To begin, I feel I should first use this small plot of digital space to make some acknowledgements.
This show could not have happened without the Corpse Fortress and the consent of its tenants. Lately people have been ragging on the venue for being a stale, overused spot. As a promoter, access to a venue with no rules and no set fee is enormous. This allows promoters of shows with mediocre turnouts (which there is no shortage of) to still pay bands somewhat-respectable amounts at the end of the night.
I would like to sincerely thank all current and former residents of the Corpse Fortress who have allowed me to book shows at the house for the past four years.
Next, I would like to thank Pat Vogel for consistently supplying local and touring bands with a backline of quality amps, cabs, and sound. A few hours prior to the show, I learned that the PA in the CF basement was missing microphones and cables. A few text messages later, Vogel had me covered.
I would also like to thank Ambrose for designing the flier, Parsons for busting heads and delivering a hate-speech after Wasted Time’s set and saying exactly what I was thinking, but was too polite and civilized to say, and everyone who came out to the show and contributed to the overall good time.
I enjoy the challenge of setting up shows, and I appreciate all who support me and my endeavors.
I read on a messageboard a few months prior to this show that Denmark’s prime punk export, Night Fever, was planning on doing an East Coast tour. I immediately emailed the band and tried to secure a DC show. I was given the tour booker’s contact, got the go-ahead, and was given a Saturday date for the show. I really couldn’t have asked for much more than that!
I struggled for a long time to find a viable “headliner” for the show.
While I think that Night Fever is great, I also think that there are only a handful of diehard local hardcore punk freaks who would have gone to a show with them as the main attraction.
I reverted to the easiest, least modest practice of trying to put my band, Coke Bust, on the show. However, this would not work as our drummer, fellow promoting tycoon Chris Moore, would be playing in Scandinavia with his other band: Magrudergrind.
I had to think outside the box for a band that would bring out the masses. DC has plenty of hardcore punk bands, but not many who can pack the house.
I knew that the crew of Richmond’s Government Warning and Wasted Time personnel were big Night Fever fans after playing with them on their last European tour, so I went out on a limb and asked Wasted Time if they would consider playing. I really pumped the show up to them and promised a wild night. They agreed on the condition that they didn’t have to bring any equipment. That wouldn’t be a problem, though, thanks to the aforementioned Pat Vogel and my existing awareness of their disinclination to bring their own gear to shows (not hating, just stating. One love: hardcore).
Hounds of Hate, a new band of DC-area transplants now living in a primal commune somewhere in Braddock, PA also asked to be added to the show. I knew they would be a good addition to the show as they played hardcore music (adhering to the mission statement of the night) and would attract a different demographic of show-goers who wouldn’t normally come to a hardcore show in the DC area. This proved to be the case, and I was glad I added them.
This was also the first show of my new band, Black Rations.
With the lineup solidified, it was time to promote the show and really sell the city on the night. Despite having what I considered to be an awesome cast of bands, I still needed to sway the nonbelievers, the jaded, the ambivalent, and the unaware. There was also a large competing show the same night at St. Stephens Church. While, yes, this show appealed more towards the DC hippy-punk crowd (not hating, just stating) I believe that both shows hurt each other. At the same time, I don’t think many people would be pleased with an eight-band mini-fest of primal, aggressive hardcore warriors and sophisticated, zine-oriented peace punks (hopes and dreams of this blog’s editor notwithstanding, ed.).
Ambrose really kicked my ass and gave me a heads-up of sorts. I truly appreciate brutally honest friends like him, who tell me when I slack on promoting shows and rely too heavily on the internet.
Ambrose took the initiative of creating a badass flyer and accompanying me to make copies and tape/wheat paste them all around the city in high pedestrian-traffic areas.
I did my absolute best to establish a dominant presence through the use of Facebook, Twitter, text messages, personal phone calls, and various message-boards, but as the date approached I began to panic and felt as though I needed to go the extra mile for this show.
I made a variety of promises on the internet about what the show would include, mentioning the following: a great vibe, a grill, a watermelon, a burrito bar, and wild hormones.
I give myself a C+/B- on following through with my promises. The vibe was better than average, the grill was nowhere to be found, free food was available only to those who looked, the DC hardcore cake lacked any icing or decor, but there were 144 free cans of various Coca-Cola products, the burrito bar was respectable, and the watermelon was available to those who found it a few hours after the show. I am unavailable for comment on the hormones (A-, ed.).
I figured that these promises would contribute to the overall hype and hysteria that I attempted to create for the show. If people weren’t pumped for the bands, I wanted to make them pumped to meet prospective partners and eat free food. Don’t judge me: I did it for hardcore.
Pat Vogel asked me why I felt like I had to offer so many additional selling points.
He asked, “Don’t you think Wasted Time is enough to bring people out and pack the house?”
“No,” I replied.
Showtime is stressful for any promoter. You’re always trying to hunt some key individual and figure out where they are. Bands are always getting lost and calling you for directions. There’s always someone acting like a moron.
There were a respectable amount of folks who were there as the show started and Black Rations played our first set.
The aforementioned set began with some fireworks thrown at us, which I strongly supported. This fell perfectly in line with the second mission statement of the night: vibe.
Our set went well and we didn’t really mess up. You can’t ask for too much more from a first show. After our set I quickly packed up my gear and collected money from the stragglers.
Hounds of Hate were up next and unfortunately I did not get to watch them. I was too busy arguing with a traveling crusty, making change, facilitating the burrito bar, and unlocking the mythical hidden punks in the secret level of the game (the teenage scum punks hiding out by the garage: $7, please!).
