrow! Our judges include DAve Crespo of WAAFFull Scene Ahead, and WEMF Radio; George Nasser of Providence Night Out; and Ashley Goldberg of AAG Booking and formerly of 90.7 WXIN.

This event is also doubling as Jessica Prouty Band‘s Rhode Island CD release! They’ll be headlining the night before we announce the winners of the event!

The winner will perform at the next Midday Social on Thursday, August 28 at Platforms in Providence, RI. Don’t miss this!

GoLocalProv has listed this event as a music must for tonight!

And Providence Phoenix just did a big piece on Midday and listed tonight’s event!

Thanks to Nate Grist who will be on hand photographing the evening and to Pat Keister of PALS who will be manning the door. And Mark Charron of Midday and Satellites Fall will (most likely) be our host. (Tonight is also Mike O’Donnell of Skinny Millionaires birthday!)

DOORS at 8:00 | 10 BUCKS | 18 PLUS! ‪#‎celebratelocalmusic‬


This Is Pistol Shot Gypsy

Pistol Shot GypsyRecently, Midday Records began an Artist Development & Management division and one of the first bands we started working with were Pistol Shot Gypsy. For the uninitiated, Pistol Shot Gypsy are New England rock legends and have been tearing up the scene for many years now. Their brand of straight forward rock has never wavered. They stood steadfast as musical tastes and trends in their native Providence scene traded places at the top. Providence has a rich tapestry of genres and there is room for all types of artists but each genre has had its reign. Whether the scene was dominated by Folk, Americana, Indie, Punk, Hardcore, or even Metal, PSG continued to spread the gospel of unadulterated Rock N’ Roll.

Pistol Shot GypsyWe’ve had our fair share of questions about putting our time and resources into a hard rock act since we are typically known for working with indie and alt acts. Our response is always the same: First, we support all hardworking, independent artists; as evidenced through our Midday Records Presents shows and The Midday Social. Second, we have been absolutely inspired by these guys. Recently, they’ve been faced with relentless obstacles and have conquered each one of them without batting a lash. Around the time we started working with the band they were plagued with internal conflicts, management concerns, booking and promotion issues, and even lineup changes. Lesser bands would have crumbled from the pressure under these circumstances. Instead, they pulled together, made some very tough decisions, and continued to move forward. We’ve seen first hand what PSG is made of. Their resolve is unrestrained. The term being thrown around the Midday camp is PSG 2.0. It’s not the same band, but it’s also not a new band. It’s Pistol Shot Gypsy and they stand stronger than ever.

Pistol Shot GypsyPSG are back where they belong: on the big stages, in front of hundreds, supporting your favorite national acts. They are tearing up venues throughout Providence, Boston, New York City, Philly and they’ll be in many more markets soon. They are also writing and working on new material in the studio for an upcoming EP. Pistol Shot Gypsy are an unstoppable machine and they are simply the best at what they do.

Show Review: Midday Records, 95.5 WBRU, & Naragansett Beer Presents: The Sweet Release, The Skinny Millionaires, The Brother Kite, & The Morgana Phase at Mardi Gras in Cranston, RI

95.5 WBRULast night (Friday, April 18) was another fantastic night celebrating local music for Midday Records, 95.5 WBRU, Narragansett Beer, and Mardi Gras MultiClub Presents: The Sweet Release, The Skinny Millionaires, The Brother Kite, & The Morgana Phase at Mardi Gras in Cranston, RI

The Sweet ReleaseThe Sweat Release kicked off the night and we can say that everything you have been hearing about The Sweet Release is true. Musically, they borrow from 70’s punk, hard rock, and some classic rock. Frontman, Austin Sheridan is a combination of Mick Jagger and Iggy Pop with a dash of GG Allin (without all the self-mutilation, defecation, and beating up fans). And we don’t say that lightly. Austin brings the sex, controversy and provocation, and one hell of a performance. When you see them you’ll either get it or you won’t. You’ll either love them or hate them. There is no in between.

