Music/Popular Culture

Burning down the (empty) house

– Carolina’s got no culture ’til the mushrooms kick in…

Doco burned the house down last night. Unfortunately, nobody was in it at the time.

The house, in this case, was the Little Bear in Evergreen, CO, a well-respected venue that hosts everything from local mainstays to up-and-comers to significant national acts. And Doco is a band we’ve mentioned before here: Trevor (guitar, vox) and Josh (bass) Booth are the sons of our colleague Jim Booth, and they’re one of the most talented young acts you’re likely to run across.

But any young band trying to put a dent in the market knows nights like last night. Mid-week, playing a town where nobody knows your name. Five people in the audience: four friends from back home and the bartender. Your take won’t buy the gas to get you to the next show.

But you’re a pro. You treat those five people like they were 5,000, because once word gets around you know that five can turn into 50 can turn into 500 in a hurry.

Fortunately, not every gig is this way. Josh and Trevor (and drummer Dave Burkart) say Chicago, where they played the Elbo Room with four or five other bands, was great. Whitewater was rocking. And they pull great crowds back home where they’re better known, in NC and their established mid-Atlantic stomping grounds. Still, despite the fact they know the drill, you have to feel for any talented artist facing an empty room.

This post isn’t a review of a Doco show, really. Short version: a fusion of funk, rock, rap, white-boy reggae and blues from three kids who can by god play their instruments. I once wrote, in a ten-second music review for my mobile content service, that they “burned with an intensity no single genre could contain.” That tone may lack the critical restraint for which I have become known, but it’s essentially true, even on laid-back nights where they’re basically rehearsing in front of a few friends.

No, instead this is a plea on behalf of hundreds, thousand of bands you’ve never heard of. If you’re a musician these days radio has abandoned you and you can forget all about a label system that invests in artist development. That’s where the golden age of classic rock came from, but the next golden age is going to have to come from somewhere else.

In truth, there is a kind of musical golden age happening, if only you know where to look for it. Yeah, there’s a lot of noise in the system, a lot of bands that really don’t have much going for them aside from a passionate love of music. But there are also more really worthy bands than almost anybody realizes. Hundreds more.

You have to work at it a little. You have to surf Net radio. Check out MySpace pages every time somebody mentions an act you haven’t heard of. Check eMusic’s new arrivals and charts. And whatever you do, stay the hell away from American Idol.

Also, make it a point to go see bands you haven’t heard of. You never know when one of them will turn out to be your new favorite, and I say that from experience. That’s how I found Fiction 8. That night I accidentally wandered into a favorite band, two great new friends, an eventual collaborator, and a series of events that have rippled through significant portions of my life for the past decade or more. Literally.

So heads up to Crested Butte, Winter Park, Park City, Moscow, Pullman, Seattle, Vancouver (WA), Ashland (OR), then California, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana and Alabama: Doco is coming your way. And if they aren’t playing your town, that’s okay – some other band is.

Lend them your ears, huh?

6 replies »

  1. As I mentioned in an email to you, saw them right after Thanksgiving at a show in Winston-Salem, NC where they played in front of 400 or so of their closest friends – they were all you’d want a great rock band to be – in full flight from first note to last….

    Made the old man proud….

  2. I know that scene pretty damned well. Managing a popular bar with live music 6 nights per week (in a town located exactly half way between Detroit and Chicago) booked by a talented musician signed to a smallish (Metalblade) label let me see all sorts of bands.

    Sometimes i felt bad. There’d be a great band but nobody upstairs listening…well, i’d get to listen. On the other hand, i had the power to let them drink free, waive the PA fee, give them the whole door…whatever.

    I’ve listened to Doco a little, good stuff. Had i known a little sooner, i’d have sent my brother and his buddies to check out the show.

  3. If your brother doesn’t mind driving an hour or two and likes gorgeous ski resorts I’d say send him up to Winter Park for Tuesday night’s show.

  4. I have a lot of regrets. Close to the top of that list are the shows that we played for 20 people or less. I’m fortunate (I guess) that there weren’t many of those. What’s unfortunate is that I was too immature to be able to deal with them appropriately and see them for the opportunities that they were — not to gain more fans — but to live in the moment and say “hey, you know those riffs/improvisations that you never even had the guts to do in rehearsals? Go for it.”

    Those are the shows you do, not for word of mouth or future fame, but to share something with an intimate few. All of the cliches about live shows being like making love? No. The “great” shows with 1,000-plus people and encores and autographs and big money … that’s not love, that’s cocaine. The “making love” comes from shows like these.

    When I look back on ours –one in particular in Colorado Springs — I think “you know, that was actually a wonderful show. Why didn’t we keep going?” The turnout was light but everyone in the room was totally involved. The words that spring to mind are “tribal” and “communal”. It wasn’t about ego or the band. It was about a space of 15 yards circle, loud music, and 20 people completely in tune with one another. We should have played for two hours. We stopped because I thought the bartender wanted to close up early, figuring she had better things to do on a Friday night. After the set, she asked why we didn’t keep playing.

    April 28th at the Flamingo in Austin, eh? Selfishly, I half hope it’s a light turnout. For their sakes, I hope the drunks are rich. I hope I have a nice Doco shirt to wear to work the next day.