Remember that time I said we were “working with an empire, here”, before the Maria Isa & Cecil Otter show was set to blast off? Remember that time I said I was going to sell out The Cabooze, a 1000+ venue on a cold day in Minnesota (“cold” is relative to “fucking deadly freeze over” anywhere south of Rochester, MN in the US)? Remember that time I booked the show the same date at The Current’s 5th annual existence bash? … Yeah, I wish I didn’t either. I put the cost of business through the cat walk and paid only in time. Broke even, walked away without a spec of dust on the shoulders, but the bout easily left me sitting in a coffeeshop befuddled, staring out the window, forgetting my phone was ringing, day-jobless (and still lovin’ it), and basically pensive enough to exercise telekinesis on my silverware (almost worked).
At the Locale, the night after the Maria Isa & Cecil Otter show, having recently visited More Than Lights sold out CD release show at the Fine Line, my better half wanted to own it and say, “Alright, fine, fuck it, we lost.” The voices in my head rarely agree, but this one damn near ran a Salem Witch Hunt on any preachers advocating such a big music bill again. Yes, I totally bit off more than I could chew, and when less than 500 paying people attended the Maria Isa & Cecil Otter show, I took the fiscal knee to the groin and picked up several shifts at the Old Spaghetti Factory. A woman and her bartender friend eyed me down the Locale’s lengthy bar and tall ceiling. Possibly entertaining themselves with a more fortunate being at the moment, or wondering what the hell a frustrated entrepreneur was doing out the night after his biggest fiscal failure… na, I had it in me (as always) to take it upon myself and say something.
The initial on-looking gal said her bartender friend wanted to speak to me, I deflected it and just went with talking about why she comes to a bar alone to visit her friend in the middle of work. We discuss, and somehow get around to the show from last night. “You put that show together last night, how was it?” Reluctantly, still beat up about it, “Umm, around 500 came out, but a shit ton less than that paid”. (Say “ick” here, for lack of better word to your disgust that Toussaint has become so knee-deep in music that he takes the numbers personally). The on-looking gal half raises an eyebrow, “Wow, that’s a lot of people”. We exchange numbers, and I trek back home to keep hitting rewind of her one-sentence praise of the show she never attended. I like it- made me feel human for a second in beleaguering process of calculating hard numbers and immovable math. “Yeah, it was a lot of people, wasn’t it?” thinking to myself.
Looking back at the pictures of the show, the Cabooze looked damn packed. I didn’t even recognize the f’ng place, but from the sights of Mr. Drew Carlson’s badass photography, I noticed it was definitely the Jan. 21st show. Christ, I’d pay Cecil Otter the same amount to play at a house party- the kid’s easily one of my favorite people/performers. I try to hide it, play it cool, but always end up laughing at something that wasn’t meant to be a joke, weirding the dude out, or simply overstaying my welcome. We didn’t sell it out, didn’t even come close to selling it out, but hot damn did we make it look like it almost sold out. By no means satisfactory in my book, but a definite lesson to chalk up under the “Been There, Done That” column.
Moving on, getting back to this “empire” business- fast forward a month later to the Toki Wright show. Making amends with a long-cemented animosity with Mr. Wright, the show (before a single person stepped through the door) was already a success. We’d promoted the show for 2 months, blurring posters all over the city, and handing out fliers… everywhere. Fifth Element took the last two weeks of promotion and blasted 1000 fliers through the city, and hit the internet running. In the end, the same result: breaking even. The Toki show, however, was an entirely different beast altogether than the Maria Isa & Cecil Otter show, so breaking even on it wasn’t as cardiac-arresting as the previous.
Keep in mind, at this point, over 800 people had funneled through the entrances and exits of these shows. You say, “Yea yea, who f----n cares, Prof or Atmosphere or P.O.S. or Solid Gold can bring in twice that in one night.” To that I say, “And I’m neither any of those people, I’m only one person carrying the load of an entire brand, label, and think tank. Jea, tons of people help out, but not without a price.” The beautiful thing about watching Prof or Atmosphere or P.O.S. or Solid Gold is spectating their teamwork. Mike Campbell would sell a Prof embroidered rosary in a mosque if he had to, Doomtree would take a bullet for anyone in their family (let alone Steph “P.O.S”), and pretty much any Rhymesayers affiliate would easily dole out their time and energy for the livelihood of Atmosphere. To walk into Fifth Element and see Felipe constantly folding, stacking, organizing, molding something- puts a smile on my face. These people never stop their continual flow of work and forward administration towards achieving their goals. I like it. I likes it a lot. Eh, getting back to the point though- I’d brought a lot of people through the Varsity and Cabooze’s gates, but had my sights set on far more than that. The next week, I had scheduled a triple album release betwixt Don Royal, K. Raydio and Homeless Ryan K; an event far far from the past several I’d put on (Cecil Otter, Prof, Maria Isa, Toki). Don, K and Homeless are no where within the same pull or midst of the former headliners- but (and a big BUT), putting the three of them in the 7th St. Entry for a night of delivering free music… they had a chance at selling it out.
By the end of the Triple Album Release, again thinking more people came through that door than actually did, I was a bit flabbergasted at the number of paying participants. To Be Continued…