Night Fever was up next, and I was very excited. I thought their set was excellent. European bands have a tendency to play for too long, as that is just kind of…what they do, but Night Fever left us all wanting more.
Wasted Time would take the floor next, and I told them to take their time setting up. I didn’t want the show to be over by 10 pm. Wasted Time played and tore the house down.
To quote Justin Malone, one of my kind: “When the Corpse Fortress is on, it’s on.”
The Corpse Fortress was on.
This was not one of those sets where people awkwardly hide the fact that they are texting while watching a band, because they don’t want to hurt the feelings of the performers.
If you were texting during Wasted Time you probably got smacked by some subpar Corpse Fortress moshing.
10 years of sobriety with essentially no “priors” has given me somewhat of a photographic memory. This tool is invaluable when it comes to collecting money from show-goers. I, like fellow-promoters Parsons and Zack, have developed a reputation for being a hard-ass about collecting money from attendees. While I understand the discomfort with the issue, as money in punk has always been taboo, I view it as the responsibility of the promoter to pay the touring bands as reasonably as humanly possible given the attendance. This show was no exception. Virtually everyone who came to the show was approached for a $7 contribution to the pot.
In the end, there were only a few who refused to pay. It always (I hate to admit this; talking about feelings on the Internet is so 2002) bums me out when I have to convince people to pay for a show. If someone can’t afford a show, that’s cool. I’d never turn someone away for that.
Culprits at this included the traveling crusty with (literally) a wallet full of 20s who I eventually convinced to give me $3, and a host of punks who informed me that they were only at the show to hang out, and not to watch the bands.
There was a time in my life when I would refer to such individuals as legitimate “posers” for dressing up like a punk, going to a punk show, and not listening to the punk music, but in a few months I will be 25, and with my gains in age I am attempting to lose the negative judgments and name-calling.
To hate is to embrace negative energy, which has no place in my mission statement (Beta Tape, FTW).
Perhaps these punks are just not Wasted Time or Night Fever fans. Everyone has different preferences about what a good time is.
To some, a good time is raging in a dirty basement like a wild Indian from outer-space, drunk and high on weed.
To others it is standing in a driveway and drinking a beer and trying to look cool in front of some chicks.
I would be willing to bet that >99% of the American population would side with the second option, even the heterosexual women, homosexual men, and androgynous remainder. So for me to pass judgment is asinine.
Tim asked me to write about the number of people who paid and how the money was split up: In the end, the show brought in about $510, if my excellent memory is correct. This equates to 72.8571 paying attendees. I would like to think of the 0.8571 of a person as the crusty who I argued with outside. Doh’… there I go with the negative energy and judgment!
Here was the payout and the logic behind it:
Night Fever: $220…. Despite not being the main draw of the night, they came from another continent and had high costs to pay back.
Wasted Time: $150….I thought this was appropriate given their draw and the fact that a few of the members had to drive from North Carolina and Virginia Beach.
Hounds of Hate: $65…I really would have liked to give them more, but priority lied with Night Fever (as the international band) and Wasted Time (as the band that drew the most people). Hounds of Hate asked to play this show, and I did what I could to make it worth their trip. Hopefully it was for them.
Black Rations: $0…. This requires no explanation
Corpse Fortress: $40… I feel this is the minimum amount acceptable to pay the house for a night of its usage. I honestly wish I could have paid the house more, but it would have come at the expense of either the touring bands or made me personally lose more money on the show.
Me: $35… I spent quite a bit of money on the food for the bands/attendees. The $35 didn’t really cover it, but it offset some of it. I’m OK with that. I had a fun night and I can justify the small loss I incurred. If there were fewer paying people at the show, this would have been the first area that I would deduct money from.
I figured that some of my expenses on food would pay for themselves. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. I was going to need to spend at least $20 on feeding the bands. The extra $15 that I kept for myself I justified by thinking that if more than two extra people came to the show because of my promises of free food, it was a worthwhile investment from the show’s perspective.
I would like to think that the food hype did bring out those marginal two.
One could also argue that the free food made the overall show experience more enjoyable, which could have a long-lasting multiplier effect of sorts (Economics, FTW, ed.).
Tim asked me to write about my “profit margin,” so I will talk about that for a little bit.
If I do a show and it does exceptionally well, I will pay the bands exceptionally well and leave a small amount (usually around 10% of net-revenue) in a “fund” of sorts. This metal box with a small amount of cash, or “the Grey World Fund,” acts as a bail-out mechanism for unforeseen events and circumstances.
For example, we did a show for Ecoli and Migraine at The Corpse Fortress in 2009 where the attendance just wasn’t what we thought it was going to be. The door did not raise the minimum amount of money we felt comfortable paying the touring bands, so we pulled from that source. So basically, we skim from the awesome shows with great turnouts, and we supplement the ones that don’t do as hot.
Some promoters just straight-up keep some money from the shows that they do, but that’s not our style.
Once you start looking at it from that sort of a money-making, business perspective I wouldn’t even see it as being worth it. The amount of hours we spent walking around putting up flyers, the time I spent trying to figure out how to make the best wheat-paste, the amount of time I spent bumping threads on message-boards wouldn’t be worth the $70 a show that I could likely skim without anyone noticing. If it’s a labor of love (which is how I see it), you should treat it as such and receive any form of compensation in the form of gratification, a solid network to book your bands’ tours with, and a cool show that you would have liked to go to yourself if someone else set it up.
In Conclusion: Hardcore rules!
(This article: A+, ed.)