Maybe I'm spending too much time being a fly-on-the-wall on the jazz dj lists & the folk dj lists, but it's getting me down. My music doesn't seem to really fit. This leaves me wondering where ARE the appropriate venues for my music?

I've been touring the last 10 years on the singer-songwriter circuit ("folk"). The plus of that is the audiences are great listeners of lyrics. Often the gigs are in coffeehouses & house concerts (as well as a lot of UU churches). In other words, no smoky bars. No drunks. Shows are done by 11pm pm so. The negative side is that most audiences are not open to more complex harmonies. They class me as "jazz". Some venues/audiences are open to this, but many (especially the "americana" venues) are turned off by it. A few chord extensions, a few syncopated phrases, a few choruses devoted to an improvised solo--and the audiences says "That's not folk!".

The first music I really performed was big band & dixieland (as a trombonist in junior high up through college). It informs everything I do. I can do a full night of standards, but I don't feel totally at home there either (will they be offended of I play a few originals?). I am a composer. A songwriter. I love a bit of dissonance, I've written my share of atonal instrumental pieces. Song is what drives me most. I like to push the boundaries in song every once in a while. (I also confess to loving the banjo).

Forgive my rambling. Back to some kind of point...

As I read the dj lists, I find many of them arguing about "What is jazz" or "What is folk", and it's so closed! I'm wary of approaching any venues these days.

I'm touring the east coast in August, a number of the gigs are on the singer-songwriter circuit. I'd like to supplement those gigs with some more jazz oriented venues--so we can play our music that's a little more outside the box.

Can any of you out there recommend venues that would be appropriate for me to approach? (as a duo. 2 guitarists, one with monster chops, a lot of standards and some twisted originals?)

We're going through Little Rock AR, Memphis, Nashville, Columbus, anywhere in PA, NYC & suburbs, CT, NJ, MD, DE, DC, VA, NC, GA, AL (that's the general route).

If you were me, where would you play?

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Replies to This Discussion

If you can make it to Northampton,Ma on a Friday night I'll feature you at the Basement which is part of You may be able to get in at the Iron Horse which is more involved and I have little pull but is a ticket venue. The Basement is always no cover. The catch is artists are only guaranteed $100 and free drinks, however tips sometimes can be surprising.
That's all I got.

Hi Dan-
Thanks for the feedback. If all lines up as I would hope, there's a possibility that we could be there Friday August 15. Does the Basement book that far out?
I'll be booking Jun-Aug the last week of May, Seems reasonable.
Before you get into New Orleans, I might suggest you contact d.b.a. on Frenchman Street to see if you can have a show there. They are very open to the type of goals you expressed here. The crowd will be open as well (New Orleans is good with this). You might also see if you could get a show at Snug Harbor (also on Frenchman Street). Both venues would be very open to your original work.

Let me know if I can help. Once you get back from your tour, let's see if we can throw a "house party" show for you here in Killeen.

Take care,
Banzai Bill
This is a tough one. Purists are so quick to judge, based on thee type of stuff they keep in their "love it" box—and the amount of glee they have in putting anything that does not conform into their very large "hate it" box. I'm going to give you the advice that Lenny White gave to me when I was 20: be yourself and play what you play. Be known for who you are and what makes you special, regardless of the label. Remember when Dylan went electric and offended his folk following? The ones who respected him as an artist were the ones who made him a legend, not the ones who insisted that he should conform to folk music conventions. Going with the "American Music" label is the most open, and the most honest to your heart, most likely. Both jazz and folk are American music traditions. So are concepts of cultural diversity. From what I've heard, you are a great talent and your artistry is self-evident.
Very interesting. Congratulations on your career so far. Some would say "consider yourself lucky to have an audience at all." Part of the problem is that in today's world people think that the genres are really separate music. We didn't have that problem 40 years ago because a jazz musician could play any gig in any setting depending on what was required. You are really having a problem with labels because most audiences don't hear as well as they used to and need a formula before they can relate. You might try to have some fun with this since you are so versatile. We had a local band here in Pittsburgh a few years ago that was playing on street corners and every free venue they could be presented with their original music that didn't seem to fit any standard category. One year not too long ago they decided to re-label themselves. One of the members came up with the term "tribal music." Within 6 months of playing free in the parks they were on the David Letterman Show and within less than a year they returned to Pittsburgh to play our Civic Arena at a price of @ $125,000. You may have heard of them... Rusted Root. Anyway they all got rich and the band broke up.

As an artist you have the option of explaining to your audience what you are doing rather than just playing for them and expecting them to get it. Take them with you and let me know what happens.

Stay creative.
thank you Nelson!
Never underestimate and audience's potential for listening adventure. Many are open to the journey. Rusted Root sounds like they proved that.

I'm feeling more encouraged today than I was late last night.
Great! That's what the Jazz Network is for. It is so nice to know of your journey. I'll be checking out your sounds soon.
Hi Lisa,
I listened to your music and I really like your writing, how you accompany yourself, and the sound of your voice. From what my ears tell me about you is that your music can fit in a lot of places, which a great upside. If you've been doing folk and coffee houses, it's time to expand that arena to include places that are booking a variety of music, and don't put expectations on who you're supposed to be. Your compositions, harmonic sensibilities, and expressive voice place you into categories that are far beyond regular music heard in folk and coffee houses. You seem to fit into the "Lisa" category to me. Meaning that, if I listen to you and your songs, I'm not worried about any category, I'm just involved in the trip that you take me on when I hear you sing. Those rhythmic and harmonic twists in your music are the very things that let's me instantly know it's YOU I'm listening to. As far as gigs, there are a lot of places around the country that book a variety of music on a weekly basis. If you Google music clubs, those are the ones that have an open policy about what they book. Also, there are plenty of music festivals that would be open to your music. Your songs are so engaging that I'd be willing to bet that there are even some jazz clubs that would book you. Don't forget the initial factor in a club owner's decision; butts in seats. I can assure you that if people hear your music, like it, tell their friends about you, and keep coming back to see you, you'll always get booked even in a jazz club. You're happy, your fans are happy, and the club owner is happy which is a win-win situation for everyone. There's a place in Chicago called the Old Town School of Folk music that books everything from jazz to pop. These are the kind of places to start with. Let your voice and compositions define you. You're also in a unique position because I can hear your potential to sing or write any genre you please, and that's not something that everyone can do. That may be something that you can exploit to your benefit. It never hurts to know as many people as you can no matter what genre they're in. Lisa, you have formidable talents, I suggest that you use them to their fullest extent. The folk people say you're not doing folk? Good, now expand your audience to include people other than them. Why should you limit yourself to what THEY think you can do? It might help to enlist the help of an agent who knows about these places and their open booking policies. And whatever you do, don't buy into that stuff about "purists" not being open enough to listen to your music and like it regardless of the other music they like. If that were true, Nora Jones would have never become the successful star she is today. You can fit in anywhere just the way you are.

Much success,
I can definitely relate. I have responded by separating my music into categories and using different names for the folkish (Cincha) and the jazz. In NYC I would try Rockwood Music Hall and/or The Sidewalk Cafe. Not sure who is bookng at either place, but they would be appropriate venues. Good luck! Peace, Cynthia
Re: DC Venues or Lisa

Lisa... for Washington, DC - I say B Smith's (I visited B Smith's in NY and DC) I am only referring to DC. and Georgia Brown's in DC. I think that's you. You sound Great! Best Regards, Cheryl








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