I’ve been looking forward to Noise and Smoke for quite some time now. Joey and Liz have been busting their balls/ovaries to put together one of the strongest festivals ever in the Houston Indie scene. When someone said “Deerhoof is playing that same night; you can’t put on a show that night.” Joey responded “Fuck Deerhoof.” Now that wasn’t a dis to Deerhoof but a dis against suggesting that local bands couldn’t compete. That, my friends, is class. I mean look at the line-up?
This is a celebration of the local music scene and any band asked to play it should be glad to participate and be so honoured. Sure, things will happen when doing any festival (I know from first hand experience) and sure enough there have been some hiccups along the way. First, God’s Temple of Family Deliverance had to cancel due to a physical injury to drummer Chris Ryan’s foot. Then, Walter’s (one of the two original venues) was forced to cancel various shows before they got completely run out of business by yuppie neighbors with noise complaints. This forced a last minute change to the historic Axiom which couldn’t be more perfect. This kind of stuff, by my book, is pretty par for the course for any festival.
A LAWYER ONCE SAID
NEVER PUT IT IN WRITING
Clearly the effort involved in this festival was not on the mind of the person who authored an e-mail from the HQ of the Dimes [You can read the full e-mail at ADR’s excellent Skyline Network]:
We wanted to let you know, personally, that we have decided to drop from the Noise and Smoke show.
It is important to us that you know that this is in no way meant to be a sign of disrespect to you or any of the other bands on the bill. …we have based our decision on the general mishandling, lack of communication and professionalism surrounding the show. Since the show’s inception we have attempted to remain professional … And despite several offers to play other shows, we felt it was important to remain professional.
However, with the recent developments, there is a strong indication that there has been inadequate preparation and therefore, we no longer feel this show is in our best interest.Again, we want to make clear that this has nothing to do with personal profiteering and is not meant to be a sign of disrespect.
Nigh a week before the show and they drop out! And they have the nerve to complain about being unprofessional? What, so Walter’s cancels shows including this one and the organizers move the show? To me that shows that the organizers weren’t sitting on their ass, they were hustling to move the show and pulled it off! Kudos to them. We had the same issue in Austin during the Texas Psych Fest. It was a hassle but Scott Telles earned praise for moving (and saving) the show, not ridicule. So let’s face it, this is simply an excuse and nothing more to get the band off of a festival that wasn’t perceived as benefiting their career.
What we have here is a good reason for any local band NOT to have a manager. It’s no news that The Dimes have been under management as of late by some would-be mogul named Matt Wettergreen for some time now and this just shows what an utter asshole that guy is. Wettergreen, who is clearly the author of this second rate “business memo”, is just another person who sees his fortune riding on the talent of others and the Dimes are just naive enough and unsure enough in their talents to be ripe for the picking. Can the Dimes book their own shows? Yes. Can they release their own acclaimed EP? Yes. Can they earn the respect and support of their peers? Yes. So why hand over their band to some snake oil salesman? Simple, the lessons of DIY and punk are lost on the band.
I hate to harp on the whole punk rock ethos as I see it but it all comes down to Do It Yourself and Community. I don’t mean to sound all preachy but the second you give the reigns to some outsider, it’s not your band anymore – it’s his. Go and read This Band Could be Your Life. That shit went down because people believed in themselves and there was a community there that lifted everyone up. Yes, you sometimes may have to scrabble that community out from nothing but that is your scene and in some way you participated and helped it along.
A manager is something between you and that community. It reduces that interaction to a business transaction, making you a commodity to be sold. A manager like Wettergreen cares little for community. To him and his ilk, you are a product to be marketed for maximum return. If that means shitting on your friends and supporters – hey, it’s just business right?
But here is the thing, ironically managers work for bands. Yet, as in this Noise and Smoke fiasco, bands like the Dimes are willing to put aside their better judgment and abdicate to their manager. Here is the problem. Does Wettergreen sign the e-mail with his name? No, he signs it “The Dimes”. Perversely, the manager becomes the band. Here the band finally concedes even it’s own voice to the manager. Their job has merely become to manufacture a product, shut up, and do as they are told.
So here we are, Liz and Joey have worked hard to prepare a feast with everyone invited to the table and we have a band’s manager throw the plate back at them. But this is “professional”, “has nothing to do with personal profiteering”, and is in no way disrespectful. No, this is that hard-nose business professionalism that John Lomax keeps saying more local bands need – a hard nosed motherfucker like Matt Wettergreen.
Here is the problem for those of us who love music; it’s not just a commodity to us. Great music is a smoky bar or on an LP to us is on par with reading Melville, looking at the paint strokes on a Van Gogh, or admiring the joyous madness of Werner Herzog. When a manager comes between the band and its fans and supporters the band becomes something less and we’re left wanting that band we loved so much back.
So let this be an object lesson. Do things yourself. Book your shows. Make your own flyers. Record your own record and release it. Never give away your right to think for yourself and do what is best for you. You are smarter and capable of more than you think.
Bring Back The Guns