I subscribe to The Lefsetz Letter, a regular email column written by former entertainment attorney, Bob Lefsetz. Lefsetz is blunt and often brutal in his assessment of bands, the industry and all things relating to music.
His latest email really got me to thinking. This last week, I did a gig at Walter’s On Washington opening up for Will Hoge, a talented, young rootsy pop singer from Nashville. He’s been receiving favorable comparisons to artists like John Mayer and Gavin DeGraw.
Nice group of guys, good road crew and a good band. The show was sparsely populated, but none of the local media really did anything for the show. A couple of the calendars didn’t even mention it despite solid work by the show’s promoter. In a venue that holds about 100 people, there were probably 50 or 60 on a Wednesday.
I’m fond of picking on the music scene in Houston and its regularly dismal turnouts, but I was shocked to read the numbers in Lefsetz’ latest email. He pulled tickets sold, venue capacity and gross sales for a number of recent performances including Hoge in Toronto and a couple of shows at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavillion in Houston. Check this out:
Will Hoge & Joe Grass
Venue: Green Room – Montreal – Monday 6/26
Wow! We had around 60 or so in a 100-person venue. How do they afford their giant bus?
Venue: El Mocambo – Toronto – Thursday 6/22
Unreal for a signed, albeit minor, artist.
Venue: Schuba’s – Chicago – Monday 7/10
Gross for two shows: $5,840
Popular indie rocker still doing well at the small venues.
Venue: Theatre of Living Arts – Philadelphia – Saturday 6/24
Guitar rock still draws them in. Bands from the 70’s can still bring people out to shows. Bands from the 2000’s…not so much.
Los Lonely Boys & Jonah Smith
Venue: Theatre Of The Living Arts – Philadelphia – Sunday 6/25
Just over half for a band with a hit record…ok, well, their LAST record was a hit.
Venue: 9:30 Club – Washington, D.C. – Tuesday 6/20
Macy Gray played big venues a few years back. She performed on the Today Show, Letterman, Leno and even had a guest shot in the first Spider Man movie. What the hell happened?
Les Claypool & Rasputina
Venue: The Vic – Chicago – Wednesday 6/14
A good example of how musicians still turnout to see innovative musicians. Claypool is the enigmatic bassist who used to be in the prog-funk band Primus. I saw Steve Vai a year-and-a-half ago and Verizon was sold out – similar numbers. The shredders can still bring them in.
Joe Jackson & Raul Midon
Venue: Avalon – Hollywood – Friday 6/23
Probably about right for Jackson at this point in his career.
Daryl Hall & John Oates
Venue: Villa Montalvo – Saratoga, CA – Monday 5/19
These guys always sell out venues. The Baby Boomers love to see live concerts.
Venue: Mead Theatre – Dayton, OH – Friday 7/07
Former American Idol reject who everyone thought would be the next John Bon Jovi. Ooops.
Ashlee Simpson & Ashley Parker Angel
Venue: Mud Island Amphitheatre – Memphis – Friday 6/23
Thank God for small miracles.
Rob Thomas, Jewel & Toby Lightman
Venue: Northrop Memorial Auditorium, Minneapolis
Two of pop’s biggest artists in the late 90’s, they can barely bring in 3,000 people for a show. Incredible.
Venue: St. Pete Times Forum – Tampa – Friday 6/30
Not the original line-ups for either. That probably had an impact. Retro shows usually do pretty well. Hell, Foghat still tours.
Venue: Plain Dealer Pavilion – Cleveland – Thursday 6/29
I’m going to see him at Cynthia Woods on Saturday. My guess is the turnout there will be better.
Gretchen Wilson, Rivers Rutherford & Blaine Larson
Venue: Merriweather Post Pavilion – Columbia, MD – Sunday 6/18
Bad country music. Who the hell were they kidding renting out a 10,000-seat venue???
Counting Crows, Goo Goo Dolls, Augustana
Venue: Sleep Train Pavilion – Concord, CA – Sunday 6/25
Two big adult alternative bands going nowhwere.
Bruce Springsteen with the Seeger Sessions Band
Venue: DTE Energy Music Center, Clarkston, MI – Saturday 6/17
Pretty surprising really. Barely a half sellout for the Boss.
Chicago, Huey Lewis & The News
Venue: Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion – The Woodlands, TX – Sunday 6/25
Ah, in Houston, we know better than to give this lineup more than half a venue. Who knew the Pavillion held 15K?
Sammy Hagar & The Wabos, Michael Anthony
Venue: Starwood Amphitheatre – Antioch, TN – Saturday 6/24
They got what they deserved. Did they honestly believe they’d get close to 17,000 people???
Nine Inch Nails, Bauhaus & Peaches
Venue: Tweeter Center – Mansfield, MA – Friday 5/23
Wow! Quite a downfall for the king of industrial music.
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Trey Anastasio
Venue: Germain Amphitheatre – Columbus, OH – Wednesday 6/14
The old guys continue to rule the roost. This had nothing to do with Anastasio.
Really sobering numbers if you are a music fan. Shows just don’t sell like they used to.