It's early afternoon on a bright spring day, the time of day when rock clubs and music venues lie dormant, waiting for the sun to go down. Although Kings Barcade seems deserted, all three owners--even The Cherry Valence's Paul Siler, who's usually on the road with his group--have agreed to meet the Indy for a quick interview session to talk turkey about their latest project--a monthly, two-night (mostly) local band showcase series. With the "Wall of Kings" as a backdrop--so far boasting an image of Elvis and a huge cutout of Richard Petty with his gas-pedal crunching cowboy boot resting on a 12-pack of PBR--we discuss the kingly business of getting people out to support rock and roll.
The inaugural rockfest, May Daze, takes place this Friday and Saturday and offers plenty of bang for your buck--five bands nightly with a modest $5 cover. Besides bringing people into the club, the events should provide a shot in the arm for the scene and give lesser-known acts the chance to tear it up in front of a packed house (capacity is around 250).
Siler got the idea for the fests after returning from a TCV tour, says co-owner Steve Popson. It was spring, and seemed to Siler the perfect time to launch a new local band-oriented event. While each night will feature a somewhat eclectic roster, the bills will still make sense. "We're not going to make it where some heavy metal band is playing with a pop band," Popson says. It's also a chance for audiences, as well as the bands themselves, to be exposed to music they wouldn't usually get to hear. "Hopefully, it'll become an event where it's like, 'Yeah, we want to play this because it's good exposure,'" he adds.
And with so many bands trying to get on the club's schedule (they receive dozens of e-mails and tapes every week) and all of them hoping to snag a prime slot, Kings is hoping that, by putting five bands together on a bill, the showcases will become an event.
"We're not going to be able to promise them money," says Siler, "but we're going to promise them a big crowd, and then we'll have beer and pizza in the back for them. If the night is fantastically great, then they'll get some money, but we just want these bands to play in front of some people, really."
So far, Nice Price Books, Lilly's Pizza (they're donating food for the bands) and Schoolkids Records are helping Kings out with sponsorship.
May Daze will also feature one touring act, L.A.'s Brazzaville, the noir-esque, globally influenced musical musings of David Brown, known for his saxophone work with Beck. The rest of the group is L.A. musos who've backed the likes of Ozomatli, Tom Waits, Cibo Matto and more, and the sound is part Morphine, part Tom Waits--his romantic side--with a dash of Leonard Cohen, due to Brown's rumbling vocals and vagabond-inspired lyrics.
"They sound like a murder mystery soundtrack," says co-owner Ben Barwick of Brazzaville, referring to their latest release, Rouge on Pockmarked Cheeks. "And it's got a lot of hipster, L.A. types on it," he adds, noting that Beck/Waits guitarist Smoky Hormel plays on the disc.
"There's no reason not to have a band like Brazzaville play, too," Barwick says. "It makes it more dynamic." Although as far as sheer dynamism goes, Brazzaville will have to compete with Raleigh band Apollo Creedence, who plan to be pulling out the stops for what may well be their farewell show. Jason Wright, their, uh, charismatic lead singer, is moving to Chicago "for love," says Creedence's Kerry Spring.
"We're much more a band to see than a band to hear," says Spring, who also plays in The Greatest Hits. "We're really fast, it's really short songs, and we've never played a set longer than 25 minutes. And we don't talk between songs; we don't like all the banter."
"Since it's the last show, we're hoping to do a great job," he says. Frontman Wright is legendary for gettin' nekkid and carrying on. "He goes completely nuts--sets things on fire, likes to take his clothes off a lot," Spring says. He goes on to describe the time they wrote "rock and roll" on Wright's butt with a marker (doubtless to be unveiled during the show). "It was really hard to write it on there in the first place," Spring says with a laugh, explaining, "we didn't want to get too close. For a long time, he [Wright] had this 'bathing is overrated' thing going on."
Apollo Creedence headlines Friday night's bill, which features Big Nowhere, The Clones (who recently changed their name to The Spinns and have a new single on local imprint Demonbeach), Malcolm XXX and The Molested. Saturday's lineup starts with young power-pop upstarts The Weather, followed by another young, hipster outfit, Illustravox, Anderson Airplane and headliners Brazzaville. And the next music fest, June Bugs, is already being booked.
"It's difficult in the position we're in," says Popson. "We run this fine line between being a club [as in live music venue] and a bar. The local showcase thing is another thing we're trying to incorporate into our monthly schedule, but it's difficult because we have to work around touring bands' schedules."
The showcase will join other regular Kings events: Tuesday film nights (often featuring A/V Geeks or Glitter Films), Goth Night with DJ Kalyx, Southern Championship Wrestling and SOLID, a monthly R&B/funk night with DJ Marco.
"It's just our goal to have people in here and have something interesting every night," Barwick says. "We've gotten smarter at figuring out what sucks, y'know?"
"We're not trying to be like totally cool and 'rebuild the community,'" Popson says, not wanting to toot the club's horn. "But it is a good opportunity to expose people to other bands. We're just the facility; the bands are what it's about."