Twenty years into a music business career, Nadine Condon still gets wide-eyed and jangled when she sees a good band play live.
"Live music to me is the ultimate art form," she says. "It's the only one that engages you and puts you on edge. "Being at a rehearsal, watching a band wrestle a tough song to the ground and get it right -- that to me is thrilling."
The tireless band promoter and industry consultant is sponsoring Nadine's Wild Weekend, a showcase for some of the Bay Area's best bands that she hopes to make an annual event. From tomorrow through Sunday at clubs including the Paradise Lounge, Transmission Theater, Hotel Utah, Club Cocodrie and Bottom of the Hill, 70 bands will perform for fans and friends as well as some visiting talent scouts. Condon is convinced that this is a particularly good time for rock 'n' roll in San Francisco.
"Everyone wants to reminisce about the good old days -- the beatniks, acid rock, the '80s," she says. "These are the good old days. We're gearing up for another good run." Among the acts scheduled to perform are Amateur Night, Action Plus, Sunfur, Liar, Blue Sky Roadster and Dart, all of which are unsigned. "I'd love to get them signed," says Condon, sitting in her office in industrial Hunters Point, "but that's not the be-all, end-all."
Having spent nearly a decade working for Jefferson Starship, much of it as the band's director of promotions and publicity -- "I started the day they released `Jane' as a single," she says -- Condon has spent the past decade running her own consulting company, which works with bands and labels on career development.
The periodic showcases she has co-produced with the songwriting publisher BMI have been instrumental in bringing early attention to some of the Bay Area's biggest recent successes, including the Counting Crows, Third Eye Blind, Train and Stroke 9. The latter band just signed a lucrative deal with Universal after a Condon-BMI gig at the Viper Room in Los Angeles.
There's always room for band showcases like the Wild Weekend, says Bonnie Simmons, an organizer of the SFO music industry conventions of recent years and manager of two of this weekend's acts, the Kinetics and Etienne DeRocher.
TALENT SCOUTS EXPECTED
"If you are an A&R (artist and repertoire) person in L.A. or New York," she says, "if a weekend presented itself in San Francisco where you could see a handful of talented bands, it would make sense to come.
"The competition is heavy -- almost every city has a showcase event now. But the Bay Area is remarkably strong and deserves to shout about itself."
Though SFO is on hiatus because it lacks a sponsor, conventions such as Portland's North by Northwest and Las Vegas' new EAT'M are multiplying. Simmons cautions that organizers need to be sure such events don't give bands false hope.
"Sometimes these conventions seem to be promoting the thought that if you just do all the steps right, (success) will come to you. I'm sure that isn't how it works."
Condon says the Wild Weekend is designed to be light on the business end -- a club crawl with no seminars or panel discussions.
"We've gotten great industry response, and the reasons are severalfold. One, they're familiar with the (BMI) showcases. Two, they know that San Francisco is always reliable (for talent). And three, it's everyone's favorite city."
If there's a knock on the Wild Weekend, it's homogeneity. Though there's an electronica bill scheduled for the Justice League and a few nods on other bills to niches such as twang and kitsch, the majority of the bands fall into the straight-ahead pop-rock category.
"I'm a rock 'n' roller," Condon says with a shrug. "Nothing too extreme -- no hard- core punk or rap. But there will be a lot of diversity -- glam, angst, hard rock.
"I always think rock is poised to make a big comeback," she says. "At least I hope so, since that's what I deal with."