The Real Battle of the Bands

Some time back Racket wrote about the trouble nightclubs have filling Tuesday-night slots and the way one club, Paesanos, took care of the problem. Paesanos had what seemed to be a win-win-win plan for themselves, local and regional bands and midweek clubbers: a battle of the bands competition with four bands contending every Tuesday for a crack at what was purported to be a $4,000 cash prize.

The reasoning went like this: The bands would bring in all their fans, in part to help them with the "audience participation" component of the judging, and also to swell Paesanos' coffers. The bands would get exposure, and industry mooks like Racket would have a chance to see a bunch of new bands in one fell swoop on a night that would otherwise be dead.

But in the end, Paesanos' management of the event and tabulation of the prize money turned out to be as puzzlingas Louisiana Street accountancy.

Rocker Liviya Compean classifies her experience with the battle of the bands as both "shitty" and "ridiculous." Compean was told by club owner James Cole to play a 90-minute set. When she stepped off the stage, one of the members of hard rock band Prison Love Scene was furious. Compean says he went nose to nose with her and jabbed her in the chest with his finger, screaming that she had played too long. When one of Compean's fans rallied to her defense, the Prison Love Scenester told the woman to "shut the fuck up" and told management to "get this fucking dyke out of my face."

Which they did. "Instead of taking that guy out, they took her out," Compean complains bitterly. "This girl had paid money and drank in that bar and brought about 20 people with her." Compounding matters was the management's subsequent callousness. "They belittled what I had to say, but I was like, 'I was there. I saw what happened,' " she says. "But then they almost went as far as to say that the slurs were okay because my friend did look like a guy."

Furthermore, Compean says, the club's sound sucked: "That's a great room, but unfortunately there's nothing but low-end. Everything sounds distorted. I've got a taping of us there, and it's all low-end."

If the room isn't the problem, it's generally the guy running the board. Racket didn't administer a field sobriety test, but three of the acts that played there -- Compean, Pavlov's Dogs and Michael -- all claimed that the sound guy was shit-faced.

Michael Flores is the front man for Michael, the band that eventually won the contest. He considers his victory a little tainted, since Paesanos' sozzled sound man gave them a bit of a leg up on their competition in the finals. "The night we played [against] Pavlov's Dogs, the sound guy was drunk off his ass," Flores recalls. "He was hammered, completely hammered. Finally their lead singer got sick of it. He had two more songs left to play, but he just quit. He did this real big sarcastic bow and left the stage. It was hilarious. He shot himself in the foot with the judges, but I could understand his frustration."

Pavlov's front man Ryan Holley picks up the story. "We're a five-piece -- we've got a sax player, two vocalists, two guitars, bass and drums," he says from his home in Austin. "The guy's like, 'I have five channels. I have five microphones.' And then he was so fucked up that he put three mikes on the drums, and that was it. So we were left with one vocal mike and a sax mike. It was really pathetic."

Pavlov's set was an unmitigated disaster. "I have a 15-passenger van, and we brought up about ten people with us, and they all said it sounded terrible," he says. "We had really bad feedback problems. I got so pissed off about all the feedback that I turned the monitors around backwards in the middle of my set."

The problems with Paesanos continued even after the competition was over. "I had heard that the original booty was three or four grand," says Flores. "Then it got bumped to two grand. The night we won we were given one grand, and we were told that Jägermeister was gonna send a $1,000 check to the club for us in about a week or so. A week turned into a few months, and we started wondering what was going on. Turns out that James is having to foot the bill himself. Supposedly he's gonna give us the grand in $200 increments. They were boasting about all these sponsors and stuff, but all we got from Jägermeister was a couple of snowboards. I'd rather have the extra $1,000 as promised."  

Yes, in Texas especially, one would rather have a stack of C-notes than a couple of snowboards. But Jägermeister spokesman Tom Bruno says that while the company does sponsor bands -- local rap-rockers Faceplant, for example -- it has never sponsored a battle of the bands. "If we sponsor a battle of the bands at one club, then every club in Texas would want us to do the same for them," Bruno explains.

Bruno says he got involved with Paesanos when then-co-owner Malcolm Stocker called him in a panic and accused Jägermeister's music promo guy Rich Zeiler of reneging on a verbal sponsorship deal. "This battle of the bands that we were supposed to sponsor -- [Zeiler] never committed to do that because that's not what our company does," says Bruno. "So when Malcolm called with his back against the wall, I said, 'Malcolm, I didn't put you in this problem, I don't know what I can do to get you out of it.' So I sent him some point-of-sale stuff and that was that." Thus, the snowboards.

Even without a Jägermeister sponsorship, the battle of the bands should have generated a substantial amount of money. The contest ran from December through March, a cover was collected every Tuesday, and the bands worked hard to get their fans to come out midweek. Holley even brought people in from Austin. "I have no idea what happened to that money -- it was weeks' worth of it wherever it went," he says. "They should have at least paid for our gas to get up there or something. It was a Tuesday night. People had to take off work. We give up certain things to be in a band, but when it comes to shit like that, we really got taken advantage of."

Compean agrees. "We packed the place at $5 a head on a Tuesday night," she says. "We could have done that at some other club and kept all that cash."

In Paesanos' defense, the sound guy has been given his walking papers, according to Flores, and Malcolm Stocker is no longer with the club, either. Jason Smith of Strangelight reported no major problems with the club during the competition, and neither Flores nor Holley thinks that James Cole is a bad person. "I think James is a great guy," says Flores. "I've had no problems with him at all on a personal level. I just don't like getting the runaround."

Cole failed to return repeated phone calls. Nor did he respond when Racket left his card with Paesanos employee Jason Lowery, who happens to be Cole's brother.

Rumor has it that the club is soon to launch another band battle. "That's what has me frustrated," says Flores. "They haven't paid me yet, and they're starting up another one."

Scuttlebutt Caboose

Perhaps the Sidecar Pub People's Choice Band Challenge will fare better. Starting August 6, original bands will compete for $2,500 and 16 session-hours at Sound Arts Studio. In contrast to the Paesanos event, which had a panel of judges, the Sidecar's battle will be judged by audience vote alone. The finals are December 10. One thing is certain: There will be no problems with the sound man. "Ricky Torres over at the Sidecar is the best sound guy I've ever worked with," says Michael Flores. "If he was available I would hire him and take him on the road with me. He's awesome." Interested bands should call Peron Einkauf at 281-807-5188 or e-mail…Pop-rocker Joel Stein is back in town for a July 26 gig at his old stomping ground, OvationsTony Avitia's Broken Note Records releases a new compilation CD at Fitzgerald's on July 26. Small Craft Advisory, Gringo Star, Digifunk and Hobble are on the bill, but I-45 has pulled out…Contrary to what was printed in this space last week, the Texas Psych Fest is this weekend (July 26 and 27), not last weekend. Sorry to those of you we sent to Rudyard's a week early. We know you were eager to see Scott Grimm's public humiliation…Austin's Weary Boys, current residents at the Continental Club on Wednesdays, have parted ways with drummer Cade Callahan, who is now banging the traps behind Don Walser. Callahan should consider a career as a front man -- he can really sing those old honky-tonkers…Don Walsh of Rusted Shut recently called Racket to wish the Press a happy and successful Music Awards Showcase and heartily applaud all of the contestants who beat out his infamous band to become nominees in the noise/industrial category. "Well, shucks. They must just be better than us," he said. "We'll try harder this year." Just kidding. Actually, after a little initial confusion as to whether he was speaking to Racket or his answering machine, he told us to jam our showcase up our ass as far as it could go and hoped Racket and all of his workmates would "fuck off and die."  

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