Occasionally, we’re going to be reconvening the “Patron Panel”, where we’ll ask local showgoers to discuss the best and the worst when it comes to live shows, promotion, venues, etc. The local scene is slowly crawling out of its slump, which makes this the perfect time to gain some more perspective on what’s being done right and what’s being done wrong.
Joining the panel today are Joe Tonaus (former promoter at Broadway Joe’s) and Mike Kauffman (owner of OverTake Management – graphic and video design, formerly of the Niagara Falls band, His Name Was Yesterday).
The Metal: What’s the worst show you’ve ever been to? Why was it the worst? What could’ve made it better?
Mike Kauffman: I’m hard pressed to think of a show that I went to and thought “Damn, that was awful.” I’d have to say the worst one I attended, I unfortunately played at. When I was younger, the first tour I went on, our booking agent slipped a “living room show” into the itinerary without telling us. I’ve been to cool house shows before, but this was not one of those times. My dad’s stereo from 1983 had better sound than the “sound system” this place had. And to make matters worse, the name of the “venue” was Chaosome. A mix of chaos and awesome is what I think they were going for. I agree with the first half.
Joe Tonaus: Worst show I’ve ever been to is a toss up between Five Finger Death Punch/HNWY/As Summer Dies at Rapids and Andrew WK at the Waiting Room.
The FFDP show was so oversold that if you went outside for a cigarette, you weren’t getting back in. Couldn’t even move around and trying to get to the bathroom when needed was impossible.
The Andrew WK show was the very first show at the Waiting Room. It was nothing to do with the venue but I was just disappointed when it was just Andrew WK and no band. It was just him and his sampler/keyboard.
Obviously, what would have made the FFDP show better would have been not making it a fire hazard. I literally stayed by the exit the whole night waiting for a Great White mishap. Andrew WK would have been better as a full band. And just to set the record straight, I went to FFDP for HNWY and ASD.
TM: What’s your favorite venue in the Western New York area?
Joe Tonaus: That’s still open or of all time (laughs)? As of today I would have to say The Rockin’ Buffalo. Mike Shearer is a great guy and I just always have a great time when I am there. He makes everyone feel welcome and if you piss him off, he’ll let you know. I wish it wasn’t a 45 minute drive or I would be there more often. Good sound, good food and a good drink variety as well.
TM: You can do your favorite of all time too.
Joe Tonaus: Showplace would have to my all time favorite (before it was reopened). I saw so many great local and national shows there. I still miss the old Showplace.
Mike Kauffman: There have been so many good ones that have come and gone. As for the one that has stuck around and been consistent, I’d have say the Town Ballroom. Sure, it’s the casual concert goer pick, but you can’t argue that they have a solid sound setup, the audio engineers are great, it’s the largest capacity venue in Buffalo without being Key Bank Center status, and as an old head,l; I really enjoy the separate bar in front where you can kind of “step away” in between sets to get away from the action. As for newer venues as they seem to pop up every year, I recently checked out Funk n Waffles in Rochester (old Water Street small side) and I was impressed. Great food, good drinks, sound was great for a small room and the staff were all genuinely having a good time. Worth checking out if you’re in the area.
TM: When it comes to show promotion, what are the dos and don’ts? What do you want to see less/more of?
Mike Kauffman: Do-EVERYTHING. I mean it. Do everything you possibly can to get as many people possible to hear about the show. Social media, face to face, flyers (yes, get out of your house and go flyer the old school way). Put a little bit of cash into promoting your event (see above) to get the most heads through the door. I see way too often bands put up a Facebook event, invite their friends, and that’s it. That’s not enough for smaller bands. Give people a reason to come. If you won’t get off your ass to promote, why do you expect someone to get off their ass and attend? No one will work harder for your band than you.
Joe Tonaus: Oh, wow. Where do I begin? Well the first don’t I would say is never take every offer an agent is giving you. You will just know what show will work and what won’t. Sometimes you have to take one or two for the hope that they’ll give you a bigger show that will actually draw people. Never take their first offer when it comes to a band’s guarantee. Remember Devastation on the Nation? What a disaster. The original promoter quit and I got stuck with the show and could not renegotiate the guarantee or the ticket prices. It was my biggest loss on a show ever. I think one of my biggest mistakes too was only charging $10 for most shows with a national act. I had the mindset that if I made it affordable more people would come. Enter the local metal scene. Oh wait, no they didn’t enter (laughs). If I were to do it all over again, I would have charged more for shows, even local shows. I only really ever charged $5 for local shows and it seems the $10 cover I have been paying lately has been good for the bands overall. Also, no matter how much of a dick the national act may be, always try to smile when talking to them, because it’s good to show that no matter what, they didn’t get under your skin. 99% of the national acts I have dealt with were really great people, but there’s always that 1% that can just go away forever.
