Ięd have to respectfully disagree with a recent newspaper assessment of
whether itęs necessary to play live in the clubs to succeed. I had the good
fortune to produce industry showcases for many of the bands mentioned:
Counting Crows, 3EB, Train and Stroke 9. Having supported and worked with
all of them in their early days, Ięd like to clear up some misconceptions.
Counting Crowsę initial demos were all completely different (they just kept
churning them out with new songs each time) and jarringly unique. This unique
sound was to lay the groundwork for a new format for radio, called Triple A
(KFOG), which was then just in itęs infancy. It was their different sound and
Adam Durwitzęs confident originality backed by Dave Brysonęs strong vision
that got them signed. But they had been playing the club scene for years in
various combinations of bands. It was not until AFTER the industry saw them
PLAY the I-Beam that they received those 12 + offers!
In the case of Third Eye Blind, I saw them play to a packed houses at the
Paradise and also play to 50 people. They were most successful when they
played their warehouse parties. But you better believe Stephan Jenkins paid
his dues as a card carrying, club playing local musician in San Francisco
(much to his frustration sometimes) until he found a different route to
The musicians in Train had been playing in bands since the late 80ęs. Once
they signed with Bill Graham Management, they played the BGP house club, the
Fillmore, every month, besides other regular venues in and out of the area,
refining their sound and show. Those guys worked hard for their success and
deserve credit for such.
And finally, the newspaper was completely off the mark with the hardest
working band around, Stoke 9. They played up and down the coast at clubs,
colleges and frat parties for eight years before getting signed. They were
mainstays at Mickęs Lounge and the Sweetwater in Mill Valley.
Their Viper Room show in LA started to turn enough industry heads to begin
the process of going to the majors. The reason: people reacted to them live.
They've earned every bit of their gold and almost platinum success by playing
The reason that itęs important to clear up this irresponsible assessment of
the value of playing local clubs in relation to industry success is twofold.
First, clubs are the beckoning canvas in which bands test out new material,
garner new fans and find their true voices of expression. Second, no matter
how good those demo tapes, labels still want to see bands live and in person,
so you better be able to play and get an enthusiastic response.
On a final note, the club scene is not dead, just in transition...for every
Cocodrie that closes a Johnny Foleyęs opens. There are plenty of happening
scenes out there including: the Monday Night Hoots at Cafe du Nord,
Rocktronicas, the Diva shows, Ubiquity Records shows, Om Records shows, Song
Cycles, Devil in the Woods shows, Stray and Dogday Records showcases, the
Fillmore Sessions, APG Records shows, Future Farmer Records showcases,
Amazing Grease shows, the Wammies, Lookout Records, and so many more.
So yes, a clever demo tape may get their attention, but you better have the
substance, drive and direction, generally only discerned though playing live,
to go the distance.