Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rock Candy Mailbag: Answering your questions once again

Every day, I get asked questions about everything from where to find tickets to my opinion on Nickelback to what I want for lunch. You probably don't care to know the answer to that last one (today was a salad, in case you do), but I'm happy to share answers to your queries.

Got a question of your own? Send it to

What are your top 5 albums of all time? (From CapslockBenny)
I'm going to rank this as my top five favorite albums of all time, not which ones I think are necessarily the best ever. These ones are my favorite records (as of this moment... tomorrow, they'll probably be different) in no particular order:

• Bright Eyes, "I'm Wide Awake It's Morning" - The songwriting and music on this record is incredible. It's one of the few that I listen to all the way through on a consistent basis.
• MxPx, "At The Show" - I'm a sucker for punk and pop-punk and I've always liked MxPx.This CD has MxPx's best songs on it including everything from the super-poppy to the super-fast, nearly hardcore stuff is present. Sadly, I've only actually seen them live once.
• 311, "Music" - The first record that I ever listened to and fell in love with start to finish. It's still 311's best, in my opinion, containing their most honest work and most rocking songs they've ever done. Everything since pales in comparison. My CD copy is practically unlistenable with all of the scratches on it.
• Beta Band, "The 3 EP's" - Technically it's a collection of three separate EPs, but this record can make anyone groove. And "Dry The Rain" always reminds me of that scene in High Fidelity. Similar to the movie scene, I've never put on that record and not had someone ask, "Who is that?"
• Led Zeppelin, "Physical Graffiti" - Every song on this album isn't fantastic, but the ones that are great are out of this world. I can't get enough of "Houses of the Holy," "Boogie With Stu" (a cool rip of a Richie Valens song) and the epic "Kashmir." I never really go the "vinyl sounds better" argument until I listened to the double-LP version I got from Homer's. Now I get it. Also one of the coolest album cover designs ever.

You said in your blog to join a band, you ever been in one? (From CapslockBenny)
Nope. Never have. So yes, I'm that guy who's never been in a band that judges you and your music and distributes my thoughts to a wide audience. To paraphrase a certain quote about teaching, "Those who can't do, get journalism degrees and become critics," right?

But even though I've never been in a band, I have played guitar for more than 10 years. I'm not a great guitar player, but I do have a good understanding of how to play. I have also played with other people ("jammed," if you will), but that's never evolved into a band. I also occasionally play drums (I have a decent kit at my house), but I'm hilariously bad at it.

What's your favorite venue around town and why? (From SarpyCounty)
Let's see who gets angry at this one... I love Slowdown because it sounds fantastic. It's a great venue and we're lucky to have it. It also helps that there's not really a bad seat in the house. The re-designed Waiting Room also sounds better than average and it's just a nice place. In terms of character, though, O'Leaver's wins over any venue in town. I love the album covers stapled to the wall (even the crappy ones) and the lyrics to the "Happy Days" theme song written on the men's bathroom's ceiling. At a show, you're right on top of a band and, even though it's cramped, you get a helluva view. Love the place.

There's one thing people need to realize though: you can have a shitty show in a great venue and a fantastic show in a crap venue. It all depends on how many people are up, if they're there to have a good time and if the band hits its marks. Matt Whipkey told me the other day that you can play on a great stage, but if no one shows up, it can be a terrible show. Well put.

Who is the best unsigned Omaha band? (From NEMusicReview)
There are lots of unsigned bands in town, but the one that is without label and should be (in my opinion) is It's True. They don't have a label of any sort (as far as I know) and I'm not really sure why. Sure, the band has taken a different direction since its debut record (moving from a solo effort to a real band), but they're nothing short of fantastic. And their new record, which I know they've tried shopping around, is a great listen. I don't know what the deal is, but I'm interviewing Adam Hawkins and the guys this week and I'll find out. You'll know when I do.

If you had unlimited money and could pick one band to headline the Maha Music Festival who would it be? If you were like a wizard or some shit, and could bring back one broken up band (even if they're dead) to play Maha, who would it be? (From CapslockBenny)
Benny, I'm not going to answer these questions. Well, not exactly. I will answer a re-phrased version of them. The reason behind this is that if I had an unlimited budget, I could book any band in the world. When you start debating between U2 and the Rolling Stones as a headliner, it becomes a pretty silly question.

Here's what I will do: Similar to how one person or band picks the bands for All Tomorrow's Parties, I'll pick a two-day lineup consisting of two headliners and fifteen other bands to fill out the schedule. Basically, it would be a two-day fest of some of my favorite stuff. I tried to layer it (like real festivals do) with everything from bigger-name indies to small, lesser-known acts.

• Headliners: Wilco and Weezer
• Big-name indies: The Hold Steady, Bright Eyes, Silversun Pickups, Gaslight Anthem
• Buzz bands: Japandroids, Frightened Rabbit, Free Energy, Blitzen Trapper, The Avett Brothers, Miike Snow
• Lesser-known groups: One For The Team, Manchester Orchestra, Rural Alberta Advantage, Everybody Was In The French Resistance Now!, fun.

Wouldn't that be a fun couple days of music? Hells yes. But unfortunately in the real world, budgets and scheduling conflicts intervene and would make this specific lineup nearly impossible. But it would be fun, right?

As for the second part of your question, I'm again not going to address it specifically to Maha because it becomes a silly question when you're trying to decide between Nirvana and The Doors to headline Maha. But if I could reunite any band alive or dead and watch them live sometime, I would reunite Led Zeppelin. Maybe someday they'll pull their heads out of their butts and go on tour again with John Bonham's son behind the kit. I'd pay big money to see that.

I am part of a local band that is trying to get going. Do you have any advice for how to go about booking local shows and getting our name out there? (from Rob Kinney-Walker)

I'm going to assume that you already to go local shows. But if you're not, start doing it. Now. You'll meet people in the local scene and you'll educate yourself by hearing some new music. Also, you'll start to figure out which venues host bands that play a similar style of music to your own group. That's probably the place you want to start trying to get your band to play (i.e. you don't want to try to book your hardcore band at a place that does acoustic singer-songwriter stuff). Another good bet is to find venue websites and look at their schedules to see who's playing.

Next, contact those venues directly (via e-mail or phone) with a simple message asking what their policy is with booking local bands and what information they might need about your band. Also contact local booking companies (One Percent Productions, Black Heart Booking, Rad Kadillac, etc.) and ask the same question. Once again, I said "simple." Be simple, direct and, at first, just ask what information they need from you. Don't send a full biography, photos, music, etc. just yet. Let them tell you what they need.

At the same time, you should record at least one or two demos. Someone you know has Garage Band or a similar sound recording/editing software, so it's not like you need to hire out a recording studio and a sound engineer or something. Create a MySpace page with a picture of your band (if you don't know what to do, look at band photos you like and have a friend take one like it) and your demo tracks.

Be sure to tell your family and friends about your project. Yes, even your mom and that weird uncle. They might like your music or know someone who does.

Last, tell the local media. Here in Omaha, folks like me, Tim McMahan, Marq Manner and other music writers are pretty accessible. It's not hard to find our contact info. Even if we don't write something on your band just yet, we can at least get you listed in our live music calendars, which helps our audiences know you have a show.

Of course, during all of this, you should be pouring your heart and soul into your music. Write good material. Perfect those songs. Scrap the ones that suck. And practice, practice, practice. All of the promotion in the world won't make your band go anywhere if you suck.

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