10259706_844689025548644_5054199807491904484_nUp next were The Skinny Millionaires. Anyone who saw Mike O’Donnell play an acoustic set at The Midday Social and were expecting a similar sound with some drums, as we were, were in for a surprise. Mike gave an amazing performance at The Social but the full band brought more of a punk rock element to the table. They describe themselves as folk rock n roll and while their is plenty of rock there is also plenty of good old fashion punk. Especially in how they approach their backing vocals and harmonies. Pure bliss.

The Brother KiteThings shifted gears when The Brother Kite took the stage. Incredibly tight and absolutely beautiful. Last time we saw them was over at Fete Ballroom in Providence, RI opening for Civil Twilight. They’ve been around for some time and are just one of those bands that capture the beauty of local, independent music. Their sound is ethereal at times and rhythmic at others. As a musician watching other acts you often unintentionally zone in on the strengths as well as the weaknesses. There were no weaknesses. These guys are damn near flawless. Interesting and beautiful guitar work, extremely tight rhythm section, and vocals with harmonies that were spot on. I heard elements of Arcade Fire, Death Cab, and even some Cure (good Cure) in the lead lines of some of their older material.


The Morgana Phase95.5 WBRU were up last. These guys pull from post-hardcore with some punk/emo. It was definitely evident before they covered a Taking Back Sunday song that they were heavily influenced by them and bands like Brand New. They gave a very energetic performance, engaging the crowd and getting every last person in the venue up on their feet. Could not have asked for a better closing to the night

The great thing about events like this, other than the performances, is hanging out and getting to know artists. We spent much of the night hanging with Mike O’Donnell of The Skinny Millionaires, a man who is as sincere as he is polarizing at times. And while we won’t go into details, we want to publicly give props to The Sweet Release for their willingness to step up and do whatever it took to make the night a success and run smoothly.

The Brother Kite, Skinny Millionaires, The Morgana Phase, The Sweet ReleaseThanks to the BRU crew for coming out and giving away some great swag and for their continued support of local artists. Also, thanks to 95.5 WBRU and Narragansett Beer for sponsoring the event and their help promoting. Thanks to Mardi Gras for hosting these events and allowing Midday to bring in local artists. Also, thanks to our friends from Providence Night Out,, Downcity Armory, and The October Accord for constantly coming out to support local artists and our events.

Show Review: Throwing Muses & Tanya Donelly — The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA

Throwing Muses and Tanya Donelly
The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA | March 10, 2014

Throwing MusesI’m old enough to remember the end of the first part of The Muses’ career but I never had the opportunity to seem them back in the good old days. Typically after twenty-some-odd years pass it’s something of a crap-shoot to go see a band on its second (or third) run. Often as not, you end up watching a gang of decrepit old musicians trying in vane to reproduce their glory years. Thank Christ that’s not at all what The Muses had in mind. Instead, we were treated a performance that felt as vital as if it were still 1988.

Singer/Guitarist/Mastermind, Kristin Hersh hit the stage like a dervish—a force of nature. Her gnarly hands and vein-popping neck showing every mile of road she has traveled with The Muses, as a solo artist, and with 50 Foot Wave. Her round, cherub-like face stilling looking like the just-out-of-high-school indie-rock star of the mid-eighties. The juxtaposition of young against old, a beauty in and of itself.

Watching Hersh perform is an intense experience. Chin down and eyes forward, staring into some unknown point in space at the back of the room, she attacks her guitar ferociously. Ripping the chords—up, down, up, down—again and again like a machine. Her voice able to flip from throaty growl to ragged scream on a dime. How someone who can sing such beautiful ballads manages to shred her own throat in raging screams throughout the set is a wonder to me.

Their performance reminds me that The Muses had perfected the art of loud-quiet-loud before Kurt Cobain was out of elementary school. I wonder, as I always have, why, like the Pixies, the Throwing Muses never really gained the recognition they deserved. This hour- and-a-half set was a clinic on the best of what the first wave of American indie rock had to offer. When grunge came along half a generation later most of what it had to offer was nothing more than a shadow of what the Throwing Muses bring to the table.

Throwing MusesThey play as a three-some for most of the night (sans Tanya Donelly). Bassist Bernard Georges and Drummer David Narcizo play their supporting role to perfection. They set the workman-like rhythm, light Hersh’s fuse, and let her simply go off. The pair still get a tremendous kick out of watching her perform. It’s as though they are pleased just to have the opportunity for a front row seat.

