Category Archives: live music

Building a Community of Misfits

I sent this email to my fan list yesterday:

It was probably back in 2004 or 2005 that I started going to see the Denver band, The Railbenders.  I liked their electric guitar-based, old school style of country music, with original songs by bandleader Jim Dalton.  Soon after, Jim started a weekly series of acoustic music on Tuesday nights, which he named, oddly enough, Acoustic Tuesdays.  I began attending those on a regular basis, and got to know Jim as well as many of the hardcore Railbender fans.

By then, I was attending almost every Railbender gig not only for the music, but to hang out with the new friends I had made.  There was a sense of camaraderie among the core Railbender fans;  a sense of community.

Since then I have gone through various encarnations of my own bands.  However, I haven’t seen that same sense of community among fans developing when I play.  I want to change that.  I want to develop this community further, for both my acoustic band, Scupanon, and with Electric Poetry, my new electric band.  It struck me that I have friends from various sources who have never met.  They should.  I know they would like each other.  I would like to use my music as a way of bringing them together.

So from now on, I’m going to make a conscious effort to encourage my friends and fans to come to my shows not only for the music, but for the opportunity to hang out with friends, and make new friends.  Like I did with the Railbenders.  Ever since my friend Kurt Loken labeled me “the troubadour of the misfit” back in 2009, my mission has to create and perform music for misfits.  What better way to bring misfits together, than at my shows?

A community of misfits?  It seems like an oxymoron.  Afterall, misfits, by definition, don’t fit in.  But maybe it could be done, if the music served them.  What do you think?

The next gathering of the misfits will take place on February 8 at Herman’s Hideaway in Denver.  Electric Poetry is playing, along with 4 other bands.  Your new friends will be waiting there to meet you.

Your fellow misfit,

Rob

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A Live Music Lover’s Pet Peeves

My blogs thus far have been from the point of view of a music creator. But I’m also a music lover. I’ve been going out to hear live music, individuals and bands, for years. So I thought, blogs being a perfect forum for rants, complaints and pet peeves, I’d list my longstanding grievances about many live music venues. Don’t get me wrong–I’m grateful that they provide a venue for live, original music–but I wish they would have…

Tables and Chairs

I can understand a dance venue not having tables and chairs, or a venue that has punk or rock bands where people thrash or dance. But when the music is for listening, I like to sit on a chair, and have a table to set my drink on. I really hate to have to stand during the entire show, my back starts hurting, my feet start hurting, and then there’s the issue of what to do with my drink when each song is over and I want to applaud? Put it on the floor? In my armpit? Between my legs? Or just don’t clap and yell instead? What if I really like the song and want to yell and clap? It’s so much more enjoyable to be able to sit at a table, have a few drinks, and listen to the band. For venues that have all kinds of bands, well, take the tables and chairs out for the dance bands, and put them back for all others.

I suspect that some venues take the tables and chairs out in order to pack more people in and sell more tickets. Well, I can understand why they want to make more money, afterall, they’re a business. But frankly, I avoid going to these venues, unless it’s someone I just can’t miss, so they’re actually hurting their business by not having tables and chairs, at least for people who feel like I do.

Local Beer

I live in Denver, and there are many small breweries in Colorado that make great beer. So why do so many live music venues only have the boring corporate beers? Dude: support small business! You’re a small business, for chrissakes! Support your small business comrades. And their beer is more interesting than the big corporate beers. When I asked bartenders at these corporate beer venues in Denver (which, incidentally, are also the table-less and chair-less venues, hmmm….), I was told, “we’re a Miller bar”. Seems Miller has made some sort of exclusive agreement with them to ban local beers, and only sell Miller and it’s large European corporate partners (Guiness, Pilsner-Urqell, Newcastle). OK my anti-corporate bias is coming out here. But it’s not just that; small local breweries’ beer is better tasting than the large corporate beers.

So listen up, corporate beer, chair-less and table-less live music venues: change your ways, and you’ll get a bigger share of my entertainment dollars.

Sound

Why is that, all too frequently, despite very high quality equipment, the mixes are so bad? I was at a show recently, at a small venue, and the drums were WAY too loud, and you could barely hear the singer. You definitely couldn’t hear the lyrics. Now, as a songwriter, I know how much time, heart, pain and suffering goes into creating lyrics. What a shame that nobody can hear them. And speaking of drums, who invented the lamentable modern standard of mixing the bass drum and snare WAY louder than the drum kit as a whole? The lack of balance sounds awful. A good drummer makes use of more than just the bass and snare, and I, for one, would like to hear it all. I didn’t come to a show just to hear a bass drum and snare drum. I came to hear music; I came to hear a band–the whole band–including the lyrics. And how many times have you seen this: one band member, perhaps the lead guitar player–is playing his heart out, but you can’t hear it, because the sound guy is… I dunno, either deaf or asleep? Isn’t he paying attention?

I’ve done a little live sound, and I recorded and mixed my own cd’s, so I know it’s not as easy as it may seem. And everyone has their own tastes in terms of mixes. But when one band member can’t be heard at all, and another is WAY louder than everyone elses, I don’t understand that.

OK now that I’ve got all that off my chest, guess I should get off the computer and go practice guitar, or piano, or write a song. Or clean my bathroom.

-Rob

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