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LA La Land – A night at the Gibson Guitar Showroom

LA La Land:

The music showcase way of life in LA: a night at the Gibson Guitar Showroom

Private music showcases are a way of life in LA.  I don’t know how many bands are operating in the city at a given time – I don’t think anyone does and it depends on what you call operating – but I once did a count of all the local bands playing during the year, plus those on various agency rosters and I got 1000+.  At some point they are all competing with each other and with outside touring bands for a slot in one of LA’s 320+ venues and for record deals or film or movie or commercial placements. Getting your name in front of industry folks is tough, so rising and mid-list bands work hard at it. The payoff can be contracts, media interviews or reviews, TV or film scores or placements and commercials. Which is why private industry showcases is a way of life for them.

But, sometimes showcases can be frustrating for the “industry insiders” they are designed for.  In some showcases, four of five singer/songwriters sit on stools on stage at a small club like Genghis Cohen’s and each one sings a song and then they go around again three or four times.  Sometimes they collaborate on stage, hookup in duets, back one another up. This can be fun for them but for the professional audience, it is often unsatisfying. You don’t get to hear a band’s consistency and signature sound in isolated songs, and when they do work together the message gets mixed. 

Some showcases bring in a single artist or band to play a full set for an industry group, like Alice Wallace did recently at the Guild of Music Supervisors annual gathering at the No Name. She had an opportunity to launch a new album in front of an audience made up mostly of people who buy music for film and TV – a great opportunity as well as a buzz-worthy album launch that was pure entertainment for industry insiders at the party. But, while the concert was great entertainment, the execs did not get to see a range of talent (frankly, she was so good and the bar was so open, I don’t think anyone cared – I certainly didn’t and booked her on my radio show ASAP).


Some showcases bring 5 or 6 bands together for a hosted party (open bar and snacks) and each play three or four songs. To me, these showcases are ideal if they are organized well so that the equipment shuffling between bands is minimized to give the audience time to hit the bar or the baño between bands. These are also better than the lineups or the single player because you get to see several bands and get a feel for each one.  This can be especially useful to an audience that deals with music for many different purposes – different kinds of films, TV shows, radio broadcasts or labels.

If you are buying music for a TV crime show that uses mostly hard rock and blues, a night with a national-level pop singer may be fun, but not helpful for you or her. But a night with blues, pop, rock, cumbia, and hip hop can show you what you need and give you ideas about how other genres would deliver the mood and message for your shows scenes.

Which brings me to the Sync It Up showcase this month at the new Gibson Guitar Showroom on Sunset Blvd. in Beverly Hills – a much smaller version of the pre-bankruptcy showroom across from the Beverly Hills City Hall. Afonica, a Miami-based entertainment company specializing in Latino and Latinx talent,  produced a well-curated showcase for industry insiders to show off some of its artists. The talent presented on stage represented a wide range of genres but each had a singularly high level of artistry – they were all very good. The event itself moved along well despite the somewhat cramped venue. Instrument lineup changes were held to a minimum – even time for bar and bathroom and a little networking.   

The bands presented ranged from soft to hard, from Latin to bi-lingual and English, from melodic to beat, from mesmerizing to engaging. They included  the gentle Latina Australian Constanza Herrero who evoked Joni Mitchel-like emotions, the Lima-based Korea (two instead of four persons this time) with exquisite guitar playing and wry lyrics, the smooth-voiced flowing rock of Blssom, the emotion-laden ballads – both fast and slow – of Neysa Blay, Los Hollywood’s addictive  rock en Espanol, and the amazing shoe-gazing guitar, synth accents, and fat-drums of Bright-Eyed Kids.

 

As far as I could tell, the audience was also varied – folks from the TV and film worlds as well as the music industry. People involved in the music side of visual entertainment were there, a least one radio host was there recruiting guests, agents and promoters were at potential bands for concert lineups, and of course friends of friends.  Not a bad crowd for a private showcase; Afronico seems to have delivered well for its clients. Looking at the pedigree of the company and its head, Marthin Chan, it is easy to see why. Chan is the kind of person who can make things happen in music, whether it is in LA, Miami, Nashville or New York. A musical artist himself, he has been an A&R executive, a producer, a Latin Grammy Nominee, a guitarist and a songwriter who has written hits for Beto Cuevas, Louis Fonsi, Mariana Vega, Popvert, and JD Natahsa, among many others.

So the organizer knew the industry and the needs of artists, plus he had the  contacts to put a lot of the right people in front of the right bands – the key ingredients for success in finding and growing musical talent..  The bar was open, the networking was at light speed, the venue was cool (we even got to take selfies and photos in the famous Gibson Throne), and there were bands everyone could  like and at least one band that each person in the room could fall in love with.

I walked away with two bands  I fell in love with – Los Hollywood (even as a slimmed down duo, they rock me), and Constanza Herrero (who is just delightful). I will probably recruit most or all of the bands I saw for radio interviews and review their music or shows – exactly what a private music showcase is designed to do – which is why it is a way of life in LA.

 

Patrick O’Heffernan.  Host, Music FridayLive!,  

 

Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist and radio broadcaster based in Los Angeles, California, with a global following. His two weekly radio programs, MusicFridayLive! and MusicaFusionLA are heard nationwide and in the UK. He focuses on two music specialties: emerging bands in all genres, and the growing LA-based ALM genre (American Latino Music) that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America like cumbia, banda, jarocho and mariachi. He also likes to watch his friend drag race.

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