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Nadine Sez
Sunday October 1, 2000  -  Why Bands Need to Play Live

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 success.

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 live.

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.

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