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La Scène de la Scène

Stephan and Greg's Guide to Putting on a Show

by Aine O'Hare

Promoting shows is the most thankless job you can find. It's right up there with school janitors, moms, and dishpigs. Besides the hours spent stressing out about details the day of a show, weeks of preparation are needed to book bands, get a venue, put up posters, acquire gear, and promote the event beforehand. It's not as easy as simply asking a band to play (and that only happens when you're lucky enough to avoid managers and agents) then having the show magically happen. The hassle of finding a venue for a show alone has been enough to make potential promoters bail out on shows days before they were supposed to happen. But having a show blow up in your face is avoidable. Here are some tips.

Chances are that the bands you want to organize a show for are probably not going to call you out of the blue and ask for help. Yet once word gets out that you put on shows, the bands you don't even want to hear will never leave you the heck alone. Show promotion is not always about getting only the bands you want to see. The majority of shows occur because a band happens to be touring in this region and they want to play as many shows as they can between their gigs in Edmunston and Glace Bay. Help these bands out if they call. Music scenes become stagnant when promoters only pick bands they want to see and don't take risks on touring musicians. If it wasn't for people taking chances on away bands they never heard of, the same bands would play every show and the music scene gets really dull. That doesn't mean you should agree to put on a show for any idiot who finds out your email address. But you should be open to bands that are good, even if their music is not your cup of soy chai latte.

Good luck finding a venue. Due to the unnecessary bureaucracy involved in booking the Arts Guild and unrealistic costs of halls in Downtown Charlottetown, it is next to impossible for an independent promoter to put on a show within city limits. And let's not even get started on how bar managers in Charlottetown seriously undervalue the talent that look for bar shows by not paying them enough money and not taking chances on new music.

Picking a date for the show will make or break it. First you have to CONFIRM the date with both the venue and the band. Make an agreement with the venue. Get that shit in writing. Venues are notorious for breaking promises with young promoters. On the other side, bands are also notorious for changing their confirmed dates. This can screw you up if you have already booked the venue. If a band cancels and you can't get the venue to change your booking to another date, don't pretend like the show is still going to happen until you actually have another venue. If not, cancel the show.

Find out what the band needs for sound. If they show up with three keyboards and a brass section, and you're not prepared, the show will suck. Have enough mics, mic stands, and a decent PA system. If you don't know anything about sound, get someone who does to help you. You can't assume the band will do sound themselves. And if you're doing sound don't assume the band is completely incompetent when it comes to sound either. Simply ask what the band needs and supply it.

Make sure gear is sorted out before the show. Find out if bands are sharing gear and who is bringing what. Although it doesn't directly affect you, it is your responsibility as a show promoter to make sure gear is sorted out. Get a set of drums and have every drummer bring their own snare, cymbals, and sticks. If you book a DJ make sure he brings his own turntable or at least records, if you got a turntable for him.

If a show promoter does not promote the show, it should be no surprise if nobody shows up. Posters and flyers with date, location, price and a snazzy design are great. And using email, and to spread word of mouth doesn't hurt either. Hand out flyers and tell people at other shows about your concert. It is necessary to put in a lot of foot work to promote a show.

Even though the show should be relatively easy once all of these other things have been accomplished, it is the hardest part. You need help. Get volunteers to work the door, manage the stage, take care of sound and lights, and have some friends keep an eye out for idiots that may cause damage at the show. Although most shows require ridiculously overpriced security guards to stand around by the door, in many instances security has proven useless when fights or damage occurs. After the show make sure the venue is left in the same condition as when you arrived.

When all is said and done, make sure the band has enough money make it to their next show even if that means taking a loss for the show.

If it was not for people taking the time and effort to organize all-ages concerts, many of your favourite bands would not be playing on PEI. Try organizing a show yourself and help make sure the plug doesn't get pulled on the all-ages scene.

Dreams Among Stars

Young Charlottetown band talks about their Ontario tour

by Aine O'Hare

On November 2, 2002, Prince Edward Island band Dreams Among Stars kicked off their first Canadian tour at the East Royalty Community Centre. This tightly-knit group of friends, Corey Doucette (lead vocals, guitar), Dean Richards (bass, backing vocals) and Mark Gaudet (drums, keyboard) have been playing music since junior high school, and have been playing together as Dreams Among Stars for almost two years. Citing influences such as The Gloria Record and Death Cab For Cutie, Dreams Among Stars, along with then-guitarist Mike Trainor, set out to take their "wreck rock" sound across Canada.

"The term `wreck rock' is kind of a joke we came up with," laughs Richards over the phone from his home in Charlottetown. "It's like the state that people are in when they write it, they're like a wreck. It's really just another term for rock `n' roll." None of the band members are over 20, yet their tour was an ambitious one, taking them from PEI to eastern Quebec and then to Oakville, Ontario.

"Really we were just trying to get our music out to as many people as possible," says Richards, "and I think we were pretty successful as far as that's concerned." The month-long tour exposed the band to new audiences that differed only slightly from the ones they were used to back on the Island.

"The crowds were much the same, except that at the all-ages shows both older and younger kids come out, whereas on PEI only young kids will come to the all-ages shows and the older crowd will come out to the bar scene," says Richards.

Dreams Among Stars did all the bookings themselves, involving shows with bands like The Getaway, Closet Monster and Ottawa band The Transit. They also organized a reunion with Vincent Black Shadow in Oakville, a band whose lead singer, Jared Callaghan, has been friends with the band since junior high. "It was really cool to meet up with them," says Richards.

"We played with one or two pop-punk bands, all the others were hardcore, so we didn't really hear any other styles, but it's pretty much the same (as on PEI)," comments Richards on musical trends seen on the mainland. "There will always be indie rock bands."

Dreams Among Stars are hoping to head into the studio this summer to record a full length album and head back on the road to promote it. Does the Charlottetown-based band plan on staying on Prince Edward Island? Richards alludes to Halifax's thriving music scene, but adds that "just being a small, independent band just touring as much as possible, we're able to do that here (PEI). But if we ever feel that it could benefit us to move to a bigger city, I would hope that we would be able to do that."

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