Sixty-six bands have their fingers crossed. Only a few will be lucky. But they'll all have a chance to strut their stuff Sunday at the annual Capitol Hill People's Fair Entertainment Auditions, an eleven-hour marathon designed to separate the local music community's wheat from its chaff.
The auditions, which are free and open to the public, offer audiences not only a preview of what will end up on stage during the June fair, but also a whirlwind tour through the trenches with the town's up-and-coming talent. People's Fair entertainment-committee honcho Sharon Rawles promises lots of surprises this year, touting such acts as acoustic popster Matthew Moon, Chuck da Fonk & the Mile High Funkers, Latin dance combo Yo! Flaco, and Bad Backs and the Hard Boys, featuring Ginger Baker's son, Kofi, as bands to watch.
This year's judges will include journalists, promoters and other musicians, raising the stakes just a little higher. And the auditions have been whittled down from two days to one, making for a power-packed concentration of all-local music squeezed into fifteen-minute increments. But the music isn't only local. A lot of it is made by virgin--or at least rearranged--local talent, making the tryouts as much of a scene for the musicians as they are for the spectators.
"There's a buzz in the air. Backstage is a big holding bin--it's all musicians," says Paul Galaxy, who leads retro-rockabilly band the Galactix. "You might see fresh bands you never saw before--even bands that aren't even playing at clubs yet." Tom Lord, manager of Boulder's eclectic rock/ improv band Turnsol, agrees. "Every year there are new bands, and other bands are new just in terms of the lineup," he says. "Some have old people from established bands swapping out and doing totally different kinds of things with other bands."
When you have only fifteen minutes to shoot your wad, choosing the right mate-rial can be tricky. "One of our big debates," Lord says, "was what do we play? Do we play originals? Do we play covers?" Turnsol bandmember Scott Willhite explains further: "The fair is a party-weekend event. People come wanting to have fun--they're not so interested in hearing your creative stuff, your ten-minute improv numbers."
Playing the auditions might not get your band into the People's Fair, but it could get you a club gig. It also allows established bands to size up possible opening acts. The veterans are looking for how bands handle themselves on and off the stage. "That's one way you can tell the amateurs from the guys who do it all the time--by how fast they get on and get off, what their set-up time is like," Galaxy says. "If your opening band takes forever setting up and it cuts into your time, you don't ask them to open for you again."
Byron Shaw of the popular ska band Judge Roughneck says playing the fair can be great for bands hoping to expand their audience. But auditioning for that chance, he adds, requires a band to strive toward a winning combination of businesslike proficiency and pure charisma. "If a band has stage attire, wear it," he advises. "Be as professional as you can. Play out, have a good time, and try and relax."
In the end, Shaw says, it really all boils down to whether or not you make good music. "Last year there was a guy there with aqua spandex on, wearing white boots and a leather jacket with fringe--I don't think he got picked." Shaw's final advice? "Leave the spandex at home."
Capitol Hill People's Fair Entertainment Auditions, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday, March 29, The Church, 1160 Lincoln Street, free.