Emily Stevenson, who has made quite a name for herself booking bands under the GlueStick Music brand, rarely listens to me.
Good for her.
You see she and I are, more often than not, diametrically opposed when it comes to the logic and logistics of booking bands. I put the emphasis on the show in show business while she understands that if a band plays in an empty venue, it doesn’t really make a sound.
That, by the way, is why she has become one of the more successful bookers in the city and why I, to the very great fortune of my family, steer very clear of the world or riders and contracts.
A sample of the conversation we have held time and again over the years:
Emily: Steven, what do you think of Band X?
Emily: But Band X sells big arenas, has sold this many records and is touring with Household Name.
Steven: Still terrible.
Emily: So who would you book?
Steven: Band Y.
Emily: Steven, Band Y is great but hasn’t had a hit in 25 years and plays basements.
Emily: So that’s terrible.
The thing about these conversations is that not only is she nearly always right, her successes now allow her to book acts with a more specific and specialized audience.
Acts I find it more difficult to argue against.
Let’s use Rock Fore! Dough, one of GlueStick’s marquee events, as an example. Yes, the headliner was Darius Rucker – again. And while I find the rock-cum-country star pleasant and polished, I certainly am never engaged. I believe, however, I could find about 11,000 people that shared that experience with me who would disagree. That’s how many people that show, which attracts a largely local audience when a lot of locals are out of town, attracted. It’s a record for the event. It might be a record for live music in Augusta.
At any rate it’s impressive.
But GlueStick is more than merely the radio stars video failed to slay. This month they will bring in Shovels and Rope, Leftover Salmon and Trampled by Turtles as part of the Banjo-B-Que lineup. No Ruckers but also impressive.
Art and commerce – strange bedfellows that seem to be finding love in Augusta.
WHAT DOES ALL ACCESS MEAN? Recently a story broke that, after raising venue rental prices and getting out of the co-production business – both moves I understood – Columbia County would require a number of All Access passes for every event presented at a county-owned facility – most notably the Evans Town Centre Park and Columbia County Exhibition Center.
That one has me a little confused.
While I understand the need for county employees whose jobs require a certain freedom of movement during events, I am not certain who will use those passes and for what.
The moment one of those cherished concert laminates goes to someone without an official duty at that specific venue and event, it becomes a problem.
Think of it this way.
The public areas of a restaurant – the dining room and bar – are really the only thing a diner needs to see. Demanding to hang in the kitchen and asking to have your menu autographed is both irritating and detrimental.
Nobody, to borrow a cliché, needs to see how the sausage is made. Backstage and business areas at, for the sake of argument, a concert, are similar. It’s a lot of people doing difficult work that is easily interrupted by someone doing nothing more than standing in the wrong place.
And the artist, the chef in our little analogy, doesn’t really care how Very Important a VIP is. He’s there to prepare and play for an audience. Any selfies that occur should be on his terms.
So Columbia County, tread carefully. Access should be a privilege.
Once it becomes an entitlement word will travel fast and the great strides people like Emily Stevenson have made will be for naught.