Scott Campbell has booked over 2,000 dates in the past eight years at the 15th Street Tavern and his own Larimer Lounge. The guy knows what works and what doesn't in the concert biz. So a few months ago, when friends in Slim Cessna's Auto Club asked him to help them find an effective booking agent, Campbell thought he could be of service. As luck would have it, he knew someone who fit the bill perfectly -- although he didn't recognize it at the time.
"I pitched a lot of the bigger agents that I knew; they all got back to me and said their rosters were full," Campbell recalls. "And I started thinking, 'This is ridiculous; these guys are awesome.' I mean, they have a great draw in Denver, they've done two national tours, and they have a good label -- which is what agents always look for in a band before they agree to take them on."
After an exhaustive and unsuccessful search, Campbell took matters into his own hands. He told the band's members that if he couldn't find anyone to book Slim Cessna, he'd do it himself.
So barely a year after opening the Lounge with his partner, Mark Gebhardt, Campbell has decided to try his hand as a booking agent, too. Having handled innumerable contracts over the years, he can spot all the pitfalls and loopholes, and he's determined to put that know-how to work. After choosing a name for his upstart agency, Highway Booking, he set up a Web site and began making calls, setting up Slim's first tour -- a two-week jaunt across the heartland, through Canada and down the Eastern seaboard that kicked off this past Friday.
And Highway has already signed on to work with two more high-profile indie bands: Blusom and Year Future, the new outfit by Sonny Kay (ex-Angel Hair, VSS and founder of GSL Records). Campbell had run into Kay, an old college friend, at the CMJ conference in New York this fall; soon after, Kay called Campbell to say he needed an agent for his new act, and just like that, Highway Booking got busy.
Campbell has brought two agents on board -- Brian Hendrick, a recent graduate of the University of Colorado at Denver's music-business program who interned at The Firm, a high-profile management company; and John Metzger, a Larimer Lounge employee -- and plans to turn many of the day-to-day booking duties over to the duo during the next six months so that he can concentrate on the Lounge again. In the meantime, the three will be working the phones in concert, doing a lot of networking -- a tool that's been instrumental in Highway Booking's success thus far. "More than anything, what we're looking for is people in Denver that know people in other cities that book clubs," Campbell says. "We're trying to build our database and would love to hear from them."
But while Campbell is eager to expand Highway's roster, he wants to make sure the young company grows organically -- developing relationships with specific labels or picking up acts he's worked with in the past that are signed but may need an agent. "You've heard that saying: 'The music business is all about relationships.' It's just how well you know people and how long you've been around. My biggest fear," he adds, then laughs, "is that one of our clients will not be happy with the tours we book for them and they'll dump us -- which is always a possibility with any agent."
Given Campbell's track record, I doubt he has anything to worry about.
Nod your head to this: Cowtown's hip-hop fans have a new reason to get hyped. Ginger Perry and the folks from Sherbert magazine have put together a compelling lineup of hip-hop and interactive art at the Blue Mule on Sunday nights. The as-yet-unnamed event is hosted by the Break Mechanics and features the turntable skills of DJs Footer and Idiom. There's also a weekly graffiti exhibition by members of the Sherbert crew, who paint four-by-four plywood panels with brushes rather than aerosol cans and sell the pieces at the end of each night.
As if serving up dope rhymes and beats weren't enough to satiate local heads, Perry and company have come up with a little food for the soul: chicken and waffles. On the last Sunday of every month, Perry and girlfriends Jenna, Alli and Rachel dress up like '50s housewives and deliver birds and batter for two bucks a plate. And that's just the start of the theme nights, according to Perry, who splits her time between gigs as a DJ spinning down tempo and her day job as marketing and promotions director for the Comedy Works. One recent Sunday, Perry and her posse dressed up as hunters and killed stuffed animals, then handed out fruit roll-ups -- you know, like politically correct, mad-cow-free beef jerky. And a few Sundays from now, in a night conceived by guest DJ Ivy and his partner in crime, Psychonaut, the theme will be "Ron Minty" -- lampooning Ivy's high school principal. Perry promises that the event's namesake will even make an appearance.
"One of our friends who's an actor dresses up like Ron Minty," says Perry. "He does little ceremonies between the band and the DJs, where he announces how the lesbian football team has been doing, what's up with the bi-cheerleading squad -- it's like a high school recital."
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Lesbian football? Bisexual cheerleaders? Things have changed since I was in school. But change is good, especially when you're trying to keep folks interested. And there's plenty to keep people coming back to the Blue Mule. Next month, Perry plans to add more live hip-hop acts to the bill. "I don't want to do anything else that anybody else is already doing," she says.
Midget breakdancing and pizza, anyone?
Upbeats and beatdowns: On Thursday, January 8, Maraca 5-0, Goodnight Tulsa, Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams and Eric Shiveley & the Deserters hit the Gothic. Then on Friday, January 9, Project 12:01 and Hell Camino rev things up at the Lion's Lair, while the Cowboy Curse, the Royal We and the Affairs get worked up at the 15th Street Tavern.
And this just in: Next month, Big Head Todd and the Monsters will drop their eighth album, Crimes of Passion; to celebrate the release, the cabeza grande himself, Todd Park Mohr, has announced a series of "Back to the Roots" shows at some of the smaller venues the trio played before making it -- ahem -- big. The series kicks off Tuesday, February 10, at Herman's Hideaway, followed by a show at the Aggie Theater in Fort Collins on Wednesday, February 11, and a wrap-up at the Boulder Theater on Thursday, February 12. Tickets for each performance go on sale at 11 a.m. Saturday, January 17; they'll be available only at the individual venue's box office or Web site. Special Heads-up: No lines allowed before 8 a.m.