By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
|Photo by Larry Hirshowitz|
I can’t sing. I can hardly recall the few chords on guitar an old girlfriend taught me. I’ve never written a song in my life, and currently spend the majority of my waking hours either judging or accommodating the musical output of others. Just the way it’s supposed to be in the music industry.
I am the promoter and booker of a small music club named the Fold. These days the club is held in an old saloon-cum-Mexican cantina called the Silverlake Lounge. If you’ve never had the pleasure of being inside, it’s “rustic,” not swank, virtually unlit, dark wooden walls, ceiling planks, old red-earth tile flooring. The club happens only weekdays, when I bring in, I don’t know . . . fringe music, let’s say, indie rock, acoustic, roots, experimental, avant-garde, punk, psychedelic, no-wave bands and the ilk (but I won’t do emo). The bands come from all over the world — Holland, Australia, many from Japan, Czech Republic . . . lots of American touring bands as well, usually one a night, with local bands who fit the bill. These are not “buzz bands” — rarely industry darlings here.
I’m always thankful when a band offers to play or accepts an invitation, because the Silverlake Lounge is basically a dive bar, with questionable sound, only a 1-foot-high stage, dull, flat stage lights, and as the summer months approach, the heat inside the club can become, well, incurable. For the most part the club still operates on the same humble level as when it started four years ago. Evan the sound man and I still drag in the entire PA each week, and tear it down again before the weekend when the bar hosts drag shows, not rock. With respect to the number of clubs that open and close, the fact that we’re still open after four years is its most credible claim to success. It’s no longer the hobby I thought it was going to be, but it’s not even close to a career. For some reason I just can’t muster enough common sense to quit. Every time frustration nearly gets the best of me, some band comes along and makes it all seem worth it.
Four years ago I was just a lonely guy, exhausted from all-nighters making a documentary on the history of American ceramics. It took three and half years making that damn thing. Alone, all night, me and my footage of pots. When I finally finished, I was burned out, so I started a club. Also my girlfriend had just broken up with me, and she was in a band at the time. Though I don’t think I was conscious of it then, I probably started the club to get back at her in a way — you know, get in good with her friends’ bands and not book hers. One of those strong but hidden motivators. So I guess the club actually started out of loneliness, a love of music, and just a bit of malice.
Sometimes I wake up with a more admirable sense of purpose. What I’m looking for is to present some great rock thing, like an update to CBGB in the ’70s. That’s one of my ideals, a club that’s associated with something, catering to something, a cradle bursting forth with fierce babies like Television, the Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, a crucible where only the best and most original bands dare take the stage. Yeah, right, but on the best nights it can feel like that, with local bands like Autolux, Pine Marten, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Acetone or 400 Blows completely taking control of the room. On other nights it’s not even close.
At 6:30 p.m. or so I’ll pick out the CDs I want to play that night and head to the club. Once there, I reset the stage lights, show the band where to load in, deal with paranoid band managers, supervise sound check, maybe kick a drunk out. When it’s time for the show to start, I’ll drag the first band onstage, get drink tickets to the next band, ask (tell!) the owner to turn on the air conditioning, remind the new door person to act nice yet remain territorial, tell a record exec that his business card is not a ticket stub and will not get him in the club, then turn around and cut the first band off, rinse, repeat.
Being at the shows is the best part of the job. Most of the work is during the day, when running the club usually involves just ordinary, mundane stuff, and feels an awful lot like a desk job most of the time. During the day I’m on the phone or online, usually both. When on the phone, I have to keep detailed notes of quick conversations and myriad insinuations: Band x wants to play with band y, but only if they can go on at 10 p.m.; band x broke up yesterday, drummer fought w/ singer, keyboardist on drummer’s side (when you talk to the singer don’t mention it) but do see if you can help find new drummer. This band may have left their guitar at the club three nights ago, but they are now in Las Vegas at this phone number. This band wants to play on a Thursday, not a Wednesday, because their drummer is an actor and has rehearsal, but would maybe cancel rehearsal if a really good show comes up. This band wants to play on a show with a band from the East Coast because they’re planning a tour and need some new contacts.