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Notes From the Underground

Back Talk:
More on the promotion commotion

My last column upset someone, judging from the message waiting on my machine Thursday morning: "Hey, Mike Mechanic ... fuck you, you piece of shit!" Click. I'm not paid to kiss anybody's ass. All jokes aside, my job is to tell the truth as I understand it, and I pity the ignorant sap that would attack me for that. If you think last week's column about local promoters was unfair or inaccurate, write to the editor and he'll run the letter.

Last week's column was not about one promoter, but many. Nor does the story end there. I could write a book on all the bullshit local bookers and promoters have pulled over the past couple of years. When people put on shows, they need to be responsible to the bands, the venue and the audience. There's nothing wrong with making some money, but if you exploit people or you don't shoot straight, people won't want to deal with you, and out-of-town bands that get screwed over will think twice about returning. People can get mad at me for writing about this, or they can stop and think about it and hopefully make some changes for the better.

A few booking role models: Paul Netto from Riff Raff is an honest, fair, no-bullshit promoter of underground shows. Chuck Platt from Good Riddance, when he's in town, is another. Raji Rai, who books shows at Los Gatos Teen Center, confirms bands more than once and makes sure they have all the needed information. At the end of the night, she shows each band, on paper, what the costs were, how much money came in, what the center took and what each band is getting paid.

Bands deserve that much respect. Playing music is a big investment in time, equipment, rehearsal space, recording costs, gas--the whole bit. And yet, at many clubs, you get nothing but attitude from burnout sound guys and club managers who expect you to kneel before them. You play with all your energy, and later some hack hands you an envelope containing $22 without explaining the finances.

When lesser-known bands play out of town, they often get stuck with weeknight gigs at clubs where if 30 people don't mention the band's name at the door, they don't get paid (at Berkeley Square, they won't even give you a free cup of coffee--jerks!).

Indie bookers should be an integral part of the scene and an alternative to all this club garbage. But once promoters start playing games with the bands, they might as well join the sleazy nightclub circuit. When people act responsibly and business is conducted openly, things stay honest. That's the way it should be. And if you don't like it, get the hell out.


Ill Repute plays at the Vet's Hall basement on Friday with Riff Raff, Reliance, Goodfellas and Cup Check (all ages, 8pm, $6 at door). There's a Labor Day barbecue at the Vet's Hall from with Diversion, Stub, Hangover, No Motive, Static Unsafe, and many others (all ages, 5pm­midnight, $5).
Michael Mechanic

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From the August 29-September 4 , 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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