What's Up, Chuck?
Sing and Rant--Slim pickings on the roots scene are becoming too predictable.
Thursday, August 27, 1998
The pickings are slim on the blues, singer/songwriter scene this week (as they have been since live music was dumped from the Morgan''s menu and Doc''s Nightclub went up for sale). But before I get off on a rant, you should know about singer/songwriter Dave Carter who''s appearing with Tracy Grammer on Friday.
On the singer/songwriter circuit, Carter is a big deal, sometimes compared with the late, legendary Texas songwriter Townes Van Zandt. The Portland, Ore. native was dubbed Entertainer of the Year by the Portland Songwriter''s Association, took a first place at the respected Sisters Folk Festival, and landed a first place in the American Songwriter Magazine''s lyric contest for the song "The Hard Edge of Living."
According to the Eugene Weekly, "This duo appeals to cowboys, CEOs, and every misfit and magician in between."
Should be a good show.
Dave Carter with Tracy Grammer, Friday, 8pm. The Media Room, 472 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove. $10. 373-7379.
Ifyou''re of a more spiritual bent, you might want to check in on "An Evening of Sufi Music" with Turkish musicians Necati Celik and Omar Faruk Tekbilek. Described as "two of the foremost Turkish musicians in the world," you ought to find a world of emotions described in their music.
Evening of Sufi Music, Friday, 8pm. Carleton Hall, Monterey Religious Science Church, 400 W. Franklin, Monterey. $13. 373-7379.
And this is where the rant begins. I''m telling you, it''s getting tough to find anything new and noteworthy to write about.
Of course, my problem as a writer is nothing compared to the plight of the club owners themselves who say business is down, down, down this year. One owner, who did not want to be identified, said business in his club was down 40 percent from last year. Although that figure might be high for most clubs, it''s worth noting that two other clubs--Monterey Billiards and Bow Tie Billiards--closed their doors this year. In such troubled fiscal waters, it''s not surprising that club owners are unwilling to dive in and take chances on booking new or unknown groups.
Reasons cited by the club owners for the downturn in business include El Ni¤o and the anti-smoking ordinance that went into effect at the first of this year. The one club''s representative said he was nearly knocked out of business during El Ni¤o''s rampage--even when it wasn''t raining, people were staying home for fear that it might rain. Another cited the discommoding effects of the smoking ordinance. "I had people who didn''t care about the music who would come down here just to hang out and have a few drinks. Now, they go some place where they can smoke"--a pointed reference to Bosso''s, which has circumvented, at least temporarily, the no-smoking ordinance.
Still, it seems to me, the problem is bigger than rain and smoke. If club owners and promoters don''t give audiences something to get excited about, people can hardly be blamed for staying home and doing whatever they do there. And exciting audiences is going to take some work. It''s going to involve booking bands that have some stature, and it''s going to require active promotion: making sure that the press and other media know who''s coming to town. In that, promoters could take a page from Sandy Shore''s (Sandy Shore Productions) book.
Shore consistently attracts large crowds to her Summer Concerts by the Bay (last weekend''s audience for the Jonathan Butler concert, for example, drew an audience estimated to be around 600). Shore not only books talent that has a name in the light jazz genre, she follows it up with promotional and marketing efforts (and manages to sell tickets in the $30-40 range). And Seaside''s Sunday Blues in the Park series almost always manages to fill the lawn at Laguna Grande Park with mid-range-name blues and R&B artists. Why? Partly because the concerts are free, but also because the city puts some effort into promoting and marketing the series.
But it''s a chicken-and-egg scenario. Most promoters say that until audiences show up, they don''t want to risk investing the time or money in booking big-name bands.
Still, there is hope. At McGarrett''s, promoter Dan Miller and owner Brooke Lewis promise to start bringing live, regional and national acts to McGarrett''s on Thursdays. Confirmed for Sept. 10 is reggae star Pato Banton, and on Sept. 17, the blues rockers The Fabulous Thunderbirds are scheduled. Perhaps the efforts of promoter Dan Miller and club owner Brooke Lewis will put some life into what''s been a fading scene in ''98. cw