Baltimore Music Conference Wrap Up

This weekend was the 2008 Baltimore Music Conference. Like other music conferences the days were filled with learning opportunities for musicians, and the nights were filled with music. On Friday, I was a panelist discussing podcasting and webcasting in the afternoon, and performing with Atomic Brother at showcase at night. I’ve been to, and performed at, many conferences and this one was pretty much like the rest except it had to be the smallest, most chaotic event I’ve ever attended. Not to say that this was a bad experience, just chaotic. The BMC is still young and growing, and working out the kinks. Lisa Suit, the organizer couldn’t have been more helpful and accommodating, which was refreshing. We got lots of exposure, being featured in the b’s “Baltimore Music Conference: 10 Artists To Watch” article, and the Examiner’s what to do Friday night column and our performance being filmed for several webcasts. Plus, I got some good tips on touring and performing from Martin Atkins, became a fan of a new band, and made some new connections.

The conference panels and seminars were held at the Hilton in the Inner Harbor. It was kind of difficult finding where to check-in due to lack of signage, but that was cleared up later in the day. It was also difficult to know what and where everything was going on. There was no program distributed, however, the seminar schedule and showcase schedule was available on the website and printed in the local entertainment paper, the b, which I think could have been distributed to all attendees to make things easier. We didn’t get to take in the panels and seminars to know how they were but I was looking forward to Martin Atkins’ Tour:Smart seminar, but I was speaking on the Podcasting/Webasting panel at the same time. I did catch the last half of his keynote presentation, earlier, which I thought was brilliant and touched on some topics he would go over later in his seminar. It was a shame that the rest of the band came later in the evening and couldn’t see him. I got to meet Martin after the keynote to thank him for writing his excellent book (Every musician that tours or wants to tour should own Tour:Smart. I even bought one for James in Atomic Brother!) and he gave me the companion DVD for free. There were many goth/industrial musicians, like myself, eager to meet the founder of Pigface and Invisible Records, that  had played drums for giants like Public Image Limited, Ministry, Killing Joke and Nine Inch Nails. and he didn’t disappoint. He was very nice and cool to everyone; almost fatherly.

Anyway, my panel session was very informal, and ran long since there was no one to stop us – apologies to the presenters of the concert photography panel, “You Shoulda Been In Pictures.” I heard later that Martin Atikins’ seminar had started late and was cut short.This was my first speaking engagement and despite being a performer for so long, I was kinda nervous. After I met the moderator, Richard Cruit of Xurban-Nation, and realized that this would be an informal discussion, with everyone in couches and us in big armchairs, the nerves melted away. The attendees ranged from experienced with publishing videos to YouTube, budding video journalist and those that had no experience at all. In what seemed no time at all, we covered the different types of podcasting; the multitude of webcasting platforms, and how accessible and easy it is today, with sites like Richard’s Xurban-Nation, Ustream and Mogulus; planning, filming and editing; how important it is to brand your podcast; tags and keywords. I’m sure we covered more, but that’s all I can remember. Finishing after 4, I hooked up with James, went back to the hotel to meet Greg, did a quick change got bite to eat and then off to the venue for load-in at 7:30.

The venue, Bedrock, is located in a pretty shady part of town, and the locals warned us not to walk alone, or leave anything unattended or in open view in the van. I checked out the place online and found out it’s normally a hip-hop and dance club, with DJ and MC battles. So we should have known things weren’t going to go so well. The sound man was completely on edge because there were so many bands, and was worried about handling so many change-overs and the possibility of so many drum kits. But, things worked out in his favor since there were only 2 bands that used drums. The bands were mostly pretty nice and helpful to each other, especially Marrow, from San Francisco. But there was one band that made it miserable for everyone.

I’m not big on slagging bands, but if you read my blog, you know that there is a certain protocol bands on the road should follow to make working with each other easier. This one band, Lunic, from New York, were complete prats and pissed me off to no end. They were scheduled to go on at 9 but didn’t finish setting up and were nowhere to be found as it got close to show time. The sound man found the bass player and told him that they had to finish setting up and get to playing. But, according to the sound man, the bass player walked away and ignored him. We were all told that the night would be running on schedule, and if you started late you wouldn’t get to play your full set – all bands would be unplugged if they ran over time. Around 9:15 the band strolls into the place claiming that they were told they go on at 9:30. Lisa, the organizer, was very good at keeping all of the bands informed about the schedule and any and all changes. We were all on the same emails which say that they were on from 9-9:40. These guys were full of crap. They finished setting up and went on at 9:30. Come 9:45, they were told they were done, but they kept playing, and ignoring two other attempts to get them off stage. They were now eating into Atomic Brother’s set. Not cool. The sound man came on the mic and told them to get off, telling them they were eating into our set and not being fair to the other bands, which pissed them off. The audience at this point was only other bands, and there was nobody there to see them, and very few people responded to their music. When that happens you really shouldn’t keep playing your full set. You keep it short so you don’t empty the place, and if the new people liked your music, they’ll be more likely to buy the CD and come back to see you again, after they learned the songs. After a fair bit of complaining on-stage, and looking like assholes, they finally stopped, but took their sweet time packing up.  They had a bass, a keyboard and violin, and they stretched packing up to ten minutes. The singer, who played keys, didn’t lift a finger to pack up her stuff, she made the bass player do it.  

This was our first time playing a show with Greg since 2006 and we only had one rehearsal with him before the gig. It was amazing how well he knew the music from the album. So well, in fact, that it kind of threw us off. We hadn’t played the songs the way they were recorded since we recorded them, and Rob and Mike played interpretations of the songs. But, it was real fun doing the songs that way. During our set it became very obvious that this was a hip hop club. People came in, heard us and walked right out. During the set we watched as the audience kept getting smaller. There was a little rush of people but it turned out that they were there for the dance music showcase downstairs.

We stuck around to watch Marrow and headed back to the hotel and to grab a bite before calling it a night. While walking around the city we went by a few other places, like Fletcher’s, that were hosting showcases. These were all hip-hop and DJ events held in the rock clubs, which were full of all the tattooed punks and rockers. None of them made it out to the hip-hop club to watch the rock bands, but went to the rock club to watch the rappers and DJs. It was very odd. The rockers wouldn’t leave their club, but the hip-hop audience went wherever their music was. maybe rock is dead. Talking to a few people, and reading in a paper, I learned that there is no rock scene in Baltimore, and if you do get an audience it is non-responsive. I’m not sure how much I believe that. I’ve played Baltimore with rock bands, in rock clubs, to people that never heard of us before, and did very well. That’s going back a few years, so maybe things have changed a bit.