Bands seek to organize Topeka scene

Melissa Treolo

It’s all about the little things, said Brian Chambers onstage at Wednesday night’s Topeka Band meeting, held at his own Boobie Trap Bar on 6th and Washburn.

“To be successful you’ve gotta keep at it and don’t forget the details,” said Chambers to a room not very packed with local and regional bands.

Only bands were invited to attend and those that did included HeadChange, from Topeka, Emporia’s Grendelhaze and members of Topeka’s A River Forth and Moniker, from Lawrence.

The meeting was held in response to several e-mails Chambers had received from bands wondering how they could get some experience and success either out of town or right here in Topeka, a town known for being relatively indifferent to area bands. Chambers has been a musician in his own right for many years and his Boobie Trap Bar is the definitive music venue in town, with around three bands booked every night, so he had a few tips to impart to those inquiring minds sitting before him.

Tip #1: Remember, money can be hard to make in this business.

“Obviously we all want to make money at this, but if it’s all about the bottom dollar for you, it’s gonna be a tough go.”

Tip #2: Keep things organized.

“Organization is really so important. This means, checking your e-mail regularly and responding in a timely fashion. Showing up on time to things. All this common sense stuff can really make or break a band.”

Tip #3: Network, network, network.

“This is my big topic of the week: Saturate your band. Every year you’ll have new kids come through here who want to do shows and those more experienced bands need to hang out with them. You need to talk to each other, set shows up. Check out other bands even if you’re not booked for that night. Get to know other bands so that they know you.”

Tip #4: Show some respect.

“This is a business, your band is a business, so you’ve gotta run it so. Be professional, you know, don’t dog on the town. Topeka’s not always the greatest but, for some of you, it’s where you live. So represent Topeka and your band.”

Tip #5: Make friends with fans.

“Most fans are here because they’re your friends. Work that. When you’re here for a show, talk to every kid in here. I guarantee you, they’ll be back.”

Tip #6: The show’s the thing.

“When you’re on stage, if you just stand up here and play and don’t do anything you’re gonna lose a lot of interest. So draw people into your show, make them part of it. You know, talk to them in between songs. Make your show something worth seeing.”

Chambers also spoke of future plans, such as getting some benefits together, creating coalitions with other bars in the area and gig swapping. These details have yet to be finalized.

After Chambers’ talk, he opened the floor up for questions and comments. Some of these included questions concerning Washburn University’s involvement in promoting local music and how street teams could be put together to hand out flyers and stickers at shows and around town. One suggestion was to create a single Web site for all the bands in the area. Chambers said these were great suggestions but that people seem to lose interest in taking part in these kinds of activities rather quickly. He also believes that it’s not just up to him.

“I really have to rely on bands to do their own work too,” said Chambers.

No final decisions were reached at the Topeka Band meeting and, with only a handful of bands making an appearance, it’s uncertain what effect, if any, it will have on the future of local music. Those that did show up, while disappointed at the turnout, are optimistic and seem prepared to do what they can.

“It kind of sucks that the only people that came are people that are here all the time,” said Marty Hillard, bassist for The Robotics Club. “But [promoting music] is something I’m happy to see and become a part of whenever it becomes available. Regardless of who is here, I’m always happy to see there’s people that care about Topeka music as much as I do, I have and I always will.”