What do I want to see more or less of? Personally, I would like to see more metal shows with bands from Europe. We are starting to get more clean vocals to come to town, which is nice. I would like to see more variety at shows. As much as I am not a fan of death metal, I think a showcase of metal would be cool. It has happened and worked out pretty well. Just twice a year have a show with all different genres of metal, including death metal, thrash, power, folk, “the cores”, whatever it may be. To me, it would be a nice get together and a good networking opportunity – provided everyone stays for all the bands and we all know that rarely happens. What I want to see less of is the laziness some bands have when it comes to self promotion. A promoter can only do so much and in the end it’s up to the band to get people to a show.
TM: What’s your opinion on how the internet has effected the music scene?
Mike Kauffman: I think the internet has affected the music scene both in good and bad ways, and you really have to roll with the punches. The most obvious and glaring example is digital music. It’s always been my standpoint that really someone sharing or stealing music from an artist hurts major label artists more than it will ever hurt a local artist. And both should take the approach that merchandise should be your main seller. If you’re upset as a local musician that 10 people got your record for free instead of you making $100, you’re doing this wrong. Since MySpace, music in general has been flooded more than it ever has before. While some shit tier bands made some minimal success banking on Myspace plays, the artists that came out and are still successful from that era were probably going to be successful by some means anyway. The internet is a wonderful tool, but that’s all it is, a tool. Don’t rely solely on just that.
Joe Tonaus: (Laughs) Well, where should I start? We can narrow it down even further and just ask,”How has Social Media affected the music scene?” One simple answer: It’s made the scene lazy. That’s also including myself. I’ll be the first to admit it takes a lot for me to check a show out nowadays. Before Facebook, Myspace, Twitter or whatever else, there was just the Gusto and Artvoice pretty much, to look for local shows. You used to see flyers everywhere you went. I remember seeing flyers at FYE, Media Play, and the local music shops all the time. A friend and I used to go out every Friday to Rock ‘n Roll Heaven or The old Cruise Inn just to see what was playing. We would stay all night just to see if there was something we liked. That’s when we first saw a band called Dark Rivers. They were a metal band that did originals and covers and we became pretty good friends with them. By going to their shows, we found a few other local bands we enjoyed as well. There were no Facebook event pages then. The bands did all their own promotion and made all their own flyers and went everywhere and put them up in stores, on telephone polls, and on people’s windshields outside of bigger concerts. They all had full time jobs, so they did this in what little spare time they had. This was like 12-13 years ago, but in that time, social media alone has made bands and the fans just that much lazier, myself included. Personally, it is something I am trying to rectify, as I have been to more shows lately, but in the end, I believe the bands need to utilize other aspects of self promotion other than creating an event page.
TM: Which do you prefer: Mixed genre shows or genre specific shows?
Mike Kauffman: I truly enjoy many avenues of music, but with that being said, I’m not sure if I prefer either of these options. I’m all over the board with music with my playlists, and I’m cool with attending shows that do as such. I also like getting into one specific mindset and having it for that entire show, hearing the same genre of music. For me, music is music and I really don’t have a strong preference here.
Joe Tonaus: To me it comes down to, “Am I going to have more fun just seeing some old friends or am I actually going to see the bands?” I like both for different reasons. There are shows I go to just to see people I haven’t seen in a long time. Mixed genre shows are good as they can provide new music for you to hear and may actually like, or it gives you a reason to go outside and wait for the band you know you’ll like. I mostly prefer all same genre shows, mainly because they’re few and far between. When one actually happens it’s always a good time. The mixed shows are fun too as they provide something out of the norm for some people. Like this Sabaton (power metal) and Kreator (thrash metal) co-headlining tour coming up (but nowhere near here). It just looks odd but it will bring different fans in to see both styles and maybe create new fans on both sides.
TM: What’s your favorite out of town venue?
Mike Kauffman: The International in Knoxville TN. The owner is great, and has always been super cool to me via mutual friends everytime I’m there. I tend to get to Tennessee at least once a year, and usually The International is hosting a show that I’m interested in. Great staff, sound is great, and really enjoy the overall flow of that place.
Joe Tonaus: As far as bigger venues go, they’re all better out of town. The Agora in Cleveland and Stage AE in Pittsburgh are the best hands down. Drinks aren’t expensive, the sound is great and there isn’t a bad spot in the place to watch the show.
TM: (Kind of attached to questions 1 and 3) What are some things you’ve seen/experienced at out of town shows that you’d like to see more of in WNY?
