Music makes the people come together
14 bands join together for a free compilation CD designed to promote the local music scene
While the Reno artistic community continues to get bigger year after year, one thing the area sorely lacks, some say, is a decent local music scene. But there’s one man in one band who has heard enough of that talk. And after four months of effort, he’s brought together a well-tuned army of 14 local bands that are out to make something happen—if nothing else, just to make some noise.
The man rallying these troops is Kevin Dunn, a recent transplant from Phoenix. He moved here just over a year ago and started the band Dump Your Boyfriends with his brother, Daryl Dunn. After talking to members of other local bands, he decided that the scene needed a big jumpstart. The result: a compilation CD called Passing Out in Reno, featuring tracks by 14 bands.
Kevin got the idea for a local music compilation in Phoenix, when he was in a band called Aggression Session. Another band spearheaded a compilation CD and asked if Aggression Session wanted to be a part of it. The CD met with limited success, but Kevin still got a kick out of it.
“We only got one response, from some kid in Denver who really dug us,” he said. “But that was all we needed. We thought that was bad-ass.”
In compiling songs for the Reno CD, Kevin had only three criteria: Is the band still together? Is the band playing live? And does the band have something already recorded on CD? With such relaxed admission standards, putting together the compilation should have been a piece of cake.
No such luck.
The CD took four months to complete. First, Kevin had to contact the bands and get them to send him their songs, which took a couple hundred phone calls, he said. Several bands that were interested in being on the CD were in various tie-ups that caused some delays.
SteveDave, for instance, had just recorded a new album. Instead of releasing it, the band decided to shop it around to various labels, so there was a delay in their decision to include a song on the compilation. Mama’s Trippin', which is in process of recording a new album, finished one of the tracks early so they could include something new on the compilation, which also took a month. And then the CD had to be mastered.
There were also a slew of bands that just weren’t interested. Though 14 bands are listed on the CD, there are probably three times as many that were asked to be on it. This has caused a little friction between those who chose to support the compilation and those who didn’t.
“There were a lot of bands that just didn’t want to be a part of it,” Kevin said. “They didn’t say it in so many words. It’s just that they never got back to me. And it wasn’t due to a lack of material.”
Bob Meerschaert, the drummer for Uncut, seemed torn about the bands that chose not to be on the CD.
“Those that chose not to be a part of this and chose not to support the scene are … I don’t know,” he said, slamming his hand on the table. “But I think they made the wrong decision.”
Now that the CD is done, all parties involved are starting to get excited. Most are just grateful to be a part of it and are optimistic about what it might do, including Johnny Woytek, the bassist for Mama’s Trippin'.
“I’m just stoked to say I’m a part of it,” Woytek said. “If this blows up, it would be great. We’d be helping out other bands, and to have that reciprocated is awesome.”
Kevin said future compilations could be in order.
“We hope that if this one does well, we will be able to do a volume two,” Kevin said. “That will give the bands that passed the first time a chance to be a part of it next time.”
The official release party will be held Oct. 26 at the Little Waldorf Saloon, where several of the bands featured on the CD will be playing. It should be an eclectic show, considering the variety of bands that participated; musical styles on the CD run the gamut of funk, punk, pop, metal and hardcore. Gritty recordings are placed alongside tracks that have been thoroughly produced.
“When people get this CD, I think they’re gonna trip when they hear how many different styles of music there are,” Woytek said.
But perhaps the most significant thing about the CD is that it will be given away for free. Despite all of the time and money that Kevin has put into it, he says he is doing it solely to support the scene and will not be making any profit.
“Whatever we make at the door of the concert will go right back to making more CDs,” he said. “We are also going to ask the Wal to help us out and donate their take, because it’s a non-profit event.”
The release of the compilation CD calls attention once more to the state of the local music scene, which suffers from the same problems every year. Every band has its own diagnosis for what’s going on, but it usually resonates with the same feeling of tired frustration.
New bands form and quickly fold. Established bands break up. All-ages venues pop up and then fade away. Many shows are met with lackluster attendance, and some bands don’t even support each other.
Woytek of Mama’s Trippin’ offered the Reader’s Digest version of the problem.
“I can sum it up,” Woytek said. “There are great bands, but no one supports it.”
It’s not that there’s a shortage of local bands, says Eric Stangeland, also of Mama’s Trippin'. The problem is that if people haven’t heard a band before, they won’t take a chance and go see it.
“I wish people would just pay the $3 cover charge and try something new,” Stangeland said. “Who knows? They might like it.”
Most bands agree that the lack of all-age venues is also a problem.
“It’s hard when most of your audience can’t go to a show,” said Daryl Dunn of Dump Your Boyfriends. “The 16- to 20-year-olds make up most of our fans, and they’re more passionate about music, too.”
Kevin agreed that the younger crowd gets into the music more.
“One night, Chico Escuela was playing down at The Baron [Lounge],” he said. “And I looked outside, and I saw 15 girls standing in the street dancing, trying to hear the guys play.”
Meerschaert of Uncut says that it shouldn’t be that hard for young people to see shows.
“Everybody in power of office in Reno is looking to give kids something to do to keep them out of trouble,” he said. “Hell, why not music?”
One of the most surprising problems, which the bands had different approaches to expressing, was that there is a definite lack of support among the bands themselves. In each case, the bands say that when they aren’t playing, they go out and see other bands play. But on the whole, they say, it’s a rare occurrence.
“There is an element of competition in music,” Meerschaert said. “The sax solo in jazz band or first chair in marching band. But when bands make other bands feel like they can’t stack up, that’s not right. If we lose even one musician, that’s a tragedy. There can never be enough musicians.”
Instead of facing the problem with a defeatist attitude, the bands on the compilation disc want to turn the negative into the positive.
“I’m sick of all these bands complaining about the scene,” Woytek said. “Hey, guess what, we are the scene, and we make it what it is.”
Though the Reno scene may not be anywhere near that of, say, Seattle, it’s clear that Reno bands love what they do. They must, because they certainly aren’t in it for the money.
“I’d rather play in front of 50 people for free than play in front of 20 and make a couple of bucks,” Daryl Dunn said.
With the release of the compilation CD (and a college crowd numbering more than 14,000), now more than ever, the scene might see things pick up.
“I don’t think anyone hopes this [CD] is going to bring talent scouts in droves to Reno," said Two-20-Two’s Rob Basine. "But if people pick this up and look at the calendar and decide to maybe check one of these bands out, then it has been a success."