When Donelly joins them on stage for a few songs it’s amazing to see them play together. It’s great to hear how their completely different voices interplay with each other. The fact of the matter though it that the Throwing Muses are and always have been Hersh’s vehicle. the songs they play together this evening do nothing to dispel this fact.

The Muses have been a part of my internal soundtrack for the better part of my life. Like so many bands’ with deep catalogs, song-titles and albums run together in my muddled brain. This fact gives me the benefit of not having to spend the night worrying whether or not they’ll play “Marriage Tree” shouting for “Firepile”. Instead I can simply stand back and enjoy the fury. I honestly couldn’t tell you which songs were old ones and which ones were new ones. And that’s exactly how I like to watch a show. Simply breathing in the spectacle. What a beautiful spectacle it was.

– George Dow

52 Shows: SHOW #6 – …And the Sky Was Red, Jay Sullivan, PAS Musique at Mobius

MobiusShow number six was Sunday, February 22 at a venue I had heard of prior to my receiving an invitation to this show – a place called Mobius. The facts that (A) There was a venue I hadn’t heard of in town after playing here for nearly a decade and (B) It was walking distance from my house, (Norfolk Street, a block from Central Square) were mind-blowing to me.

Surely, it must be new, right? NOPE. Mobius has apparently been around since 1977, though it has changed locations a couple of times. It’s not exactly a venue, so much as it is a presentation center. It is, by its own mission statement (, “a non-profit, artist-run organization, whose mission is to generate, shape and test experimental art.”

Finding the building was oddly challenging. It is extremely modest and the only non-residential structure on the block. Thankfully, my friend Jonah (cellist of The Steve Walther Orchestra, among other acts) caught me wandering around like a fool outside and guided me in. The room is extremely small – I was told it was previously an office for a small realty firm.

MobiusThe were three rows of seats with an aisle down the middle, with three seats on each side of the aisle. On the right hand side as you enter is the ticket desk and the donation bin, on the left is the standing-room-only space, giving the room of capacity of just under 20 people. As I entered, I was asked if I’d match the suggested donation of ten dollars and assured that, could I not afford it, I would be happily welcomed notwithstanding. Cool. I paid it.

I arrived at 7:55pm for an 8pm start time and the show was off and running by 8:11. Each of the three performances were not ‘sets’, like I was used to. They were performances. The three acts (…And the Sky Was Red, Jay Sullivan and PAS Musique) all featured instruments I’d never seen before or, more accurately, devicees I’ve never seen used as instruments before. There were modular analog synthesizers, distressed vinyl turntables, carnival trumpets and loop pedals…and that was just the stuff that I recognized.

There were 17 people in the room when the show started and 15 when it ended. During that time, the audience was intensely focused on what was going on on-stage – amazing considering a great deal of what was happening was like watching electricians work. Wires were re-routed, loops were set, knobs were twisted…not your typical show to be sure. But it was fascinatingly new. The crowd was VERY into it. The dynamics of the show shifted so intensely that the songs fluctuated down to a barely-audible hum, but the crowd stayed silent. The music and crowd became so quiet at one point that I could hear the crinkle of nylon from the natural breathing cadence of a patron wearing a windbreaker. I don’t think I could enjoy this type of show all of the time, but goddamn if it wasn’t cool on this night.

MobiusWorth noting, there was no food or beverage being served, but they had no problem with me bringing in a coffee. I asked if I had thought to bring a flask if they would have cared – they indicated that they would not have cared at all.

Before the final act of the night, the door attendant gave a brief and well-received soliloquy about Mobius‘ purpose and mission statement. The show halted at 10, which was probably about as long as the audience could have tolerated, but it was fascinating nonetheless.

So, experimental art at Mobius – a great find if you want something new and you want to see something you have not seen before. If you want to dance, or “rock out” – maybe not your thing. But I’m extremely glad I went and I will go again for sure.

