Thursday, October 1, 2009

Phoenix at Tip's tonight. Take a bow, Lindsay Adler

Posted By on Thu, Oct 1, 2009 at 7:18 PM

It's only slight hyperbole to say that tonight is the dawn of a new era at Tipitina's. Phoenix, Andrew Bird and St. Vincent all will take the Tip's stage in the next 60 or so hours. They're the first of a new wave of fall bookings secured by Lindsay Adler, a nine-year Tip's vet who took over as talent buyer in January and promptly set out to return the club to its previous place as a prime destination for alluring touring acts. Mission accomplished. Following is the full transcript of a conversation I had with Adler for a feature in the current Gambit.

How did you go about building this schedule?
When I first got into this new role, it was kind of slow-going. There were some Jazz Fest dates booked, and I kind of just filled in the holes. I really got into the swing of things this summer. Started off by putting together the Free Summer Series. Tip’s has a great history of the local artists. We showcase a lot of local artists, and we do national acts, too, just not anywhere to the degree of House of Blues or even sometimes the Howlin’ Wolf. For a lot of reasons — one of which is working with the Tipitina’s Foundation — I just can’t compete all the time with the money that House of Blues (spends). We are a foundation, and I have to think about that first and foremost before I come to these bands with big offers.

Phoenix, Andrew Bird, St. Vincent, Os Mutantes, Camera Obscura. I don’t have to tell you these are not typical Tip’s bookings.
I really wanted to do something different (this fall). I was looking at the past couple years, and we had almost no national acts except during Jazz Fest. I thought, that’s crazy. Before the storm we were a lot more competitive. We used to have more national acts coming through. There started to become things that I wasn’t that excited about, and it seemed other people felt the same way. I really wanted to make it my goal for the fall to really have a calendar that popped, and try to tempt some of these bigger acts. A lot of bands like Phoenix, some people have never even heard of them, but they’re huge on the underground indie scene. Some of these acts I hadn’t even heard of until I started reading Pollstar and doing my research, listening to what my interns were saying — because they’re kind of like my pulse. They keep me connected to the young music scene. That was my goal for fall: to have a lot of great and different stuff for Tipitina’s, because yes, we are all about the local music and everything, but we need to progress and stay current. That was something that I really wanted to do. I feel pretty good about the fall calendar when I look at it and see a lot of things that we would’ve never had before. It took a lot of work, and there are so many acts that you don’t even know about that I tried to get and was unsuccessful.

Any in particular you can mention?
I can’t name specific acts. But at least once a week there’s an agent that comes to me with an act, and I’ll put an offer in and do my best, and I’ll see it on the House of Blues calendar a month later. Sometimes I don’t even know that I didn’t get it until I see it on someone else’s calendar. I can only say there was some fierce competition in there to get [Phoenix]. I was really happy to get it.

Tell me about landing Os Mutantes.
I had not even heard of them before. Their agent came to me. If kind of a major agent sends me an email or calls me up about a band, I kind of jump to. Even if I haven’t heard of them before, I’ll go online, I’ll do the research, I’ll ask around in my office: “Has anyone heard of these guys?” Turns out, obviously, they’re huge. Or at least they used to be. I had already booked Andrew Bird (with St. Vincent) and Phoenix by then, and I thought, “I’m on a roll! I’m just going to keep going.” So I was like, “I really want to get this show.” Sometimes the agents aren’t upfront with me. They may have already tried to go to another venue and they don’t have a date open, so they may say to me, “Well, we really want Tip’s to get this show,” and they’ll make me compete harder to get it. All the music insiders have emailed me and said, “Oh my God, that’s amazing.” They came to me, I made them an offer, and here we are.

How much easier is to land these kinds of shows in the fall?
I attribute it to the college semester. The universities are starting up, and bands start fall tours. Summer is slow, we do a lot of free shows, then all of a sudden, bam. Particularly October seems to be a hot time. It ends with Halloween weekend, then before we know it it’s New Year’s Eve. It’s always been a busy season for us. Of course, not as busy as Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. It’s just a fun time of the year.

How far in advance do you like to book? Looks like three months or so now.
That’s something I’ve really been trying to do. In the past, our calendar was only updated through the next month. I’ve been trying to keep it updated it for at least three months.

Do you glance at other lineups around town when booking a big show?
I used to a lot more than I do now. I attribute that to maternity leave. Working from home, I’m not as actively go-go-go all day long. It depends on the show. If it’s something major and I’m worried about how the draw will do, then yeah, I’ll look at the other calendars. Honestly, I should do a little more.

For example, two of your bigger shows have stiff competition at the House of Blues: Andrew Bird and St. Vincent are competing with Jack White and Dead Weather (on Saturday), and Camera Obscura will go up against Dan Auerbach (of the Black Keys) in November.
I’m not aware of them coming through here at all. I honestly did not know. Hadn’t looked ahead to see what’s happening the same night as Camera Obscura. That worries me a little bit. But I think we have time to do some promotion. I really want to make sure that show does well. But as far as Andrew Bird is concerned, I’m not worried. That’s a homerun. We’re almost sold out. [The HOB] show sold out. That’s another reason — sorry Sonny, but I was very happy to get that show. I’m sure other clubs feel the same way. Any time I get a show that another club had the last year, that’s always a real “aha!” thrill for me.

Can you talk at all about the ways — positive and negative — in which being a foundation impacts your booking?
I can’t go into detail about offers and deals to agents. But it definitely does have an effect on how I’m able to get the show, often for less sweet of a deal than another bigger venue would be able to do.

Guarantees aren’t as much of an issue?
That’s correct. I really do appreciate any band that’s willing to work with us. Sometimes I have to go into the whole “We’re a foundation now” (speech). The only reason we’ve been able to open after the storm was because of the Tipitina’s Foundation. I constantly have to be thinking about money. It’s great when we have a bunch of sold-out shows in the fall. But what I tell a lot of agents is, I can’t take as many risks as other agents can. Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes it’s a bad thing. It’s kind of safe, because I don’t venture out there with a lot of huge guarantees. That’s kind of comforting. But it’s also kind of bad, because as anyone can see from looking at our calendar, we haven’t had a lot of larger acts in the last couple years. It’s taken a lot of work to get us back to that level, and I’m hoping that with (people) seeing those shows on the calendar, we’ll be able to get some really great stuff in the future.

Who do you see as your primary competition for shows?
I look at venues that the same, or about the same, size. One Eyed Jacks, yeah, I guess we are competing with them, because I have seen some acts at their venue that I wasn’t able to get. But mostly I look at the venues that are the same size, which are House of Blues, used to be Howlin’ Wolf, but I guess they’re 1,200, 1,400 these days. Those are the main two that I see myself competing with. Our capacity is 800. It was 1,000 before the storm, and because of fire marshal dictation, we were forced to bring it down to 800. Which I really like, actually. Makes it a lot more comfortable.

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