- September 18, 1997
- Steve Thompson
On My Departure From The Music
- I formally started
Musicopia (sole-proprietorship, one person operation)
on 1 September 1993. Musicopia was to be a booking and media agency.
Musicopia’s first client band was the Rank Outsiders.
I was basically the Rank Outsiders’ manager figure.
Though we’ve all remained good friends, I stopped working with the
Rank Outsiders during 1994.
Musicopia, I attempted to put together a small roster of bands for which I
would act as booking and/or media agent, sometimes as an exclusive
arrangement, sometimes not.
also booked bands into private and special event engagements such as
festivals, frat parties, wedding receptions, etc.
- The band that I came to focus on was The Backsliders (from
I had met Chip
Robinson (Backsliders’ singer), through mutual friends at a party at
Carina’s Durham abode back in 1989 and first actually saw the Backsliders
as a band when they opened up a Woods’ show at Charlotte’s Double Door
Inn in 1991.
My first booking
with The Backsliders was in the Fall of 1993 at the old Stanleyville Grill
in Charlotte - which was their
first headlining date outside of the Raleigh/Triangle area.
From late 1993 until they signed with Mammoth Records in
1996 I did as much “booking &
media agent” work for The Backsliders as I could muster. I wasn’t able
to work much with the Backsliders after they signed their Mammoth deal.
- My biggest “break” in the music business happened in June of 1994
when Chandler Spawr, owner of Jack Straw’s, invited Musicopia to handle
bookings & media for Jack Straw’s.
Jack Straw’s had recently contracted Steve Cudic’s Science
Fidelity Sound to provide permanent, high quality sound reinforcement in the
room, and it became our goal to create Charlotte’s most consistently
eclectic and interesting live music environment.
By the Fall of 1994 we were offering original live music up to 5
nights a week.
- As the list of bands booked into Jack Straw’s shows, between June ’94
and September ’97 I booked 318 different artists into Jack Straw’s.
We were the first Charlotte venue to book a number of bands that went on
to become regional favorites, such as:
6 String Drag, Agents Of Good Roots, All Mighty Senators, The
Aqualads, The Austin Lounge Lizards, Belizbeha, The Ben Folds Five, Big Ass
Truck, Big Stoner Creek, Bio Ritmo, The Cigar Store Indians, The Derailers,
Emmet Swimming, Everything, Fleming & John, The Gibb Droll Band, The
Gladhands, Gran Torino, The Grapes, The Honeydogs, Hypnotic Clambake,
Jackopierce, The Jonas Helborg Trio, Jump Little Children, Leftover Salmon,
moe., Moon Boot Lover, Ominous Seapods, Purple School Bus, Seconds Flat,
Spider Monkey, The String Cheese Incident, Too Skinee J’s, The Uma Jets,
The Urban Shakedancers, The V-roys, Vallejo, The Verve Pipe, and Yolk, to
name but a few…
- Here are some more stats from my time at Jack Straw’s, June 94 -
months, approximately 700 shows booked.
The average paid attendance per show was 129.
318 different bands performed.
During this period our average nightly band
pay-out was $483.00. I am particularly proud of this statistic. The bands
tended to make good money at Jack Straw’s!
- Our biggest show ever, in terms
of attendance, was Big Ass Truck (3-22-97), followed by The Blue Dogs
(6-15-96), Jolene (2-10-96), The Grapes (11-17-95), and Kevn Kinney
- In addition to establishing a viable booking & media agency, my second
goal was to be part of the development, ownership, and operation of a
large-scale club concert venue.
fact, this had been a dream of mine going all the way back to when I used to
go see late night music films - The Alternative Films Series - at the old
Plaza Theater on Central Ave. in Charlotte back in the mid-70’s.
When inside that theater I used to imagine running it as a "Fillmore" style
live venue and that fantasy stayed with me for years.
By the end of 1996, we (Jack Straw’s) were beginning to lose some
of our biggest drawing bands to rooms that offered greater capacity.
Chandler Spawr, owner of Jack Straw’s, also harbored a dream of
presenting live music on a larger scale.
The time seemed right to put our dreams into action so we formed
Globe Productions, our goal being to develop and operate a large-scale club
concert venue that would be called (borrowing from Shakespeare) The Globe Theater.
