Play that funky music, North County

Music is alive and well, my friends. Having just witnessed the insanity that is the Flaming Lips, I can reassure you people are still going to shows, and musicians are more than happy to play for them.
To their credit, the good folks at the Del Mar Racetrack do a fine job of attracting nationally acclaimed touring acts. For a mere $6, fans can get as close as they can manage to the stage. Even better, the beauty of this venue is that a show will never sell out. Such an entertainment package is unheard of anywhere else in the county.
As I was sitting there taking in the Flaming Lips, I got to thinking about music and tough times. Looking around the crowd, there wasn’t a sad or cheerless face amongst us. Despite our worries, our frustrations and our misfortunes, music still frees the soul, and sometimes for under $10. Now that is fairly affordable therapy, I’d say.
I once interviewed Jim Heath, better known as Reverend Horton Heat. One of the themes I took away from our discussion was that music is a blissful distraction. Heath absolutely loves the idea of performing for people who have worked their asses off all week, who have perhaps been threatened with a layoff, or reprimanded once again by the boss. To Heath, music erases the bad memories, if only for a few hours. Anyone who has been to a show after a trying week can relate. There is something so sublime about this concept.
So in light of cheap tickets, sour economies and musicians acting as therapists, I feel we as a community should rally around our local music promoters. Really, where else can you get so close to blues legends and rock gods without much hassle? This is part of the reason why I have a few qualms with large, corporate promoters such as Ticketmaster. Not only do they take the joy out of what should be a fun experience — buying tickets to a show — these corporate promoters also tend to herd their customers into distant locales, far from the action on stage. What’s worse are the “convenience” fees a fan will begrudgingly pay, a truth the master of tickets seems to prey upon.
Sure, corporate promoters excel at promoting big acts. But truth be told, they’re also gobbling up market shares too quickly. Small, local promoters — while not always an honest lot — are sure to suffer. If the corporate crowd prevails, will live music become an experience just shy of a maddening nuisance?
I worked in the music business for one of those small, local promoters once upon a time. After a while I learned to appreciate what goes in to promoting a show. It’s considerably more work than an unsuspecting fan could imagine. There are countless negotiations, contracts to be signed, security issues to resolve, sound complications — on and on and on. Then the musicians get on stage, make you happy, and we all go home.
Consider this the next time you see live music. Think about the hardworking people behind the scenes trying to a make a living off helping you forget it all for one night. Much like the “Buy Local” campaigns you may have seen spring up in Encinitas and Solana Beach, I urge you to frequent the small venues around town — the venues ran by promoters who are convenient enough and won’t charge you for it.

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