More rigging than a ship of the line
The past few weeks, I’ve been going down the the Paramount to see a singer/songwriter competition. The Paramount is the new music venue in Huntington, and it’s actually a decent place to see a show….or it was, at least, but more of that later. I had a horse in this race, one of my close friends has a band called After Augustine, and they entered this to win the prize of an opening spot for a national act. Knowing him and his music, I felt they had an excellent shot at winning, but that thought was based on this being a legitimate contest and not an absolute shit show.
The first night I was there, bands were supposed to bring down people to vote for them, and there was a handful of “judges” whose votes supposedly counted more than others. They handed out ballots on your way in, so you could just have people show up, get their ballot, fill it out, and leave. Not the best way to run a contest. Regardless of that, AA was clearly the only band to be completely together that night, both in performance and song quality. They ended up moving on, and eventually got into the finals.
Following that night, they had another group the next week, which did just about the same thing. The only difference was that they gave out the ballots at the end of the night, so at least they learned something from the first night. Of the few bands I saw from the second group, none really wowed me whatsoever. They were all pretty much forgettable.
The finals, which were last night, had 5 performances. It was basically the same deal all over again. The first band up was basically a coffee house duo. They weren’t bad, but the vocalist wasn’t very controlled with her voice, and they just didn’t seem to have it all together. Apart from that, their songs didn’t really have an hooks, those memorable parts that stick in your head and make them easy to remember. In my opinion, it seems they had an off night, which happens, but the forgettable songs was the real deciding factor.
Next up was a guy who seemed to be in his late 30’s, with an acoustic guitar. His sound was sort of like if Mellencamp and Bruce Springstein had a baby, but unfortunately he sounded more like springstein. Again, the songs were wholly forgettable, and he looked like he was in physical pain while performing, not emotional pain. He basically was trying to emulate Tom Waits, which he did reasonably well as far as sound goes, but the song quality just wasn’t there. He also had no idea how to properly sing into a microphone, and ended up singing to the bottom of it half the time, where the diaphragm could barely pick him up due to it being a dynamic mic.
After him, After Augustine went on. Now, I know I’m prone to bias towards them since my friend is at the heart of the band, but I can honestly say that they’re a great band. The songs are very catchy, well written, and they’re very tight live. They were the only band that night that didn’t make a mistake, such as an off key note or by being off time. In my opinion, both biased and unbiased, they were set apart from the rest. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t be writing this, since I try not to say things I don’t feel are completely true.
Second to last was a girl in her 20’s with a guitar. She was decent, but pretty much had the same songwriting issue the others had. She performed well enough, but a few sour notes and off key runs kind of killed it for me.
Last up was an absolute shit show. This was a band based around a girl who could not sing for shit. I’m at a loss for words as to how she attained a spot in the finals, considering she can’t go 30 seconds without hitting a note so goddamn wrong, that I had to physically restrain myself from just running up to her, hitting her on the nose with a rolled up newspaper, and sternly telling her “NO!”. It was actually painful to listen to, and she should smack all of her friends and family who encouraged her and told her she was awesome, since they’re obviously filthy fucking liars.
After the agony of the last act, people came out with ballots to fill out with who you think should have won. Here’s where it gets interesting. The judges were there, and filled out ballots, but their votes were counted the SAME as everyone else’s. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t judges the ones who are supposed to interpret the data, their own knowledge, and THEN choose a winner?
Another interesting part is that earlier in the night, some people showed up for AA and were denied entry because shorts were not allowed, even though there were about a dozen guys inside wearing shorts, who were for another act. Anyways, about half to three quarters of the way through the crowd, they ran out of ballots. What was their way around that, you say? They STOPPED allowing people to vote, and just started counting the ballots they had!!! So now, not everyone got to vote, only the people over by the bar. They tallied these all up, and declared their winner, the Tom Waits wannabe. Who also happens to be a Huntington local. Interesting choice. Honestly, I wouldn’t have even picked him as second place, I’d have left that spot to the first act.
Now I’m all for a legitimate contest, but a singer/songwriter competition should NOT be just a fucking popularity contest. AA had easily as many people there as the other guy, and definitely had a more solid performance and better songwriting. This whole thing left a really bad taste in my mouth due to how shady the whole thing ended up being. As a musician myself, I fully understand the pros and cons of each band up, and if I were to choose one as a judge from an unbiased point of view, I’d still choose the same. THAT is what bothers me the most.
This whole process is a win for the Paramount as a venue. They get people interested in the venue, make it look like they really give a shit about local musicians, fill an opening spot for a national act, and get people to come down and spend money at their bar on a few Wednesday nights in a row. From there point of view, the Tom Waits guy was a good choice, since his crowd was all older people who spent the entire time at the bar, which is where most of the ballots were used.
All of this aside, the Paramount lost my interest awhile ago. The first show I saw there was great. I could go sit in a seat, or stand in the GA area and rock out, all for a pretty reasonable price. The second show changed that, where they decided to segregate people and not let on that it was like that beforehand. This cause us to have to “sneak” down to GA to really enjoy the show. After that, the price hike hit. Now, for national acts, the prices are outrageous! I checked tickets for STP and Manowar, and the cheapest tickets were fucking $90. Some tickets were almost $200. Those prices are ridiculous for a place that is basically a local Roseland Ballroom. I’ve rarely payed more than 60 bucks to see an individual band, and didn’t even pay $90 to see the big 3 last year! How they justify this, I have no idea.
All in all, Paramount, you can go fuck yourself. You had potential, but with the bullshit seating debacle, the ticket price hikes, and especially the way you used local musicians just to get people in the door, you can just fucking rot. You obviously don’t give enough of a shit about the music scene to be useful, and unless you lower prices to a reasonable level, you won’t see another fucking dime from me. You’re just a failure now, and a terrible disgrace to your mother and father. Go hang your head in shame.
I just found out that this was even more messed up. The grand prize was NOT, in fact, an opening spot for a national act. The person who arranged the event with the Paramount was not told the truth, and thus the lie was spread to all the musicians involved. The truth is, the prize is to be allowed to play on the big stage for a MEMBERS ONLY event!!! That’s right, the Paramount has a VIP club, whose membership requires background checks and an annual fee of $2,500! This ENTIRE CONTEST was pandering to them, and they were likely the deciders of who would play for them. Just when I thought the bullshit was piled high enough, they tossed another ton on top. Un-fucking-believable!