Some of you may know and some may not, but GUPPY EFFECT has been regularly attending and performing at a weekly Sunday open jam/stage at Funk’s Pub in Fitchburg WI.
We love it, and I will tell you why below in a very entertaining way. But first, the important stuff.
1. GUPPY EFFECT will be part of 4/20 Fest at Funk’s Pub on Sunday 4/20, starting at 4:20 PM. We are slated to play for an hour starting at 9:20. There will be a bunch of bands and musicians before us and probably a couple after us at 10:20 and 11:20. It’s Earth Day and Easter Sunday (a collision of spiritual forces that may very well rip open the fabric of time/space…but if that isn’t enough to do it, our rocking surely will). So we will probably play some tributes to these man-made contrivances. It’s free and you should come.
2. GUPPY EFFECT will be performing at Mr. Robert’s Pub in Madison WI on Thursday 4/24, along with two other hard rocking bands. GUPPY EFFECT wisely chose to play first, starting around 9:30 PM, because it is a school night and we know a lot of our fans have to work for THE MAN on Friday (although we encourage everyone to simply not go to work on Friday 4/25). So we will swoop in, rock hard, and then stick around to party with anyone who wants to and support the other bands. 1 and 2 are related in as much as we are going to perform our Mr. Robert’s set in it’s entirety at Funk’s the previous Sunday, as kind of a dress rehearsal. So, if you can only make one of these shows, you will still get all the rocking power, but only once.
Funk’s Pub is awesome to the musicians and bands who show up to the weekly Sunday open jam there. They are totally supportive and provide a full “back line,” which means they supply a drum kit, amplifiers, a sound system (with sound guy!), and stage lights for all the guest musicians to use. There is even a house keyboard. This is incredibly rare for venues in Madison WI to do (although they should, and you’ll soon see why) and also amazingly awesome. All we have to do is show up, put ourselves on the signup sheet, and when it is our turn to perform we just jump on stage, plug in, and GO!
This means there is very little down time between bands, so there is a lot of non-stop music. And it’s uber convenient for us.
It is almost effortless for local bands and musicians to show up and play a few tunes to a fairly packed house. And that is exactly what has been happening, by design. It has been going for a couple of months now, and it gets bigger and more popular all the time. All the obstacles to performing live music have been removed, other than stuff like learning and practicing songs, which bands do on their own time, although I suppose you could learn and practice your songs at the jam too if you really wanted to, but you’ll only have about 15 minutes to do it.
It doesn’t go extremely late (8 to 10 PM usually, unless there are lots of musicians attending, which happened on St. Patrick’s Day, when it went all the way to midnight), so people can use it as an opportunity to extend their weekend a little bit longer.
Funk’s also often prepares a decent spread of food for the attending bands and musicians. This isn’t expected but it is nice to be treated well by a music venue that appreciates the hard work behind the scenes that goes into preparing music for live performances. The food is pretty tasty there.
GUPPY EFFECT loves the open stage format for a bunch of reasons. It’s not easy to book gigs at venues in Madison. Many of them are not particularly communicative or amicable to musicians unless the artists can show that they will bring in a money-spending crowd. Even then, they aren’t very supportive when it comes to providing bands with promotion, marketing, pro sound, lights, free beer, food, pay, and other factors. And why should they? They hold all the cards. But musicians generally don’t have the resources to do a lot of the business aspects of performing live music, and the venues don’t tend to want to assist beyond putting a tiny blurb in the local scene magazines and web sites. Less popular bands also tend to get relegated to weeknight slots to perform when it is inconvenient for just about everyone.
Conversely, the Funk’s open stage provides a free and easy live music venue every single week on Sunday nights at a decent time and with a regular crowd of people. All we have to do is show up, no questions asked, no grumpy music booking people to convince we are worthy of their time, no hauling a ton of gear across town. Granted, we only usually get to play three to five songs in the time allotted because there are many other people who want to play, but we actually enjoy this and have used it to our advantage as performers. It has become sort of a cheap and effective marketing and promotion tool for us.
GUPPY EFFECT has regular weekly band practice on Tuesday nights. We are very focused and meticulous about adding repertoire each week. We pick usually three to five new songs to hone for band practice because we prefer to focus on quality songs rather than quantity repertoire. We spend three hours or so polishing these to a blinding sheen on Tuesdays. The following Sunday, we pick the songs we felt were strongest at band practice to perform at the open jam for our mini-set.
This has two immediate advantages, and a third long term advantage.
First, we get to see how the songs work live. How well do we perform them in front of people? How do people respond? Are the songs conducive to stage theatrics? How do the vocal harmonies sound?
Second, it is always a different selection of songs every Sunday, based on what we did at band practice the prior week. So it is always a new and pleasant surprise to the crowd of music lovers in attendance. It never gets repetitive or boring. In fact, people have started to show up just to see what new things we will pull out each week. The novelty of it keeps people coming back to see us week after week. It’s kind of like a TV series of episodic rock shows spread out over several Sunday evenings. You have to tune in each week to see what happens next? Hopefully, we don’t all die at the end.
Speaking of TV series, I (CJ) have also started doing a live web stream of the open jam every Sunday. If people can’t come to Funk’s, they can open a web browser and watch live over the internet at http://ustream.tv/channel/cactus-joe-productions. The past jams are also archived and saved for later viewing there, so go check it out and see what it is all about.
As a result of all of this, we have started to grow a fan base via the open jam/stage. They have even started calling themselves GUPPYHEADS. This kind of thing would be impossible playing piecemeal gigs at other venues in Madison WI, where it is always a slog to promote and get people out. At Funk’s, we are sort of our own billboard or infomercial that is honest and tells it like it is.
That leads to the third long term advantage. When we do have a show somewhere else around Madison, such as our show at Mr. Robert’s on Thursday April 24th (with two other hard rocking bands), we can publicize this from the open stage forum at Funk’s to a decent crowd of people that we already know enjoy our music and are there to hear it. We’ve also sold a few t-shirts at the open jam, although I count that as more of a corollary to the long term advantage, kind of like a 3b perk.
A lot of talent has been showing up at the jams each Sunday and it is growing, but strangely, we have not seen a lot of the more established Madison bands there, even though they have nothing to lose by attending. It kind of has a jam band focus, but it is really open to any genre. GUPPY EFFECT is pretty straightforward edgy rock-n-roll, even though we do have some incredible jam sequences in some songs. We’d like to see some more hard rocking bands there. This open jam seems custom tailored to the laziest musicians among us.
We hypothesize that the bands who have been around Madison for a while might be late adopters to this jam because they are a bit jaded by a music scene that hasn’t been traditionally this supportive of local music or musicians like Funk’s has been. There may also be a stereotype among some bands that it is more of an amateur open mic night, but it is really not. It’s a jam and an open music forum, emphasizing short sets by local bands or guest rocking by musicians who want to jump up and join the house band, MUDROOM, for a few songs. The jam doesn’t turn away any solo singer/songwriters who want to use it as an open mic, but it is way more inclusive and expansive than that. So, if you are in a band and maybe think you are too good for this open jam/stage at Funk’s, rest assured, you are not. You will be appreciated and you can bring your full thunder to a room of people who are there to see it, albeit only for 15 to 20 minutes (about 3 or 4 songs).