Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Record Crate: So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star

One of the complaints I've had about music here is that there is no consistent venue for singer-songwriters to try out their wares. Shows at the Red Dragon are great events with phenomenal artists, but I've wanted a place where you can drop in and listen to new artists honing their craft; the coffeeshop scene in the 1960s in Greenwich Village is what I'm picturing. Omnipresent folk and children's musician Dorothy LeBlanc has made the first step toward attaining this with a successful run of Sunday singer-songwriter nights at Brew-ha-ha on Jefferson from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The songwriters I saw this past Sunday ranged from plaintive Elliot Smith-style tunes to some improbably romantic banjo music. Nearly all the slots for February are booked up, but contact Dorothy at thecapo123@yahoo.com if you are looking to step up to the mic.

The next step in this process is to find a band that can take your songs to the broader horizons, and The Casuals are a great model for that. Singer-songwriter Anna Byars is one of the great, undersung talents in town, pitting her guitar with Kristen Foster's ukulele to create a sweet environment in which to get snared in their intricate melodies and lyrics. I like a good racket now and then, but an acoustic setting allows the songwriting to shine, and The Casuals make the most of it.

But there is always a next step, and there has been traditionally no instruction manual on how to traverse the road ahead for a struggling musician. That is why veteran punk session player and producer Martin Atkins (Public Image Ltd., Ministry, Killing Joke, Pigface) wrote his book, Tour: Smart: And Break the Band, chock-full of sage advice from someone who has seen it all. Atkins will present two seminars in town this weekend, Friday at 7 p.m. at the Spanish Moon and 1 p.m. Sunday at Insomkneeacks next to the Old Broadmoor Theatre. If you are an aspiring musician, this is indispensable advice. Link

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