– Mick Greenwood

52 Shows: SHOW #5 – The Failed Social Experiment That Was “Tasty Burger: The Venue”

Tasty BurgerShow number five went down on February 21st, a Thursday night. I was really excited for it for two reasons: (1) Doug Sherman (guitarist of Gozu and Superhoney) was booking it under his “Mondo Thursdays” banner. Doug’s taste in music seems to overlap with mine a lot, so I knew I’d enjoy the bands. (2) It was my first chance to catch a show at Tasty Burger in Harvard Square.

I hadn’t been to TB‘s Harvard Square location yet. I used to bartend at Grandma’s Basement, the former underground comedy club hidden in the old Howard Johnson that used to be behind Fenway Park, which was right next to a Tasty Burger. I used to eat there all the time, but nothing about those experiences was helping me envision how a Tasty Burger could possibly be a venue. But, I was excited to be proven wrong, and really expected that I would be proven wrong, given the fact that the two people I knew who were booking shows there (Doug and head-booker Jim Seery, of Plough and Stars fame) know what they are doing.

So, I arrived at 9 pm (for an advertised 8:30 pm start time) and walked in. I found the stairway to the basement (the “venue”) but immediately noticed there was no signage that indicated there would be music down there. I walked down the stairs and into the room. The room is rectangular in shape and you enter it from the middle. To your left is a large bar that serves beer and wine only (but had a pretty good craft beer selection) with two large-screen TVs above it. To your right is a pool table and a ‘stage’ against the far-side wall…but it wasn’t in the corner, meaning that people could be both in front of and behind the stage if they wanted to.

For starters, the place was packed – absolutely packed. There were easily over 100 people there.

I scanned the room and was immediately very confused. On the ‘stage’ was a guy running a trivia game that very few people seemed to be playing. Given the time on the clock and the activities on the stage, my first thought when I walked in was that the show had been cancelled. I walked around the room and finally noticed Doug and a group of musicians sitting together at a large booth and they did not look happy. I immediately realized the club had double-booked. Having been in that position once as a performer myself, I resolved to grab a burger and wait the night out.

I sat down at the bar and realized that everyone around me appeared to be ‘The Harvard Crowd’ and they were paying their rapt attention to the Duke vs North Carolina NCAA Basketball game. I ordered a burger and a beer and I waited. And waited. And waited. With three bands waiting and only 2 teams playing, the trivia guy really took his sweet time.

The acoustics of the room were pretty suspect, too – it was so woofy/boomy, I couldn’t even make out what he was saying as he asked his questions. At 10:30 (two hours after the scheduled start time for the show), trivia concluded. The host made no announcements that music would follow and then proceeded to take his time clearing his laptop, table and boom box from the stage.

Left Hand Blue

Left Hand Blue

The first band, Left Hand Blue, built the stage in record time, but they were unaware of a growing problem – the Duke/NC game was turning into an instant classic.  The bar manager did the bands no favor by cranking up the volume on the TVs as soon as trivia was done. He was so enthusiastic about getting the crowd into the game, that he even got into an argument with a dozen patrons who were mad that he turned every TV in the bar to Duke/NC, when some were watching the Olympics.

The point is that everyone was looking at the left side of the room. No one saw the band building a stage behind them. No one from the club was telling the crowd that a rock show was about to start behind them. So, at 10:52 with 90 seconds to go in the game that over 100 people were eagerly watching, the music started. It was loud. And people were shocked, they were indignant and they were pissed. I actually found myself forgiving the weirdness and could envision it becoming oddly endearing.

I wanted to put a positive spin on this article and wanted to end it by saying something like “I am going to come back later this year when this room finds its way. They could be a great addition to a venue-strapped scene.” Then, two days later – this happened: Now, I have decided there is no positive spin. So buckle up – here’s my first epic takedown of this 52-article experiment.

Tasty Burger is a room with all the charm of a spoiled child who wants everything ( “I want trivia!” “I want to be a sports bar!” “I want to be a venue!” ) but lacks the vision or conviction to channel any of that into an identity. The poison combination of aimless ambition, blatant incompetence and alarming lack-of-awareness with which Tasty Burger has run its short-lived experiment as a music venue is so dangerous for this city.

