Featured Music: Wednesday, May 09, 2002
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Believe the Hype

What it’s like being young and in a FW punk band — and willing to earn respect

By ANTHONY MARIANI

Used to be that folks approached rock ’n’ roll — as a career — from the angle of a college student choosing a major: If it works out, and I end up getting a good job, I’m a genius; if not, oh, well, I’ll move on to the next thing. Now, entering the workforce as a rocker — or any other type of popular artist, for that matter — is a sober, calculated experience. Young rockers go through their first “official” gigs with the self-conscious assuredness of young accountants churning out their first budgets. Some higher-learning schools even offer classes on how to become a better producer or engineer or heavy-metal guitar player — courses of study that were unthinkable only a decade ago, before the grunge explosion generated in every aspiring rocker’s head the dream of being picked out of obscurity and stuffed into heavy rotation on MTV and local “rock” radio stations. It’s not hard to imagine a brat who happens to know his way around a Les Paul making business cards for himself that read, “Joe Schmo: Ayatollah of Rock-and-rolla. Call for free estimate.”

Mike Smith, from the local punk band the Adderallics, is one of these soon-to-be-degreed young lions, looking to make something of himself and of his talented outfit in a sea of like-minded and talented go-getters. When he’s not rehearsing, eating, or sleeping, Smith is promoting his band — searching for other up-and-coming regional acts to play shows with, looking for open dates in club calendars, checking for ways to get the word out about the Adderallics. His cushy work-study day job gives him the freedom to concentrate on the Adderallics nearly every day, every waking hour. To hear him tell it, his hard work is paying off — or at least it hasn’t hurt.

His latest concoction is a quad-headed gig on May 16 at the Ridglea Theater with another novel young punk-pop outfit, PVK, nuevo-rockers Aggressive Christine, and the pretty-much-established modern-rock quintet Soviet Space. Knowing Smith’s work ethic, you’ve probably seen the flier: The main image is of a ’50s-era family man behind the wheel of a car with a female passenger beside him. Above the couple are the bands’ names in bold type. It would be easy to mistake the flier for an old Lucky Strikes advert. And that’s the idea.

A smart, stylish, “ironic” flier, as Smith will tell you, is a must-have for any band on the ascent. It all ties into the overall marketing scheme: creating brand awareness to hip, irony-enamored young folk like those who regularly pack the Aardvark or Ridglea looking for new sounds.

Investing time in a band here in Fort Worth-Dallas, outside of playing in one, brings up all kinds of questions about self-esteem and learning how to navigate uncharted territory. How much promotion is enough? How much is too little? And how come my band can’t get away with word-of-mouth publicity? There’s not a hard-and-fast way to gauge response from radio spots, word of mouth, or articles in local alt-weeklies. So bands like the Adderallics keep plugging away, always hoping that sweat equity will translate into ticket sales or a few spins on 88.7-FM/KTCU, probably the only station around that will play local rock.

Smith, in fact, is of the school that says too much promotion is never enough; that’s because he believes in his band, not that he feels it has shortcomings that a little good hype can overcome. He spent last week agonizing over what appeared to be a failed promotional opportunity: The ever-popular band Chomsky was playing “TCU Noisefest” at Ridglea. And Smith thought he’d pass out a few fliers about the Adderallics (always sure to make eye contact with those who accepted his fliers, always sure to make some small talk). When he got to the club, he realized that half its patrons had already split. He should’ve known better: Big bands like Chomsky, which have seemingly outgrown the need to plaster bathroom stalls with fliers bearing their own brand name, have lost their buzz among local music fans. They might get a lot of attention among college-radio program directors or among bigwig major-label honchos, but among the yokels they’re kinda old news. Smith knew he should have gotten to the club in time to catch one of the opening acts — typically newer eager beavers whom local music denizens will flock to, just to tell friends what they saw. He handed out his fliers, anyway, kicking himself along the way.

The way Smith sees it, Fort Worth bands have no other choice but to promote themselves fiendishly. “Clubs in Dallas have 50 bands to choose from every week. In Fort Worth, it’s hard to get the Deep Ellum folks who play there regularly out here; when they do, it’s pretty cool, but when the Fort Worth people say, ‘Hey, I’m just gonna take matters into my own hands, and showcase what we got going on, and people know all these bands,’ that’s gonna [get Fort Worthians] interested.”

Smith knows what he’s talking about; he’s been gigging around town for more than a few years. The story on the Adderallics is that they’re one of the most innocently ingratiating group of guys around. “They’re real hard workers,” said Carl Pack, former booking agent of The Wreck Room and the guy the Adderallics credit with having given them their first few gigs two years ago. “For them, I think, [their success] has been a long time coming. They’ve been taking what they can get, and working their asses off just to get where they are.” Pack also credited local artist and musician Darren Paul, who creates a lot of the Adderallics’ artwork, for helping buoy the band’s brand recognition.

The Ridglea show came together when Smith approached the theater’s booking agent, Melissa Kirkendall of Daughter Entertainment, with the idea of staging “an event.” “Locally, for fans into that type of music, it’s a really good bill” she said. “Why not let them do it? It’s a bill I would have put together myself.”



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