That which had been Musicopia became Globe
Productions. In January of 1996 we choose the site of the old Wayne’s
Supermarket on Central Ave. as our location and we began work.
This location offered us a potential capacity of around
it was part of an area that was being reinvigorated, it was soon
to be connected directly to the Elizabeth neighborhood (Stanleyville) by the
Independence Freeway project, and it was proximate to what could
easily develope as a bar/entertainment “district.”
After our construction was underway the city informed us that we
were a few feet short of the required 400 feet between a “nightclub” and
a “residential structure.”
then spent two months trying to gain a variance from the local zoning board.
Even though we had the support of neighborhood groups and city
planners, the over-grown hall monitors on the zoning board would not grant
the needed variance, effectively killing the project.
- Globe Productions regrouped and tried a second time to develop a
large-scale club concert venue.
the addition of Steve Cudic (of Science Fidelity Sound) as a partner, Globe
Productions added sound and audio production to its services and set about
trying to buy the old Capri Theater on Independence Blvd., in Charlotte.
According to the new plan, Globe Productions would be a booking &
media agency, would handle bookings & media for Jack Straw’s, would be
a sound reinforcement company, and would own and operate the Globe Theater.
The Globe Theater would feature a 1200 capacity room with a large stage
and excellent sight lines, and a second room for smaller shows and various
reinforcement would be state of the art and audio and video production
services would be available.
spent six months developing our business plan and negotiating the financial
On March 7 of this
year (1997), at the last hour, the bank decided not to back our plan,
effectively killing the project.
- During March, Globe Productions regrouped yet again and set
about the task of developing a top-notch sound production company and
growing a viable booking & media agency.
Our plan was to make these areas of our business strong and to then
make another attempt at developing the club concert venue.
- My level of personal sacrifice in this business has been high.
Chandler Spawr and Steve Cudic have also endured great sacrifice.
I was able to justify my own sacrifice with the hope of a viable
agency and a big new venue.
long as these hopes were alive, I worked on, full speed ahead.
But during July of this year (1997) I sadly concluded that in spite
of our best efforts, Globe Productions would not be in a position to mount
another push toward the establishment of the Globe Theater. The sound reinforcement aspect of the business was beginning
to thrive, but my passion for the music business was wanning. I fatigued out on trying to book bands that were just too
hard to book (at an acceptable level of profitability). With the hope of a big new venue vanishing I was no longer able to justify continued
sacrifice. On August 4,
1997 I told my good partners that I was
leaving the music business.
- Working with Chandler, and Jack Straw’s, has been a great experience for
All of our dreams did not
come true, but we did a lot of interesting things along the way.
I appreciate the opportunity that Chandler offered my young Musicopia more than he will ever know.
- As I look at the lay of the land, musically speaking, I see support for
live music generally going down. Even though we managed to maintain pretty good numbers at
Jack Straw’s, we detect a feeling amongst many people that live music is
but one of many entertainment options, and that certain other options are
often more compelling than live music, as it now is.
In recent years, Charlotte has become quite good at doing certain
things, but fostering a vibrant music/bar scene has so far not been one of
Those who have attempted
to support the local “situation” have always been pretty much relegated
into small enclaves.
still a few good bands out there playing, but to minds at all critical,
the old line - “things ain’t what they used to be” - seems to ring
truer and truer. Of course,
this industry has always been somewhat cyclical - disco killed live music in
the mid 70’s but then it came roaring back in the late 70’s and 80’s.
Maybe there’s just something of a “shake-out” taking place. Or, maybe the real creative minds are no longer in the music
maybe the real
creative minds are now busy (and perhaps have been for some time now) with
the personal computer revolution…
- After our last regular show with The Derailers and the Two Dollar Pistols,
with the room emptied, I sat
down at a table... and I swear I couldn’t remember
why I ever wanted to be out of all this…
Some nights, this was a great job... The next morning, with a
clearer head, I knew the time was right to move on...
- Related Article:
Jack Straw's Is Pulling The Plug On Live Music
- The Charlotte Observer, 9-26-1997
- By Kenneth Johnson
- Pop Music Writer