The danger comes from the fact that, on both of these nights, several hundred people were sent the message by Tasty Burger‘s incredible disrespect that “local music is here to annoy you and rob you of a good time”. Can you blame these people for thinking so? If you were out to dinner, enjoying conversation and someone sat down next to you with a boom box blaring and refused to leave, how would you feel? But if you walked into a bar and saw a sign that said “MUSIC TONIGHT! 9 PM!” then you would have the ability to make a CHOICE.

Four BurgersTasty Burger repeatedly took away the element of choice from its customers and, in doing so, they placed musicians and listeners in an adversarial relationship and the whole thing was so fucking unnecessary. Tasty Burger asked to be a venue. Musicians didn’t show up with instruments begging to be let in. Talented people lined up to help – to book, to play, to attend….and the restaurant wasted their time, wasted their customers’ time and they sure as shit wasted my time that night.

So, in closing, even if they decide to continue as a venue, I will NOT be back. I’ll get my burgers at FourBurgers and I’ll get my music at a real venue where I can order a fucking whiskey.

 So ends Tasty Burger: The Venue. Maybe someday you’ll grow up and stop being a weathervane of bro. Probably not.

One Hell of a Weekend… And it’s Just Begun

First and foremost, CONGRATULATIONS to The Rare Occasions. They’ll be moving on to the final round of 95.5 WBRU‘s annual rock hunt!

The Rare Occasions We headed over to The Spot Underground last night for the first semi-final event of the 2014 Rock Hunt. Both Here We Just Dream and The October Accord played amazing sets. But The Rare Occasions have definitely stepped up their game. They played a fantastic set last year in the Rock Hunt and still managed to top it this year. These guys have been on the rise and have obviously been working hard at it. They don’t even have time to enjoy their win as they are hoping on a plane Wednesday for a few SXSW tour dates. They’ll be back in the area in time for the Rock Hunt finals over at The Met.

We were pretty psyched this event was being held at The Spot. One of those venues where we are fortunate to call just about every staff member a good friend. Always great to have a few drinks with our pal, Josh, who keeps things running over there. But have to say, Joe Ferro is not as fun when he’s on the clock! It was definitely nice catching up with them and the WBRU crew. We also ran into the boys from Fly Kite Canvas. We may have to start an official petition to get these guys back together. Also, met up with George from Providence Night Out, Todd from Downcity Armory, and Nina from BB Entertainment. After the event, we all headed over to Dusk to catch Nymphidels and Viking Jesus.

Even with all the rushing around we, unfortunately, missed Nymphidels set. Grrrrr. We made it in time for Ants in the Cellar‘s and Resistor’s sets. Major props for Rob Duaguy for putting together this lineup. A great bill that drew lots of heads out even going up against the Rock Hunt kick off. Viking Jesus, of course, killed it. We say this every time but these guys are made up of some of the most talented people in the Rhode Island music scene. George Dussault was sick and still managed to play a beautiful guitar solo with his eyes shut. Literally. He even played it with the guitar behind his back. Show off!

Dusk is another venue where we always seem to run into so many good people. Our crew spent the rest of the night hanging with Rick, the owner; Marc Clarkin from Motif Magazine;  Kelley Bowman from 990WBOB, Dave from 13 Folds Magazine, and the boys from Torn Shorts. (Who, coincidentally, won last years 95.5 WBRU Rock Hunt). Some of the nicest cats you’ll ever meet.

Fun nights can also be exhausting nights. But no time for rest. Tonight we have our first official meeting for Music For Paws with Tracy & Shawn from VulGarrity and Chris Conti from Providence Phoenix. There are some great ideas being tossed around to raise funds and make this one hell of an event.

FlyerThen we’ll be at Mardi Gras MultiClub in Cranston, RI for Midday Records Presents: Dylan Sevey and the Gentlemen, Bourne, Daddie Long Legs, and Most Dangerous Men Alive. This is a great bill so I hope to see you there!

Tomorrow, (Sunday, March 9th) we’ll be heading over to Fete to pig out on some scrum-diddy-umptious treats for RI Food Fights 3rd Annual Great Cupcake Championship with  Providence Night Out and then we’ll be rushing over to The Spot to guest co-host Sully’s Cafe. Weld Square will be our guests. Good times!

Let the fun continue!