Mike Kauffman: That’s a good question. After touring and being a patron of so many shows across the country, I’m hard pressed to think of one specific thing that WNY could do better in the show department. There are a lot of shows, and good shows at that, that go down in WNY. I guess this goes back to #3 for me really – getting out there, going above and beyond to promote your brand. Whether it’s you, a promoter (there are still a handful of good ones out there), or a street team, finding those unique ways to get people to remember your band. Going to shows, small and large, and handing out flyers/sample discs/download cards/ANYTHING to push yourself into people’s heads is the most important. If you want this to be your full time job as a musician, start treating it like it is and dedicate time every day to get new people to realize who you are and what you do.
Joe Tonaus: For the most part I just want to see these shows in the Buffalo area, or even Rochester. Cleveland really has no more people than Buffalo, but get the better shows that I want to see more often than not. I feel Buffalo gets overlooked because of Toronto. I’d rather go to Cleveland or Pittsburgh, because yeah, it’s twice the drive but I’ll spend half the money. I just feel the atmosphere in general is just better and more friendly than at most bigger shows here. I like to tell people where I am from at the out of town shows. Their response is usually always the same. They say welcome and hope I have a great time. I try to be the same when an out of town person hits a show here.
TM: What’s your preferred genre of music?
Mike Kauffman: Ya know those assholes that say “I like all kinds of music, and you think…No you don’t, you shithead, just tell me what you like.”? I really do. As an example, a random scroll through my Spotify saved artists lands me on P. – Pantera, Panic! at The Disco, Paulson, Paul McCartney, A Perfect Circle, Periphery, Portugal The Man, Pink Floyd – you get the point. I’m a child of the ’80s. My father is a musician and an old school rocker, so I grew up with a lot of rock influence. As I got older and started branching out and drawing influences for my own music, I just started adapting to anything that I listened to and said “Wow, I really like that”.
Joe Tonaus: It changes by my mood. Most of the time it’s power metal. But right now, I’m just listening to southern metal and folk metal a lot too.
TM: Without even thinking about it, name your top 3 favorite bands (if you can).
Mike Kauffman: Deftones, Circa Survive, Black Sabbath.
Joe Tonaus: Sabaton, Alestorm, Faith No More. Weird, right?
TM: Without naming yourself (Joe), who’s your favorite promoter in WNY right now?
Mike Kauffman: I’ve been out of the “musician” game for a hot minute so it’s hard for me to answer this question. I feel like to really gain an accurate idea of a good promoter, I’d have to work with them instead of just buying a concert ticket for a show, because I saw an ad on Facebook, ya know what I’m saying? I know there are a few still left out there that put on shows from a local standpoint, and I see you. I just can’t put all my eggs in one basket without putting my hand in first to make sure the basket is stable.
Joe Tonaus: I honestly don’t know who is promoting in the area at this time besides your shows and After Dark. My favorite is whoever brings in the shows that I want to see.
TM: Mike, you’ve been in bands in the past. Talk about the best/worst show experiences you’ve had from the point of view of a performer.
Mike Kauffman: I mentioned one above, but another one that sticks out that’s just kind of funny. Another disaster on that first tour, we were in Columbus playing at a pretty decent venue. We had some friends there who brought their friends and the venue had its own established patrons, so for our first time there, it was actually a really good crowd for a new touring band. It had to have been maybe our 4th song into the set, not too far into the song and our guitar player’s head just stopped working. Flat out just done. He’s scrambling trying to correct the problem, but as they say “the show must go on”, and of course being in a band, you’ve been through this before. Someone’s gear fucks up, the song sounds inevitably like shit, but you power through it and keep going. As we were doing as such, the opposite side of the stage (which housed our 2nd guitar player and bass player) lost power. Power just completely shut off. Too much rock apparently. So at this point, it is now myself (drums) and my singer John, playing the remaining 1:30 seconds of the song which felt more like an hour and thirty instead of a minute thirty. We powered through it, and laugh about it to this day, but I don’t wish that shit on my worst enemy.
As far as best performance, short and sweet, HNWY playing on Rockstar Mayhem Festival was hands down the best. Everyone was super cool to us, we got to play alongside and meet some of our idols, and it goes without saying the crowd was pretty large. The 10 minute warning before we hit the stage was the longest wait of my life, and it felt like the set was over in seconds, but it’s something I’ll never forget.
Joe Tonaus: Corrosion of Conformity this Monday, 2/5.
Nightwish in Niagara Falls on 3/23.
The Metal’s Birthday on 3/31.
Kamelot in Pittsburgh on 4/26.
Hammerfall in Cleveland on 6/1.
If time and money allow it, I would also like to head back to Atlanta for ProgPower again.