Promoting shows for independent artists makes me feel like a used car salesman. Basically, I feel like I’m trying to sell everybody something that most people already believe sucks without having seen or heard. Used car salesmen have resigned themselves to being sleazy because they know their cars suck. Unfortunately, I come off as sleazy when in fact I’m just a tad too enthusiastic about music that most people haven’t heard. As an added plus, I get the wonderful stain of unintentional elitism.
On Monday Nov. 6, I held a concert at Downtown Brewing Co. with the bands I loved. The show featured a lineup I had dreamed about since the beginning of January when I first downloaded a copy of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone’s “Etiquette.” Since then, I have listened to the album upwards of a hundred times on eight burned CDs, my laptop and a very treasured vinyl. The album was a product of a collective of musicians. The main man in charge was Owen Ashworth, the sole member of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. However, extensive additional work was done by the members of another of my favorite bands The Dead Science.
Those names might not mean much to you. Let’s face it, the independent scene gets very nerdy with hipsters building gods out of every small and distant artist that probably has just as much money in their account as you do. But honestly, when music means a lot to you it’s easy to do that. It’s easy to build your favorite independent album into something huge and mega that everybody has to have heard of. It’s not a bad thing either. It makes the album a treasured gift and almost a part of your personality. So, perhaps if you want to understand my experience a little better, reread the article by inserting your favorite bands wherever Casiotone for the Painfully Alone or The Dead Science are used.
The day started with The Dead Science arriving at my house and giving me hugs upon entering and telling me how glad they were to be back. I then DJ’d with them at the radio station before having dinner at Tio Alberto’s Restaurant. I proceeded to watch the band sound check with Casiotone for the Painfully Alone and watched one of my favorite songs played live with hardly anyone else watching. With setup finished, we waited for the show to start.
Local favorites The Louvre opened the show and unveiled a new song before joining us in the crowd. The band members were equally excited to see The Dead Science play in San Luis Obispo. The Papercuts then played and put on a pretty good show and captured a few new ears from the audience.
The Dead Science finally took the stage. Now, this is the part where you will have to frame this in a more personal view. The last time I saw them play, they shocked and surprised me with an amazing set that I was in no way expecting. Honestly, I can remember walking on stage and hugging and thanking them when the show was over. But this time, I felt like they were trying to impress us. Like the difference between playing a regular show and a show for your friends. Either that or they’ve just gotten even better. The main point being that the show was fast-paced and brilliant. I saw a lot of new people getting interested in a band that even most hipsters I know don’t even acknowledge as anything special.
But the best part is I saw them play again that same night as Casiotone for the Painfully Alone’s backup band as they brought a much better live sound behind his lo-fi work that feels more appropriate for coffe shops than bars. Casiotone’s solo set strayed from slower material and focused much more on super dancey electronic fun. Let me frame this in a completely unhipster context. It would be like seeing Maroon 5 play, and then seeing them backup Kanye West when you really loved both of them and you really loved Kanye and you really, really loved “Touch the Sky,” which they did together on an album.
I’ve seen both of those things happen actually. However, when I saw Kanye and Maroon 5 it was in a huge crowd celebrating the NFL Kickoff. When I saw Casiotone and The Dead Science, it was with around 90 people in a bar in San Luis Obispo. Even stranger, I didn’t even know most of the crowd that well as a majority of KCPR was notably absent at an event that was specifically and only targeted at DJ’s.
It was one of the most conflicting moments of my life. I had seen one of my dream concerts in my town, and on the other hand had lost big money in the process. Tons of new faces showed up, which means that there is some sort of untapped area of Cal Poly that loves independent music and possibly even listens to the college station I dedicate most of my day to. At the same time though, very few from the station I whore my time out to showed up. I still don’t really know what to think.
However, an artist whose album I listened to almost every day for 11 months gave me a huge bear hug outside. And then, another favorite band said they would drive down from Seattle off tour to play a show for me. In addition, they offered to play a house party as a Prince cover band. It’s trite to say but money really doesn’t matter in independent music and neither do other people’s opinions. At least, not in that moment when your favorite band comes to your town, plays a show, stays at your friend’s house and you walk home across town alone at 3 a.m. clutching a record they gave you.
Show tips: The theme of this week’s column is self-promotion. My business partner (a fellow KCPR DJ) and I will be putting on a concert at Downtown Brewing Co. on Friday. Vetiver will be playing along with Port O’Brien and the Blue Roots. Folk fans and hipsters take note: Vetiver frequently opens for or plays with Joanna Newsom and Devendra Banhart. The show begins at 8 p.m. and admission is $10. Sorry, but it is 21 and older.
In addition, we will be hosting a show for Pit Er Pat that will also feature the Bloody Heads and Watercolor Paintings. Their lead singer is a total hottie which should sell you on going already. The show is on Nov. 20 at the San Luis Obispo Art Center on 1010 Broad St. and begins at 8 p.m. Don’t worry, it’s for all ages.