After 121 shows touring and at home this year with my five projects – Sharkmuffin, Gustaf, Gesserit, Kino Kimino, and Ex-Girlfriends (RIP) – here are my picks for the best DIY promoters, collectives and venues of 2018! We chatted with everyone about their favorite shows, stories, and overall reflections on what they’ve accomplished and are most proud of from 2018.
Cindy Cane Productions
Queen of the Scene
“I’ve been super lucky to work with too many bands to pick a favorite, but the Queen of the Scene Northside Festival showcase was insane this summer. I was fortunate enough to do three cross-country tours in 2018. I was able check out a lot of places that I have never been and also a lot of places that I have been. For that I am super grateful.
My favorite part about booking is curating shows. It’s easy to just throw shows together but they work better when you put some thought into it. The most challenging part is finding the time to put some thought into it.” – Tom Lescovich, Cindy Cane Productions
Jersey City, NJ
“With a lack of venues in Downtown Jersey City, I first started booking shows at 58 Gallery from 2008 to 2013. The space was a former glass workshop with a garage, a front room gallery and back room that we outfitted with an insanely heavy ‘portable’ stage, intermittent heating and a sometimes fickle bathroom. Things expanded for me by booking outdoor festival and events in Jersey City. Most notably for me has been the annual Ghost of Uncle Joe’s Halloween fundraiser in a Historic Cemetery. Finally, in 2018, FM – a 70’s themed restaurant – was transformed, and for the first time in my JC booking career, I was working at a legitimate venue. The upside is not having to pack everything into a Toyota Prius; the downside is telling someone to not get too crazy.” – Anthony “Dancing Tony” Susco
“We started the Electric Church in 2014 in East Austin. Our greatest achievement so far has been creating a space where an up-and-coming music scene in Austin can develop. Over time we have seen a revival in a DIY culture that has resurfaced and brought with it new music and given bands opportunities to flourish that traditional venues would not have. We also curate open jams with different themes and leave it open to all to come and experiment musically and meet other like-minded types. From this we have seen bands form and people come together. We also have created a music festival we co-host with Sahara Lounge (another Eastside venue) called Saturnalia Music Festival. 2018 was our second year with the fest so watching it all come together has been pretty awesome for us. Same goes for our light shows and artists. [Our resident artist] Fez [Moreno] has been able to find other light show artists and has created a small community around it.” – Electric Church’s founders
King Pizza Records
“2018 was totally bonkers – between Pizzafest 5 and The Psychic Luau 3, we kept ourselves busy with festivals but there was so much community, killer riffs, and dancing it’s kind of tough to take it all in. At the Glass Slipper release show, a bunch of his buds picked up Dave (the frontman) and crowdsurfed him. The look on his face of both horror and excitement is definitely burned into my mind.
Stay tuned in 2019 for the new Daddies tape release show on 1/12.” – Greg Hanson of King Pizza
“I recently graduated from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS with a degree in African American Studies. I was raised by KU’s college radio station KJHK, our local record store Love Garden, and our beloved Replay Lounge. All of which I worked at for multiple years throughout college. Inspired and motivated by Lawrence’s already thriving music scene I wanted to grow something that was my own. With a few trials and errors I began my own booking and production company, Petri Productions. I booked under Sheridan James, Replay Lounge, for my first year as well as booking house shows and acoustic sets in coffee shops. I quickly learned all-ages, accessible venues weren’t much of an option in our community. I’ve booked over 90 shows since moving to Lawrence and continue to book in multiple venues though I am the primary talent buyer and booking agent at the Schoolhouse, a DIY all-ages venue as far North of town as one can go.
The very first show at the Schoolhouse was on August 21, 2017, the day the Solar Eclipse passed our very path in Lawrence, KS. Paul DeGeorge of Wonder Fair pitched the idea that we host an all ages event with Downtown Boys in this old schoolhouse North of town. After that show and creating a relationship with the owner, Jennifer Roth, the magic hasn’t really seemed to stop since then. We’ve hosted over 15 all-ages shows in the last year at the Schoolhouse including Girlpool, Palm, Screaming Females, Chastity Belt, Lala Lala, Waxahatchee, Anna St. Louis, Diet Cig, and more.
This year Petri’s events were included in 33 Reasons Why Kansas City is a Great Place to Be Right Now in KC’s The Pitch, ‘Best of 2018′ magazine with an article [that called us an’ ‘all ages paradise‘.
All of the shows hold their own beauty and individuality but a show that I think shifted our community into a new phase in our scene was the Diet Cig, Spook School, Great Grandpa, and LK Ultra show February of this year. It was Petri Productions’ first-ever sold out show and excitingly enough it sold out in advance. LK Ultra is a queer indigenous fronted group formed from Lawrence’s Girl’s Rock chapter. To experience this new, fresh, inclusive energy was something our community was longing for.
