Q: Ace, last week I went to Starr Hill to see this Led Zeppelin tribute band, and I was really looking forward to seeing local B-boys Frontbutt. When I got there I found out the ’Butt had been booted. I wanna know what happened, but I’m even more curious about how local bands get booked into clubs anyway?—Music Man
A: Frontbutt member Etch-a-Sketch (nee Drew Worsley) tells Ace that the whole affair was a big mistake—the Zep band, Zoso, apparently wasn’t hip to playing with a hip hop cover act—but the ’Butt is still down with Starr Hill. The club’s booker, Kim Kaechele, says the same. Not only was Frontbutt paid for the nixed gig, but she’s working on getting them back on the stage, pronto.
Such a situation is a rarity, Kaechele says. She estimates that Starr Hill—the biggest regular music venue in town—books local openers for national acts whenever possible, about once every five to seven shows. And that’s not counting the nights they devote the entire stage to homegrown tunes. In April that will be about seven or eight gigs to the 10 national acts lined up for the room.
It’s all part of a renewed push to give Charlottesville’s burgeoning music scene more play. “Everyone has a friend who’s a musician, who feels passionately about their music,” Kaechele says. She says she wants to get them out there as much as possible.
Starr Hill isn’t the only one, of course. The Outback Lodge, Tokyo Rose, The Prism, Gravity Lounge and Mountain View Grill are just a few of the local venues that offer Charlottesville’s groovers and shakers a place to shine. How does an aspiring act get its butt on stage? The main thing is to send a CD or demo in to whatever club you’d like to play. And then pray.
“It’s tough,” explains Don Semmens, who books for Gravity Lounge. First, bookers are typically crazy busy. Second, places like Gravity schedule their 20-plus shows per month way in advance. He says successful local bands will fit the venue’s listening room atmosphere and be open schedule-wise. That might mean starting out on a weeknight and then getting promoted to weekend gigs after drawing a good-sized crowd.
Starr Hill’s Kaechele says a band willing to promote the show is also a plus—be it passing out flyers or selling a block of tickets to friends. Promotion is key to local shows, she says, even more than national shows, since acts like Galactic will always sell out.
In regards to trying to open for a national act, Fred Boyce, the man behind The Prism, says that compatibility with the big name is the No. 1 consideration. That, and whether he thinks the audience will benefit from exposure to the local guy.
Hope that helps you, Music, and any aspiring musicians in town. As for your Frontbutt fix, Etch-A-Sketch recommends you head to the Outback Lodge on March 26, where they’ll be playing for sure. “If they missed us last Thursday they can come see us then,” he says.