So how do you get your band on VH1? An October 8 appearance on the national cable network by local rockers the Goods was highly anticipated by members of the South Florida music community. For nearly a decade regional media and many of the area's key players and promoters have heaped praise on the five-piece band; it seems fair to say national recognition is long overdue. The Goods are a talented bunch with at least a couple of songs suitable for the Billboard charts.
Goods manager Jack Utsick thinks so too, which is why he paid $70,000 to a New York City nonprofit, the Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy Foundation, for one hour of airtime donated to the foundation by VH1 and then auctioned off to the highest bidder. The time was then Utsick's to program, and he did so with a slick one-hour special titled The Goods: Good Things Are Coming. Utsick took executive-producer credit for the hyperbolic production, which hints he paid for that, too.
For added credibility band members tapped friends and ex-Floridians Marilyn Manson and matchbox20 guitarist Adam Gaynor for lengthy on-camera appearances. Those stars went on and on about the group, spouting mostly complimentary stuff. Manson, though, in a probably-should-have-been-cut moment, did remark that the Goods were only "slightly more dangerous than Hanson."
Even for those who think the Goods deserve considerable success, some of the scenes were disturbingly manipulative, if not downright misleading. Concert-crowd shots made it seem as if the group is regularly playing to audiences of several thousand, which unfortunately they're not. And drummer Kasmir Kujawa's comment about dealing with "the fame," as well as the band's vague, mostly past-tense treatment of day jobs, made their lives seem considerably rosier than they really are. (Fame, and certainly fortune, have yet to settle upon the Goods.)
There's a lot to be said for positive thinking, but let's be honest: The Goods: Good Things Are Coming was by no means a VH1-produced rockumentary. It was great exposure, yes, but in the form of a thinly veiled infomercial, bought and paid for by the band's manager. We can only hope the targeted national audience was fooled and thousands are now standing in line at their local record stores with the band's new album, also titled Good Things Are Coming, in hand.
Finally ZETA (WZTA-FM 94.9), Miami's number one rock station, pays more than lip service to local music, putting "Frustration" by Broward-based Crease into regular rotation. The song, pulled from the group's five-track EP sixpack shy of pretty, aired this past August on ZETA Goes Local, the station's Sunday-night local music show. ZETA program director Gregg Steele decided to include the distortion-laden rocker on the playlist for late-night shifts. "I heard them on the local show," he explains, "and the song had a dynamic feel similar to a lot of other songs we're currently playing, so I thought I'd give them a shot."
After the band played ZETA's Labor Day Bayfront Park "Kamanawanalei'a Luau," opening for national act Dishwalla, requests for "Frustration" poured in. Airplay was bumped up and the song was put into daytime rotation.
"Frustration" has since charted in industry trades such as Friday Morning Quarterback and Radio & Records, drawing the attention of numerous major labels. Crease guitarist Fritz Dorigo won't name names for fear of screwing up a potential contract offer, but he says that at least a dozen conglomerates have contacted him. Those labels have expressed interest in the group's music, he says, but they're also mystified how a mere amateur band, without management or deep pockets, could score such valuable airplay.
"The labels wanted to know who paid, who is our record promoter," Dorigo says. "Everything we do is by ourselves. If the song gets picked up by other stations, we don't know how we're gonna handle it. We're just four broke guys with credit cards."
Play on other stations could be the deciding factor in this four-year-old band's career, and Clear Channel Communications (ZETA's parent company) owns a few. But according to Steele, it's not likely outlets in Tampa, Orlando, or Jacksonville (among others out-of-state) will jump on "Frustration" until ZETA finishes "testing" -- phone research about the cut's recognizability and popularity among South Florida listeners. Testing takes place after approximately 150 spins, which the song hit this week.
What's the deal with this kinda whenever, kinda wherever Miami Rock Festival? In June nearly 30 acts electrified Power Studios in Miami's Design District with a one-night Miami Rock Festival that attracted nearly 1000 music fans. Then in August (the whole month of August) Churchill's Hideaway hosted its Fourth Annual Miami Rock Festival. And this past weekend Tobacco Road erected a sizable parking lot stage for yet another Miami Rock Festival.
The common denominator in this musical redundancy is the duo Beast & Baker, a.k.a. Steve Alvin and Greg Baker, the WAXY-AM (790) DJs and music promoters who have run the Thursday-night showcase of local bands at the Road for the past four years. They also booked the Power Studios event. In 1995 the pair collaborated with Churchill's owner Dave Daniels to book the original Miami Rock Festival. They scheduled fewer than half the acts for the '96 festival, Daniels says, and have not been involved with the club since. "I stopped advertising on the Beast & Baker radio program and Beast has never forgiven me for that," says Daniels, who has presented his festival for the past four summers in total, using other promoters to keep the stage occupied for 31 consecutive nights. Still, Beast & Baker claim ownership of the name (there is no love lost between them and Daniels on that point) and decided, according to Beast, that "it's our name, and any show we do that's bigger than our usual Thursday-night concert we're going to call the Miami Rock Festival."
"I think it's unfortunate they continue to use that name," counters Daniels. "Four years ago they did an event here in collaboration with us, but the name was my name. The following year they were very busy and only did about 40 percent of the booking, and the next year they were too busy altogether. I think it's good that the events are taking place, but it's not good that people are being confused."
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All these showcases are indeed worthy celebrations of area talent, but last week's affair was actually the fourth Miami Rock Festival this year, and the lineup has been much the same for at least three of the events. Please, gentlemen, work this out among yourselves, and then somebody burn a brain cell or two and come up with another name.
-- Adam St. James