The early success of Lollapalooza inspired a bunch of knockoffs like H.O.R.D.E., the Further Fest, and Lilith Fair. Bands, the thinking went, could pool their fan bases and lure reluctant concertgoers with the promise of an event. Fans get more music for their dollar and the chance to hear music they might not normally be exposed to. Everyone wins.
The festival spirit appears to have polluted the psychology of local bands and clubs. Used to be, headliners would have one or two opening acts before playing their sets. But four-, five-, six-band local music bills have become increasingly common. However flimsy the notions for Lollapalooza and other tours may have been (unity good, mean people bad), at local megabills the only theme is often quantity. The more-is-more thinking abounds at metal and hard rock shows, especially.
"A lot of bands don't have a good enough draw by themselves," says Trip, the singer of Studbull's Disco Biscuit, which headlined a five-band night a few months ago. "But with four or five, you get a decent crowd."
Megabills proliferate, says Flying Machine owner Mitch Karczewski, because "very few of the bands can headline themselves. You can't open a venue that holds six hundred people and have eighty people there on a Friday and Saturday night." Karczewski says that megabills are a good thing for bands "because they get exposed to the fans of the other bands, they get to network with other bands. It works out great for everybody."
Does it? Bands are always looking to maximize their exposure, and clubs always want a way to inflate the gate. But exposing clubgoers to a buffet of bands can become force-feeding. To see the band of your choice often means sitting through two or three you wouldn't cross the hall to watch. When your band does play, it's often an abbreviated set to accommodate all the other acts. Venues should begin offering canteens of water and over-the-counter stimulants at marathon shows.
Club owners, like the Phantasy's Michelle DeFrasia, defend megabills as a necessary hedge against thinning live music crowds. "It doesn't seem like they're following bands as much as do the club DJs," she says. "It always seems to go in circles--this one's just lasting longer than I would like."
Karczewski says that his club and others would go out of business if they didn't stack bands like cordword: "If it was done any other way, there wouldn't be any place to watch the bands."
Brian Ulrich of Hilo and the Falling Object Is a Man is coordinating a two-night, twelve-band showcase in May. He says that megabills can work if something special is offered and the event is promoted right. If not, it defeats the purpose. "I think a good bill for a local show is three bands," he says. "After that, one band or another loses out. Either the first band, nobody sees them, or by the last band, everybody's beat."
National shows, too, are packing on more bands than necessary. When Vanilla Ice and his ever-evolving sound visited the Flying Machine in January, the show stretched into the wee hours of the morning. Though it was a Sunday night, the Ice Man didn't hit the stage until 12:30 a.m.
Ice wasn't supposed to start that late. He was in California earlier in the day for a shoot for MTV. After missing his scheduled flight to Cleveland, Robbie V.W. didn't land at Hopkins until 11:30 p.m. "It was hard on some of the people who stayed a little late," Karczewski says. "We gave a few refunds to a few of the people who couldn't stay. What would you do?"
The jaunt to L.A. was out of the club's control, but even if things had run smoothly, Ice would not have gone on until 11:15 p.m. There were four opening bands.
Looks aren't everything, but they are something. 30 Lincoln was picked up by Chicago indie Johann's Face Records, the original home of the Smoking Popes, based on one single. "They actually liked the cover of the record, and that's why they listened to it," Michael Lincoln says of the label. "I guess they throw most stuff into the garbage."
Lincoln called from New York City, where he was doing "go-sees," the modeling industry term for appointments with hairdressers and makeup artists. One photo--a Polaroid, naturally--got the twenty-year-old an agent. "It's kind of like a fairy-tale thing," he says of his whirlwind discovery.
Lincoln's ambitions are pretty simple: He wants to act, model, and play in a rock band. At this point, he doesn't worry about one gig intruding on the others. "The way my agent's talking, I'm going to make a lot of money modeling, which I can pour into the band," he says.
Avanti is the four-year-old band's first long-player. Lincoln says that the band's sound has morphed from Buzzcocks-style pop to more straight-ahead rock and roll. The CD release party is Sunday, April 4 at the Grog Shop; 30 Lincoln will open for San Francisco's Push Kings. In August, 30 Lincoln will play on a label-sponsored tour, which should be a nice change from scrambling for every last nickel and opportunity. "This is the first time me or anyone else in the band hasn't had to do everything," Lincoln says.
When asked what's surprised him about the modeling business, Lincoln--shocker of all shockers--remarks about how fickle the industry seems to be. He's watched his agent make "guys cry, telling them how they need to lose weight, when they're completely skinny, or their hair's falling out. It's really funny. I don't know what to think of it. It's a really superficial business. It's all based on looks."
The original lineup of Paranoid Lovesick has re-formed for the second time. Drummer John Potwora and bassist Kurt Maracz are back in the fold with singer Bill Stone and guitarist Rick McBrien.
Once a regular in the clubs, Paranoid Lovesick has been largely incommunicado. The band emerged to open for Sloan at Peabody's in February and played a gig in Columbus. Friday, April 2, the Paranoids headline the Euclid Tavern.
McBrien says that the band was starting to bang its head against the wall, and the exasperation frayed the relationships of the band members. Potwora left for a little over a year. "It was the sort of thing where people have an argument and won't admit that they're probably both wrong on some points," McBrien says. Now the band is trying to please itself first. "We're much happier now than when we were playing fruitless shows."
Paranoid Lovesick has an album, Suburban Pop Allegro, in the can and is "throwing offers back and forth." Most likely, it will be an indie deal. The band's major-label contact was sacked in the Polygram/Universal deal. Molly, the band's last record, was released in 1995. In the years since, Paranoid has appeared on a host of compilations and a Badfinger tribute. McBrien says that there's no hurry to rush Suburban Pop into stores: "Once it's been three years, what's another six months? It's not as if we're riding this wave of popularity."
Opening the Euclid Tavern show are L.A.'s Cockeyed Ghost and Harrisburg's Jellybricks, featuring the songwriting talents of Youngstown native Larry Kennedy.
Ben Edwards announced he was leaving Lords of the Highway during the band's set at the Euclid Tavern Saturday night. Scene stringer Steve Byrne reports that he went out in a blaze of glory. First Edwards removed his shirt. Then he loosened his trousers and let his pants fall to his ankles. The only thing shielding his nakedness was his bass guitar--no boxers, no briefs, no thong. And, yes, he did turn his back to the audience a few times.
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