The Road Most Traveled

A couple of indie bands stopping off in Eugene.

Friday evening at the Hi-Fi Lounge to see friends from Portland play a show. The Hi-Fi is generally my spot for live music these days. Not to take away from the other venues in Eugene, but they do a great job with getting touring acts to come through. Old Nick’s is my second spot, especially when I want to see some of the other acts with heavier sound. That’s not what this article is about though.

The show on the 16th is just an example of a trend I have noticed over the last year or so.

The line-up:

A four band night.

I think four bands is one band too many. However, they’re all good bands. Novacane and Maci, the two local acts brought in most of the audience.

Two local, two out-of-towners. How do you order the bands in Eugene? This was a textbook example of a lopsided set order.

In most of the cities I’ve lived, when you go to a show, the order of the bands reflects the “status” of the bands. You play last, you are the headliner. Easy peasy.

Novacane was up first, and they played to a pretty good crowd. These guys are fantastic. This was no surprise. They are such a good band. I hope they go places.

Maci and her band take the stage and also plays to a solid crowd. She has some good songs. A killer band backing her up doesn’t hurt. I’ve seen her play twice before, she’s good. She has a couple of shows coming up, go check her out.

I have been following And And And for eight years and I am just not accustomed to seeing them play a show without people spilling out onto the sidewalk. So it took me by surprise when half the audience left before they took the stage. I didn’t even see the musicians from the other bands in the audience.

You could hear the crickets when Run the Risk took the stage. And I’m not talking about Buddy Holly‘s band, the venue just emptied out. It wasn’t very late, it’s just I don’t think the band had a fan base show up. While the band was not my cup of tea, they are good musicians.

This is not an uncommon occurrence in Eugene.

A little “inside baseball.”

It’s common practice for the house, booker, and/or promoter to reorder sets to counter Eugene music fans’ proclivity to avoid bands they don’t know.

I was surprised by the order that evening, knowing how things work here. I don’t know how the decision is made at the Hi-Fi, but a four-band bill and two of the bands are from out-of-town. You have to sandwich the travellers between the two local bands.

That’s how I would do it anyway.

You can’t swing a dead SM58 without hitting a killer band.

There are so many talented musicians in this town, it’s out of hand. Great bands playing every genre you could think of. We are lucky. I think people should appreciate it more.

Some might say we don’t have enough music venues. Those people are wrong. I will concede, there are not near enough house venues for such a young population that Eugene has. I suppose there aren’t as many these days, because there are too many old people whining to the authorities.

We have plenty of places to see live music in town, there’s just a shortage of people going to the venues we have.

I have to come clean, I have not been going to enough lately, and I hope to change that this winter. I hate being apart of the problem, but I’ll try harder.

With all of the great musicians, there is a lot of crossover. You’ll see musicians from different bands playing in different projects together. That’s great. It keeps things interesting.

There is also a tendency for the same bands to routinely play on bills together. This is mostly a side effect of the clique culture. I argue that the cliques play a part with why people don’t go to shows unless they know the bands. It’s more complicated than it needs to be.

Will Eugene become a stop for indie touring bands on the L.A. →← Seattle run?

I caught Berg (Surfs Drugs) on the Eugene Weekly What’s Happening  podcast the other day. He told Will Kennedy that touring bands need a spot on that I-5 tour route. Eugene should be able to fill that need. Berg is confident that Eugene could fill that niche, even with indie bands doing smaller tours.

I am afraid I can’t agree with Berg. I fear that Eugene is starting to build a reputation that tells bands from Portland and Seattle, that playing Eugene is just not worth the effort. If no one comes to shows when they play, then what’s the use?

Is this a long term trend? Is there something that can be done?

I don’t know. I really want to see things turn around. I am not even sure where the problem is. I have no idea how to address what I have been noticing.

Everything I ranted above does not apply to national touring acts. Fans are showing up to those shows.

Why does this even matter?

I hear people go on and on about Eugene’s great music and art scene. If people want to keep these few music venues around, they have to make a concerted effort. It’s that simple.

Ah, what do I know?

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