[Dixielandjazz] Showcase Gigs - Was Red Gorilla/Austin

Steve Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Jan 18 18:12:08 PST 2007

Dan in Austin posted a couple of negative opinions about the  upcoming
Gorilla Showcase in Austin.

Hi Dan & Listmates:

Man. I just love the naysayers. Especially when they don't or won't attend a
showcase under any circumstances. And/or have never ever been to one, or
spoken to any bands that have. Nothing succeeds like ignorance.

Should your band go? Of course. Unless you have a working band and don't
need gigs. Or unless your band doesn't know how to connect with the young
club goers who will be there. Why do I say that? Why does Wiggins say that?

He presented his own case and now here's mine.

About 12 years ago I was having a hard time getting more than 20 gigs a
year. Generally ignoring the young audience because all my peer band
leaders, in my age group, said it couldn't be done. I thought, man will I
ever get this band off the ground?

Then a "promoter" called me. He was the son of a well connected promoter of
musical acts in Atlantic City. Hey, I thought he's well connected. (though
that wasn't true as his dad had just been fired and the son was a flake)

Steve, he said, I'm arranging a showcase in Rehoboth Delaware. All the club,
bar, restaurant, music pier owners/bookers will be there. They'll serve
dinner, drinks and everything. I'd like to have your band come as the jazz
band. Why not? Say's I. Sydney's Jazz Club is there, one of the top 100 in
the USA, she'll love us. So I agreed and talked a blue streak convincing my
naysayer sidemen to go. One refused and so I brought our current guitarist
as a sub for him. 

We get there, and there is nobody in the concert area of the Ruddertown
where the showcase is. Just a couple of people, a couple of bands, some
ratty sandwiches and a cash bar. The promoter was there and abjectly
apologized for the poor showing but said Ms. Sydney had promised to be there
to hear us, but had not arrived yet.

The band showcasing when we arrived was a girl sax player with a boom box
who had a little act of standard tunes. Pretty sad.

Then came Sha Na Na, a doo wop band who had come down from Reading in their
Greyhound Band Bus. We talked before they went on and they were bumnmed out
like me, but resolved to put on a good show for the 10 or so people in the
audience. And they did. It was superb, as if they were performing at a
packed house in a major venue. Then they packed up and left.

Then we went on. We resolved to be professionals like them, and played our
hearts out. Band was really smoking. Got some applause and started packing.
Lo and behold, a lady comes up and introduces herself as Sydney Arzt, owner
of Sydney's Jazz Club in Rehoboth. She said, you guys are awesome, handed me
her card and left saying she had to get to her club, adding "call me
tomorrow" over her shoulder.

You can imagine the 120 mile ride home. I had 4 guys in my car and they were
pissed. What are you crazy? they opined. I apologized and tried my best to
be positive. I was mortified, thinking how will these guys respect my
judgement ever again.

Next day I call Sydney. She books us for Louis Armstrong Birthday Bash on
weekend closest to his Birthday. (First of 9 years in a row). She also gets
us a booking at The Rehoboth Jazz Festival. (first of 4 so far). She also
books us for Saturday night before Mardi Gras for several years. She also
gets us 3 bookings at the Music Pier. She also gets us 2 gigs at very posh
private parties. Some big dollars there, not the usual chump change most
OKOM bands get at OKOM festivals. And she gets us more bookings.

Then from playing at her club and the jazz Festival, that leads to a myriad
of other gigs. Numerous private beach parties, numerous weddings from as far
away as Washington DC, numerous New Orleans funerals, 5 gigs at the Dover
Downs Casino, 2 gigs 4 years apart at the Delaware State Republican
Convention etc., etc., etc.

I figure we got at least $100,000 worth of gigs directly from that stupid
showcase, plus the sale of about 800 CD's. Plus an enormous amount of fun
and satisfaction playing for beautiful YOUNG people who don't have
preconceived notions about jazz, or showcases. In addition they are
generally upbeat and positive about their lives and their surroundings. Very
different from hanging out with old folks and their defeatist attitudes.

Yes, I agree, don't play free as a general rule, and don't play cheap as a
general rule, but gee whiz, when opportunity knocks, answer the effing door.

Like Woody Allen said, 80% of life is just showing up.

Steve Barbone

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