By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
The question, however, is whether 7th Street lost its lead naturally, or surrendered it actively? McClellan may perceive that bands are flying the coop, but some bands feel the Entry has been stonewalling outsiders, or just stuck in the past--which in turn may have fostered new clubs such as Lee's, Red Sea, and the Bryant-Lake Bowl. For one, Cabooze booker Lynda Davis has noticed a migration of Entry-identified bands looking for work on the West Bank. On the other hand, maybe today's baby bands are better suited for more modest, atmospheric rooms like Lee's, Blues Alley, and the Turf Club rather than the hard-edged space of 7th Street.
Another spot new bands hanker to get into is the Uptown Bar & Cafe. Booker Maggie Macpherson has shown a certain level of commitment to newbies with the club's New Band Nites and Cafe Tuesdays. But while we locals may think of the Uptown as just a neighborhood bar, it's still a very hot stop on the national routes. Almost 20 national acts played the club in November. If you take away the aforementioned showcases, local bands were left with about 15 slots a month.
When pending confirmations fall through, Macpherson may call on a small circle of trusted bands to fill emergency open dates. In 1993 it was Lily Liver, in 1994 it was Hot Date, this year it seems to be Wonsers, or someone Kim the soundperson knows and likes. While there may be no way around it, it is a drag for bands to play a show that's off the calendar, with too little notice to even call friends or do promo. (Many musicians were not amused by a recent bar ad in which Saturday through Monday was listed as "TBA," when dozens of bands would kill for a call back.)
Whatever the case, there is no doubt that bands need to make friends to get good gigs, especially now that some clubs now let headlining bands create their own bills. That could be a positive development, as long as bands are given adequate lead time to turn a bill into an event (such as the lounge-mongering Polar Bear Club extravaganzas, or the all-star St. Paul Music Club tributes). Otherwise, this good idea can go wrong, as when a mid-level local band is given "the favor" of booking its own show on a weeknight with two weeks' notice, and risks the ire of fellow bands and the wrath of the club when the night doesn't work out.
So what's the solution? Probably the same old solution: musical and promotional persistence. Every booker I talked to for this story appreciates courteous call backs--preferably from just one band member. (Same applies to media geeks, by the way.) One thing that I find encouraging is that with a little work and luck, true originality still prospers from time to time. Strawdogs, Peal, Dust Bunnies, and Phull Surkle are just a few unique local bands who draw quite respectably, perhaps because they're good players, and fun bands--a proven plus on a club level. And while their approach may not be right for all bands, the number of available venues has never been higher for qualified, well-organized bands.
In the end, no club owes any band a gig or a career. Though the relationship between bands and bookers may seem adversarial at times, both have a stake in raising attendance at local venues. "I don't see a whole lot of people going to see new bands," says McClellan. "If we're gonna stick our necks out and book things that aren't just pablum-fed alternative, we've got to figure out how to get bodies in. There are a million bands who can be a clone of last year's major success, but that's when it really becomes a matter of who you know."
HELLO, I MUST BE GOING: And so, having done my bit to rid local music of crime and corruption, my job is done here at City Pages--at least as far as this weekly music column is concerned. For now, I'll be logging the lion's share of my hours at Request magazine. But be warned! After I attain my imminent status as "elder statesman of Slack," I'll be back with occassional features and notes in CP faster than you can say "Paul Metsa." (Tune in to KFAI's Local Sound Department, Friday January 12 at 7:30 p.m. for my tell-all interview with host Mark Wheat.)
From now on, the guy you really need to know--if you don't already--is Simon Peter Groebner, a.k.a. Simon Peter, or simply Simon. The New Ulm native has been a weekly music contributor for two years at the Minnesota Daily, as well as host of Radio K's sensational live-in-the-studio local show, Off the Record (which, incidentally, features a live in-studio with Son Volt this Friday). Simon will be the local-scene mainstay of a revamped CP music section that will serve local music culture and the broader readership better than ever. I'm eager to read it, and to be a continuing part of it.
BACK TO BOOKING: Local musicians might want to become "friends" with Nate Dungan of Trailer Trash and Lee's Liquor Lounge, who will also be booking the 400 Bar in 1996. Good luck to outgoing 400 Barkeep Bill Sverkerson. Lynne Bengtson has returned to the Fine Line Music Cafe, replacing Craig Teiken from the band Wood. Todd Gallagher has apparently left the Blues Saloon, but Rob Curtis is back behind the board at Red Sea after a fire at the Perfume River Restaurant next door forced the club to close for a while; San Francisco transplants Puzzle Factory and locals Julius Seizure reopen the joint Thursday. Innocent performs Friday, and Saturday it's Zeleke, a hot world beat/Chicago Soul band with roots in Ziggy Marley's Melody Makers.