The Schoolhouse’s capacity is 150 when inside and 250 when the shows are outside. The small space and its location create an intimate environment for both the artists and the audience. The venue is a little oasis that takes everyone away from it all for a moment. It’s on the outskirts of town, secluding it from the rest of the Lawrence. There’s a huge yard with a fire pit, you can hear the trains go by, and see so many stars. The space really does create dreamlike experiences.
Because of the DIY nature of the project we bring our own PA and tear it down before and after every show. We’ve recently been raising money for an in-house PA that will help harvest more stability for our venue. We’ve recently acquired a group a volunteers and our goal is to become a non-profit in 2019. The Schoolhouse is beginning to host Queer DJ nights and Drag Shows, with the help of Mylan Jones and Riley Corcoran. It’s really amazing to see how the space is evolving as more community members get involved. Lawrence is a college town in Kansas so it’s really important to have a space people feel safe to be themselves as well as see a varieties representation being celebrated. Having a stage and a setting for those who are disenfranchised is very valuable to a supportive and thriving community.
The momentum that’s been created is electrifying. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking for or where I was going so it’s pretty wild to be here. To me putting on a show feels like cooking a meal. It takes so much time, energy, and a kitchen of hands. Petri’s kitchen is: Jennifer Roth, owner of the Schoolhouse; Paul DeGeorge, sound and inspiration; Kelly Corcoran, support and logistics; Louis Wigen-Toccalino, Decade pop up bar and hospitality; Katie Harpstrite, event hand and Vast Yoga; Grace Chin, flyer art; and Shelby Bettles, event hand and hospitality. It takes months and tons of energy to grow the garden, plan the ‘meal,’ invite the guests, and host the party. It can take roughly six months to plan a three to four hour experience, just like it can take hours to prep a meal and ten minutes to devour it. Together our team creates a moment we hope people will cherish and hold onto for the rest of their lives.
I’m extremely lucky and privileged to live where I do at the time that I do. Without the team Lawrence has brought together these events wouldn’t be happening. Lawrence is magical place that harvests a supportive and daring community. I couldn’t wish for a better environment to raise this project in. I’m so grateful and thankful for the opportunities I have been presented.
I hope the Schoolhouse is still hosting all-ages shows 20 years from now, that’s the real dream.” – Paige Batson
Paper Scissors Media
“2018 was a truly incredible year for Paper Scissors Media. Most importantly, it was the year at that our record label goodhowareyou records truly came to life. We have 14 artists in our family (Secret Nudist Friends, Blushed, Trash Boy, Overwinter, Kelsey Cork and the Swigs, Puppy Angst, Broke Body, yeenar, Madam West, Busy Bee Project, Rebecca Zimmerman, Honeytiger, and too dogs) and we couldn’t be more proud of everyone’s teamwork and collective effort. We are so proud to have a record label dedicated to a diverse array of artists largely composed of non cis-males, and with a strong connection to the Philly queer community.
Our home-base venue Tralfamadore hosted over 70 shows, and in total we booked over 100 shows in Philadelphia alone this year as well as many in other cities. This year was the year of teamwork. I can’t say enough about the efforts of Deb Gilmore, Dan Baggarly, and Missy Pidgeon, and it would be truly impossible to individually think all of the dedicated artists, spaces, and supporters who keep our DIY family alive.
I’m so proud of the fact that we have now hosted four music festivals, two this year: a reoccurring festival called Good How Are You Fest in the Spring, and Great How’ve You Been Fest in the Fall. I am so proud and honored to be able to make music in the city of Philadelphia and to know so many wonderful people around the country who go out of their way to make shows happen and to accommodate artists and treat them with love and respect. I hope people continue to support Paper Scissors Media and I encourage everyone to check out goodhowareyou records!!” – Matty Klauser of Paper Scissors Media
Play Like A Girl (PLAG)
Los Angeles, CA
“The highlight of 2018 for PLAG was expanding on our workshops. In 2017, we noticed a lack of accessible education for artists, particularly independent artists, and started presenting free artist-facing educational workshops featuring womxn, femme, and nonbinary speakers. This year, we’ve really built on that foundation. While we continued having more ‘traditional’ moderated panels on various aspects of the music business, we also hosted our first hands-on, interactive workshops. These have included topics like producing with Ableton, an introduction to modular synths, how to build your pedal board, producing with Native Instruments Maschines, and a bunch of others, and partnerships with Ableton, Make Noise, Earthquaker Devices, Native Instruments, Lil Miquela, and IO Music Academy. It’s been a rewarding year watching developing artists learn how to take the reins of their own careers and we can’t wait to keep building on that throughout 2019. We have some really fun things in the works.” – Katrina Bleckley of PLAG
“At the time of writing this, our YouTube channel has uploaded 3,728 videos of (mostly local) bands playing throughout Minneapolis and St Paul from 2011 until now. Each year we have steadily increased our coverage and output. We’ve been going through a lot of changes in the past few years here in Minneapolis. As the city has grown and become more gentrified, we’ve lost numerous important venues along the way – the Triple Rock, Grumpy’s downtown, Reverie, Secret Service, Licorice Beach, various house show spaces. We’ve had many notable bands part ways over the last handful of years, such as Burn Fetish, Tony Peachka, Animal Lover, Wretch, Naïve Sense, Karate Break, Mrs., Murder Shoes, Disasteratti, Brain Tumors… and so many more. We’ve also tragically had some beloved local musicians passing away before their time.
