Events » Events Feature

Who's Buying? — Booking Music at Local Venues

Competition among local talent buyers heats up as the weather cools



Phoenix with Chairlift

10 p.m. Thu., Oct. 1

Tipitina's, 501 Napoleon Ave., 895-8477;

Tickets $16 In advance, $18 day of show

Andrew Bird with St. Vincent

10 p.m. Sat., Oct. 3

Tickets $22

Tipitina's, 501 Napoleon Ave., 895-8477;

Breaking out of the indie underground, Phoenix is one of the bigger - acts to hit Tipitina's this week.
  • Breaking out of the indie underground, Phoenix is one of the bigger acts to hit Tipitina's this week.

When most concertgoers think of a night out at Tipitina's, the soundtrack is homegrown: Bonerama, Bruce Daigrepont, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Galactic. Pop/rock outsiders like Chicago's Andrew Bird, Brooklyn's St. Vincent, Paris' Phoenix? Less so.

  "I really wanted to do something different (this fall)," says Lindsay Adler, a nine-year Tipitina's veteran and former general manager who took over as talent buyer in January. Looking over Tip's bookings the past couple of years, Adler realized the national tours that used to counterbalance the local-heavy lineups had grown fewer and farther between.

  "Before the storm we were a lot more competitive," she says. "There started to become things that I wasn't that excited about, and it seemed other people felt the same way. I really wanted to make it my goal for the fall to really have a calendar that popped, and try to tempt some of these bigger acts. A band like Phoenix, some people have never heard of them, but they're huge on the underground/indie scene."

  The streamlined French pop band is flying high in 2009, with a roundly lauded album (May release Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, on V2), a swing through the late-night TV circuit (including Saturday Night Live in April) and placement of hit single "1901" on film soundtracks (New York, I Love You) and in commercials (Cadillac). On Thursday, the band comes to New Orleans for the first time — and thanks to Adler's efforts, it's not coming to the expected spots: House of Blues, One Eyed Jacks or Republic. (Asked if she "stole" the show from another club, Adler replied, "I can only say there was some fierce competition. I was really happy to get it.")

  Phoenix isn't the only big fish in Tip's net this fall, nor the most far-flung (see: Os Mutantes, the Beatles of Brazil's 1960s Tropicália movement, Oct. 17). On Saturday, less than 48 hours after the likely "1901" encore, St. Vincent — aka Annie Clark, a prodigal singer/guitarist who's played in the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens' band — will take the stage, followed by Andrew Bird.

  Adler can barely contain her excitement over that booking, and rightfully so; Bird's last show in New Orleans, in February, sold out the HOB. (Both venues accommodate roughly 800.) "Sorry, Sonny, but I was very happy to get that show," she says, referring to Sonny Schneidau, HOB's talent buyer and a friend of Adler's. "I'm sure other clubs feel the same way. Any time I get a show that another club had [before], that's always a real 'aha!' thrill for me."

  Figuring out why bands play which venues is an equation involving variables of timing, finances, personal preferences, projected draws and, not least, talent — that of the booking agents for artists and the buyers for clubs. Scott Simoneaux, currently the talent buyer for One Eyed Jacks, got his start booking shows at the Hi-Ho Lounge and has curated various-size venues in every conceivable New Orleans market: the Blue Nile, Howlin' Wolf, TwiRoPa, Republic. In May, when he learned the position at Jacks was available, he jumped.

  "I've always thought it was the coolest venue in town," Simoneaux says of the 400-capacity theater. "I think that's the opinion of a lot of people in town. It's got visibility outside of New Orleans, which is good. Agents know what it is, bands know what it is. It's got a cool reputation, and it fits well with the type of talent we try to book in there."

  Jacks' fall lineup is the first that truly bears Simoneaux's stamp. This week alone brings five recommended shows with nine vital and varied outfits, headlined by stalwart rockers the Minus 5 (featuring R.E.M.'s Peter Buck) and the Walkmen (with openers Here We Go Magic and Brass Bed) on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively; bicoastal buzz bands Wye Oak (from Baltimore) and Blitzen Trapper (Portland, Ore.), together on Sunday; and the Sounds, Sweden's female-fronted answer to Phoenix, on Monday. The thick schedule is a fair representation of the quality coming to Jacks regularly through November.

  At the 100-capacity Circle Bar, Jason Songe has the opposite problem. He turns the limitation into an advantage by focusing on up-and-coming acts — e.g. Los Angeles' Henry Clay People (10 p.m. Sunday), whose label, Autumn Tone, is run by Simoneaux's business partner and Aquarium Drunkard blogger Justin Gage. "[We're] trying to let them have a place to start," says Songe, who got his start as an intern for Simoneaux's Infectious Publicity and a street-teamer for Adler at Tip's.

  "It really is (a family)," Adler says. "We're competing, but we're also all friends. ... We care about each other, and we're all trying to make the music scene in New Orleans bigger and better."

Add a comment