I’m returning to my roots and have organized a show for the first time in 4 years. I used to book A LOT of concerts and my claim to fame at 18 was “bringing punk rock to the Pontiac.” Like many other kids, there wasn’t a music scene in my hometown in Western Quebec. Instead we had cowfields that teens would drink stolen liquor, do drugs and inevitably end up pregnant. I ran a straight-edge concert series called “Amplify 819″ and brought out the best bands I knew. Bands like The Fully Down, The Transit, Robot Kill City, The Love Machine, Viscera’s Recital took over the semi-circle fiddlin’ stage.
Simply getting approval from the village of 2,000 to organize a concert was like pulling teeth and after getting rejected from a bunch of venues, the town eventually embraced and even sponsored my concerts. I would even go and do semi-motivational-type speeches at the highschools to promote healthy-alternatives to drugs and alcohol by exposing them to punk rock! The thing is, back then, myspace was barely in existence for publicizing events and most of the area was stuck on dial-up internet connections, thereby limiting their access to awesome independent music.
The shows were quite successful in terms of influence on the teenage population of the municipality, however, I never made a profit on any of my concerts. I was in it for the love of the music. My step-father accused me of picking up a “very expensive hobby.” I breathed it. I was convinced people from Ottawa would drive up to see their favourite bands. They mostly didn’t.
old headshot for press - 2003?
In college I organized a few more shows in the city at art galleries and small nightclubs that have now since gone under. I booked some big touring acts from the states but couldn’t compete with the other promoters in town. I didn’t have their connections and couldn’t afford to spend my rent money on venue rentals. For a while I considered dropping out of school to go after it full-time. That had been my goal.
I was going to concerts every other night meeting people, interviewing bands for different magazines, doing a bunch of radio shows and still driving about 3 hours total every day from my parent’s place in rural Quebec. I breathed music. My family only ever heard about what rock band was in town and what guestlist I was on, etc. They didn’t appreciate hearing experimental hardcore music blasting from my bedroom or that I had commandeered the second car for my lifestyle (which was edge at the time).
The costs for organizing concerts were too much for me. Venue rental, security, PA system, plus band guarantees. When I finally moved back to the city for university I had to slow down. Even though I was still involved in the music scene, I had gotten caught up in relationships, not surprisingly, with musicians. I had decided that school would become priority over concerts and dedicated myself to my studies that often kept me from seeing bands I really wanted to.
It was about becoming an adult.
Now with social media all you need to do to make your show successful is create a facebook event. Done. I would stand outside in the freezing winter passing out handbills to people outside of venues. There is no hitting of the pavement. People don’t even put up posters for their shows. I’m not lamenting that I had to work hard to get people to my gigs. I’m glad I did. I became a stronger person and learned so much about an independent DIY ethic can make you capable of.
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