March 8th, 2010 §
John Mayer has been shamed lately for his explicit logorrhea, and perhaps rightly so, but when he played Little Brother’s on the eve of success, he was quite polite and gracious.
I had one brief conversation with John in the parking lot after the show. But in that short talk he thanked me and my staff for our genuine hospitality, said that it was one of the best places he had played and that everyone working there had treated him and his band with respect.
I was speechless that a guy on the verge of real success in this crazy music business would take the time to show such gratitude, and speechless is something I rarely am.
He may have overshared about some big-league starlets, but when he was in the bush leagues, about to get the call up to the majors, he showed real class.
January 11th, 2010 §
Henry Rollins, as I knew him when he played Stache’s, was practically two different people.
There was the punk “rawk” star that had led Black Flag and come to us as the frontman of the Rollins Band. He was an incredibly focused individual, not given to idle conversation. When he arrived to play a gig in 1989, Ben Pridgeon (my bar manager and gifted bassist for the Squids) and I were engrossed in the final minutes of a Lakers-Celtics showdown. Curt Schieber, who was still promoting most of the national shows as “No Other Presents,” hadn’t yet arrived for his usual promoter duties: doling out per diem meal money as well as hospitality items like booze, water, snacks and towels, and making sure the technical sound and stage needs were met (all parts of the contract “rider”).
Often the band would have a tour or road manager that procured the items and went over the details of the show, but in this case, Henry took care of his own business.
After whizzing past us behind the bar, absorbed as we were in the NBA finals, he shortly returned and intensely inquired about the promoter’s whereabouts, as well as the aforementioned contract rider items.
I couldn’t tell if he didn’t like basketball, hated bar owners or was just devoid of human emotion. He seemed cold and hard, almost robot-like, even though he was incredibly dynamic once he hit the stage. I came to realize after subsequent Rollins Band shows that the no-nonsense, down-to-business man was one side of Henry.
The other Master H.R. was the spoken word genius, who, when he arrived without a band in tow, was always affable, humorous, warm and downright charming.
I knew he had something to say when I read the lyrics to the Black Flag album “My War!” I may be alone here, but I’m not good at picking out words sung by Cookie Monster-like punk lead vocals. The dude was hilarious and his message was on point when he came to us as Henry Rollins, word artist. I almost felt guilty about the Wheaties box parody we had behind the bar. It was a picture of him affixed to the cardboard that said “Henry, Portrait of a Cereal Eater.” He actually found it funny. It disappeared at some point and I always wondered if someone gave it to him.
He also dated one of my friends and longtime employees. This brought him to town a few times when we weren’t doing business, which led me to believe that the real Henry was the second one, charming, intelligent and humorous, although when my friend saw his video for the song “Liar,” she said he was speaking the truth.
After playing my room in one form or another at least five or six times, Henry’s popularity increased enough that he needed to play a larger space. He stopped by Stache’s before a Rollins Band Newport gig to see if anyone wanted to be on his guest list.
I was feeling disrespected by him because I was not included as a co-promoter of the show. Often when an act would outgrow Stache’s, I would promote or co-promote a show in a larger space, provided that the act’s agent included me. Poi Dog Pondering, Buddy Guy, Jon Spencer and Jesus Lizard were a few of the acts that always made sure to bring me along. This time, I wasn’t. So when Henry stopped in, I asked him to step into my office for a private conversation.
When I told him I thought I should have been included in the deal, he said “It’s only business – it’s nothing personal, Dan.”
“Henry, in this business, everything is personal,” I said.
He did apologize for my hurt feelings, since there was nothing else that could have been done at that point. I held it against him then, but looking back, I think his was an honest oversight. And I had far too many good experiences with people like Henry Rollins to dwell on the few setbacks.
October 20th, 2009 §
Hey kids… Pop quiz!
What show sold out the fastest in the history of Stache & Little Brother’s?
Nirvana? The Ventures? Tiny Tim and Camper Van Beethoven?
No. Nope. Nada.
It wasn’t “Jim Beam presents Lucinda Williams and Joe Ely,” Smashing Pumpkins or Sun Ra either.
Daughtry. In seven minutes. Yeah, that’s right, the American Idol also-ran Chris Daughtry.
And you know what? That success couldn’t have happened to a better guy. Believe it or not, dude man has a heart of gold.
Yes, I’m a cynic too, but the guy was at the top of the charts and he still thought he owed it to some of the little guy night clubs who had helped him get up there. We lucked out because he needed a connecting date between those guys, and the band wanted a chance to pull their act together in front of small crowds before working up to major venues.
Ben Hamilton, my talent buyer at the time, doesn’t watch TV and didn’t know who Daughtry was.
I thought it would be the biggest headache ever, far worse than dealing with Bob Pollard’s Budweiser-pounding entourage, some local open-mic hip hop artists or that troll in Nashville Pussy.
And Daughtry’s business people were absurd, asking questions like “what’s your marketing strategy?” well after the high-speed sellout. We had to compromise on numerous production issues, which was not at all unusual when the act was accustomed to playing on much larger stages. Still, we had to remind his people that he wanted to play there – an independent mid-sized club with limitations that network television would never encounter. They neglected to ask us in advance to hold back a large number of tickets for their guest list.
Consequently, I expected big hassles from the road manager. That wasn’t the case. Anything I had thought was bound to go wrong was painlessly resolved on the day of the show. And Chris himself couldn’t have been nicer.
He wanted to shave and the men’s room mirror was covered with stickers, so he went into the women’s room. Shortly thereafter, my better half, Tracy, who had just arrived to pick me up for dinner, ran in there while my back was turned. She was startled when she found the pop star grooming, and he said “Hi there. Go ahead. Don’t worry, I promise I won’t listen,” and started humming a tune.
His longtime bandmates and crew were also easy and not unlike the majority of underground rock bands.
The crowd, however, was filled overwhelmingly with women who apparently don’t get out much and didn’t seem to know how to act at a concert. I’m not sure where they learned that if you voted for a contestant on a performance television show, it somehow gave you propriety over him and all other people in the general area, like bar staff, doormen and stage personnel. They requested that Chris dedicate songs to them in return for their tireless telephone-dialing efforts. Some of the crowd showed up at 9 a.m. and made a general nuisance of themselves all day.
Regardless, once again, the old book cover adage about judgment applies. Not everybody that hangs with “dawgs” wakes up with fleas.