No Better Time Than Now
Article By: Keith DeNinno & Curt “Dudley” Miller
Originally Published In The March 2014 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
Ugh, winter! Your scooter’s likely under a cover, plugged into a battery maintainer or torn down next to a pile of upgrade parts to be fitted for next season’s runs. You’re longing for the rallies and all of the roaring activities that go with them like the festival-style concerts put on by today’s biggest bands.
While the snow may be flying and it may be tough to find a big, outdoor music festival during the winter months, you may be pleasantly surprised to discover that your favorite bands are performing at smaller venues all across the country in an environment that’s much more up close and personal. These types of shows give both artists and fans far more interaction than festival or arena-type settings permit.
Cycle Source had an opportunity to chat with our brother Keith DeNinno from the Broken Spoke Saloon who also works at the Fillmore in Silver Spring, MD: a venue which seats about 2000 fans and regularly books some of the biggest acts currently on tour. As Keith explains: Music and motorcycles are inexorably linked. Hell, the sound of a motorcycle itself is music to a biker’s ears. But during these winter months it seems like a cat’s only option is the radio in the cage since outdoor rallies and the festival shows they bring are all on hold until springtime.
Today’s bikers are technology savvy — part of the ‘download age.’ They’re using services like iHeartRadio, Spotify and Pandora. They buy their favorite artists’ materials via iTunes or Amazon and are watching artists’ videos on YouTube. But, even during the winter months, they want nothing more than to attend live shows. At venues like the Fillmore, bikers have the opportunity to see bands up close and personal, as if they’re playing in their own living rooms. The entertainment industry has developed the ‘big show/small venue’ concept and both artists and fans are reaping the benefits. Bands have the chance to spend more time with their fans before and after the shows at meetand- greet/VIP events while fans experience stellar performances, high tech light/special effect shows all while being in ‘an evening with’ setting. Another great thing about these small venue concerts tends to be their lower costs compared to their festival or arena counterparts.
At these events, bikers have the chance to see a great concert and spend time with other riders much like the time spent at rallies during the on-season . There are plenty of bikers in the crowd and biker gear is aplenty, too. Okay, so you think maybe one of these venues might offer some promise, but do they really bring the bands you want to see? Well, in the past few weeks the Fillmore has featured: Lamb of God with Killswitch Engage, Testament, and Huntress. They’ve also hosted Slayer, Megadeth, and Steve Winwood. No misprint there, folks. These are bands that regularly perform before stadium packed crowds throughout the U.S. where fans tend to watch the show on a Jumbotron. By seeing bands at small venues like the Fillmore, every fan feels like they’ve got a front row seat. As well, there’s more opportunity for crowd interaction than may be allowed at bigger shows. Keith explains:
At the Fillmore, there’s a higher tolerance for ‘crowd surfing.’ Now, we don’t ever let anyone get out of hand, but at a larger venue, someone may get away with surfing to the gate once, then getting sent to the back. At the Fillmore, a fan will probably get away with crowd surfing two or three times without it creating an issue. Very seldom does anyone ever create such a problem as to get thrown out. Once we let folks know they’re pushing the limits, they typically settle back down and get back to enjoying the show. One of the other cool things I’ve seen happen at the Fillmore was when a nine-year-old girl who didn’t have a meet-andgreet or VIP pass stood at the fence after one show and the members of the band came over and spent time with her and signed autographs with her anyway. Not taking anything away from festival-type shows whatsoever, I’m just not sure there’d be the opportunity in a festival setting for this type of fan interaction to occur. It was a special moment for the fan and the musicians as well.
Along with the greater fan interaction afforded by the ‘big show/ small venue’ concerts currently touring the nation right now, the bands playing these shows get a lot in return as well. As Keith told us: The best part for artists like Lamb of God, Slayer, and Megadeth is the much higher level of excitement from the crowd since they’re right up against the stage. Everyone can really connect with the artists. The fans literally become a part of the show.
Artists embrace smaller venues like the Fillmore because they give them the feeling of being back at their career roots. It affords them the chance to develop staging materials, play songs they may otherwise leave off of their set lists, and try out new technical strategies, as well. This ‘off-Broadwaystyle’ environment really works well for fans and artists both. So there you have it. Just when you thought is was time to hold up inside and watch reruns until the spring thaw, it turns out the shows you want to see aren’t months and miles away at an upcoming motorcycle rally. They’re right down the road at the small venue right in your town. Be sure to check out your favorite artists’ Web sites for tour dates. Chances are they’re touring throughout the winter and may be coming your way. Note: Even if, by chance, you’re not from an area where your favorite bands will be playing this winter, it’s still good. There’s still that scooter in the garage in need of the upgrades for next year’s riding season and you know all your bands will bring it loud and proud to 2014’s multitude of motorcycle rallies. Special thanks to Keith DeNinno for his time and contribution to this article!