King Richard's Fair - blogger-turned-booker Richard Bouchard gives the lay of the land for local music at TTs
Whether or not you know him personally, Richard Bouchard is as ubiquitous at Boston shows as the late Billy Ruane. The Merrimack Valley native is best known for the immense amount of work he did for the recently closed Boston Band Crush music blog where he made a name for himself for his tireless support of the Boston rock scene. Bouchard is also notable for being a consummate hat-man, and in my book is noteworthy for being one of the most passionate music scenesters in town who is not in cahoots with his own musical projects. Bouchard annouced this week that he's going to be assuming the role of local booker at Cambridge's TT the Bears where he hopes to fill in nights that are not occupied by national touring acts with the best the Boston rock scene has to offer. Here are some chestnuts from our chat.
So what exactly are you doing over at TTs?
I'm the local booker. Bowery Boston will still be bringing in national shows - probably filing them with some Boston bands when possible as well, like they have been. I'll be working for TT's to do all-local shows and fill in dates that Bowery leaves empty.
You're not in a band, right?
I have no musical talent beyond enjoying it! I enjoy it like a "son of a gun" though.
How long have you been in Boston?
I've been coming to shows in Boston from various suburbs since the late '90s, but I only officially moved within the city limits for a couple years. Once a friend gave me a Sheila Divine CD around '98, I started coming in pretty much every weekend. Then during the week, especially when I was doing Band Crush.
Aside from the Divine, what Boston Bands did you really love in the late '90s/ early '00s?
Taxpayer was up there for sure, I liked the Good North and the Information. That bled into early '00s, but that was my gateway time. Buffalo Tom, all that.
Definitely. The more anthemic, the better.
One of the things that I always loved about TTs back in (former booker) Randi's day was the randomness of some of the music. Like, bands touring that were sort of past their buzz would end up at TTs. Also rootsy stuff, which I like.
And that's part of my plan, as it exists so far, is to try to have that again, and to reach out to some of those older bands and mix them with the current young crop when I can.
It's also the club's 40th anniversary this year, so I hope to work from that angle when I can.
Important question--What do you think of the concept of the 'local band? Is it viable? Or does everyone have to want to be national?
I talk a lot with friends about the local label. Mostly that I don't like it very much. There are Boston bands and Detroit bands and Buffalo bands, and on and on. Every band is a local band. There are levels, and some bands break through to [national], but everyone measures success differently. The internet makes everything smaller, so you don't really HAVE to tour nationally, bar to bar, to get people to hear you.
Is there anything wrong with not being that ambitious? Actually, that might not be worded well because let's face it---filling TTs is ambitious whether you want to be national or not.
Filling a 330 capacity room is definitely ambitious for a single band, even for 4 bands sometimes. I think that bands and bookers need to understand the draw - if a band can only bring 10 or 15 people, then there's nothing wrong with playing a smaller room. That's better in fact, because it seems fuller. I would rather see a band play two awesome shows per year than 10 mediocre ones. Great music is the key, and that's always been the case I think.
So what do you have planned for TTs?
The general plan is to take a look at the calendar and fill it in with some (and I hate the word) eclectic shows; ones that draw fans from more than one group of fans. It can't always be 4 bands who share a fanbase. A big room like that needs to have people coming from all over. Being eclectic is hard, but I do think there's a lot of cross-pollination in Boston. I think there are more small scenes than big cliques (like their used to be), and I think they are more open to each other.
It's hard for me to be objective about scenes. I don't go to shows to be social.
I just want to stand and face the music for a couple bands and get inspired.
I do hate when people try to talk to me when I'm enjoying a band. I love talking to people, don't get me wrong, but if I've got my eyes rolled back into my head swaying along to a song, it's not the time.
Is there stuff you're not going to book, even if it can fill the room?
Sure there is. I mean, I could sell out the room lots if it was all Dave Matthews and Phish cover bands, but I think there's a responsibility to the club and the music community here to not do something like that. Other than that, if something is good, even if it's not entirely my bag, it should get a chance if an entire night can be made of it. One thing I try to explain to people, especially when complaining about music, is that you need to be able to admit that even though you don't like something, it still might be good.
I'm sure there are scenes that feel overlooked and are probably right to feel that way. I think when we're talking about TT's specifically, it's always been a rock club. There's a lot under the rock umbrella, but that's what it is. I don't know anything about EDM or hip hop, and I told Kevin and Bonney that when I spoke to them. They want the club to stick to its roots primarily, and I agree with that, so that's what we'll do.
Any advice to younger bands on pitching shows?
Keep it short and to the point, and be honest. I'll listen to anything, as long as you make it easy for me to hear it, and if you know your draw has been about 20 people for your last few shows, say that. I'd rather put someone on a bill knowing that going in than think they can bring 75 people on the reg and it doesn't happen. You should be selling out 200 person rooms before moving on to 300-400 person venues.
One last question, with the Sinclair here now, and All Asia moving to a more prominent location, why do we need more clubs in Cambridge?
I think we need more 300 and below venues, myself. I think there are millions of bands here and they need somewhere to play. I think that more clubs would see a decrease in room fees in order to stay competitive, so that's good for bands.
Are you a Boston band interested in booking a show at TT the Bears? Contact Richard Bouchard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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About the authorJonathan Donaldson is a Boston-based musician, writer, and second-generation music junkie. An Ohio native who moved to Boston in 1998, Jonathan's musical loves include R&B, psych, punk, bubblegum, country, electronic, More »
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