The initial purpose of UnderCurrentMPLS’s genesis – to capture, document, and promote local underground music – has felt especially valuable considering all of this loss and change the local music scene has experienced. There are plenty of bands who never even had a chance to record anything officially, outside of our live videos, and it feels good to offer bands those memories while doing what we enjoy.
But, it’s not all doom and gloom! Some really great new venues have been opening up: Mortimers, Moon Palace Books etc… and collectively, Minneapolis bands are like a Hydra – when you cut off one head, multiple heads grow back in its place. Excellent new bands are always forming out of the ashes of the old bands. New Primals, Tongue Party, Witch Watch, Citric Dummies, Scrunchies, IV, Death of a Ladies’ Man, Tulip, Conscripts… all feature members of the above listed bands that had dismantled. So, on the flip side of the coin, along with helping preserve the memory of what has come and gone, it also feels really special to be able to be there, documenting those newly formed venues and bands all from the beginning.” – UnderCurrentMPLS
Women That Rock
“We’ve seen an incredible community of badass femmes building around Women That Rock this year. Our debut ‘Women That Rock Presents’ concert event in April 2018 at Knitting Factory Brooklyn was a major highlight – we brought four amazing femme-fronted bands and a female DJ together on one bill for a special night of music. We also had an amazing summer showcase at Brooklyn Bazaar with a stacked lineup: GYMSHORTS, Sharkmuffin, MONTE, Sister Munch, Lady Bits and Strange Parts. The night also featured almost 20 Brooklyn-based femme vendors. We threw an awesome PRIDE party in June at Coney Island Baby, which featured a bill of four queer femme-fronted acts and a queer lady DJ. Most recently, we celebrated again at The Knit with a special concert event featuring headliners Starbenders alongside Scarlet Sails, Astra the 22s and Natalie Claro.
It’s been an incredible experience creating this platform to spotlight womxn in music – creating a safe, celebratory, inclusive space for womxn to perform, be heard and be recognized for their art without the obstacles that misogyny and gender roles present for womxn in the music world. It’s been amazing watching the platform come to life and seeing how people respond to what Women That Rock is doing – artists & music fans alike seem to have a real hunger for this femme-focused initiative.
We’ve heard so many incredible stories from femme musicians we’ve worked with over the last year about how appreciated Women That Rock is and how necessary the space is that we’re creating. We’ve heard stories from womxn about the discomfort of being the only woman on most show lineups, being spoken down to or dismissed by venue staff, sound guys and dude-bands. Stories about the struggle to have their art be appreciated without feeling judged based on appearance. A great example of this was a story told by Brooklyn rock band MONTE’s front woman Caitlin Montclare, who described many instances of showing up at a venue with her guitar on her back and being immediately assumed to be the ‘merch girl’ or a girlfriend of one of the band members, rather than the musician herself. As if just because she’s female, she must be the merch girl – as if the guitar she’s carrying must be someone else’s. As if because she’s female, she must be just a ‘girl helping the band’.
We’re working hard to create a celebratory and safe space that will hopefully help combat those types of negative experiences, help break down some of the negative gender stereotypes, and make women feel more secure, confident & appreciated. We have a lot of exciting initiatives in the works for 2019 and we can’t wait to see what the new year brings!” – Andie of Women That Rock
Seth Goodwin/The Outland Complex
“I’ve handled a portion (some years a large portion) of an all ages triplex of music venues called The Outland Complex here in Springfield, Missouri. Sometimes I set up house shows too though haven’t lived at a house that did shows in about four years. Since I work directly for the business what I book is a wide swath, some of which I don’t enjoy but know other folks in the community will enjoy! My primary goal has been to both offer Springfield as a well-paying and friendly spot to book when touring down south or up north through the Midwest. It’s a strategic stop on any tour but has not always been hospitable to smaller touring acts (especially ones that fall under niche/more challenging genre types) which is mostly what I focus on.
This year there were many shows I loved but there really isn’t a singular show that takes the cake or a moment that overshadows the others any of the years I’ve been doing this. My favorite thing is seeing people of all ages attending shows at a bar that wouldn’t have likely hosted them before (large in part to the ownership). Compared to previous years I really scaled back for health reasons. Up until this year I was booking on average 10 to 20 shows a month, some months much more. I’d like to let anyone else know that has been doing this for a hot minute that it’s okay to take a breather and focus on your mental and physical health. In the coming year I already have some shows I’m really excited to put on and hope to build up a team of folks that hopefully take on the torch once I move elsewhere or get too tired to do this all the time. That’s how college towns work right?” – Seth Goodwin