DIY Entertainment--A Recipe for the Recession
Last Friday night something nearly impossible happened in our tiny hamlet down the road of Taylorsville, CA (boasts a population of 175?)---nightlife. Nightlife in a recession no less. How did we get 40 + people to show up at an evening event in a town that opens at 8 am and closes at noon? In a time when many people in our town have less than no money? I’ll tell ya....
This is my recipe to cure small town boredom on the cheap. You need a few items:
- One Facebook account
- One aging dive bar in the middle of nowhere whose manager won’t say no to you because they haven’t seen a steady flow of customers in years.
- A few serious musicians and writers that are good enough to be entertaining and willing to pitch in for free beer, but obscure enough not to demand big money or billing.
- One PA system
- A point of contact/go to person/emcee
Last May a former student and I had an idea after attending some Words + Music shows in neighboring towns. We’d attended a few of these shows and noticed the majority of the musicians and some of the writers were actually from our area but since our area did not sport any venue to play in, those seeking the stage were going elsewhere. It was rare for us to go anywhere, especially in winter due to icy roads. The last thing one wants to do after partying all night is to have a nice white knuckle drive through icy canyons on the way home. So we thought. How could we bring this kind of thing to our town?
We looked around at different restaurants and cafes but most had bad accoustics. Then we discovered the Taylorsville, Tavern. Born in the late 1800s, it sported an almost forgotten backroom that already had the hints of a stage. Hmm...would they go for it? We talked to the manager and asked if we could ‘try’ something one Friday night a month. We’ll clean up and set up, and you provide us the free room and hopefully whomever comes to see the show will buy beer. Worked like a charm.
Next we did what every rural person does around here. We got on Facebook , added friends by the dozens that lived around here and created an event. We also hit the town with flyers the old fashioned way and the local paper as well. Now we had an event and people were RSVPing and asking questions. How much were we charging and why were we doing it?
Free. No charge. We billed it as Entertainment on the Cheap. That was 2008. Now in 2009 we call it Entertainment for the new Economy.
Once we had the show hooked up at the bar and people RSVPing 21st century style we began working on potential players. We made friends with the guy who had the PA and encouraged him to play a few songs. We heard the librarian sing and told her she should polish a few songs and come sing for us. We told two musicians who we’d heard play that these other musicians were playing and did they want to play too? We found writers who were funny and asked them to read a funny story to us in between music sets. Unlike a regular talent show where those without talent eagerly take the stage like American Idol wannabes , we actively solicity talent that we hear about and wear them down until they agree to play us a few tunes.
Our first show we had about seven people show up to perform and about seven people show up to watch. Our last show we had 40 non-performers show up and nine performers. That’s hella huge for a town of 175. We buy the first drink for each person taking the stage. Audience members usually follow suit. The bar is seeing totals on those nights that it hasn’t seen in decades.
It’s taken 10 months of these once a month shows to really get it off the ground. Now people are stopping us on the street telling us what a good time they had. Maybe they are thinking of performing next time. Are we going to do a theme again? Someone told me that she doesn’t go out anymore because of the cost of everything. But with our night she can have one beer at home and one at our ‘niteclub’ and sit and listen to some music and words and feel like she used to when she did have money to go out.
Just because the financial world and our financial world is tanking doesn’t mean the fun has to stop too. If anything , this is when we need it the most.
I sincerely hope our NiteClubs at the Tavern have a long life ahead of them. This combination economic downturn + community involvement has really come to = a real good time. We are doing it ourselves: singing , dancing, laughing for four hours a month all for the cost of a couple of beers. And when you live in a snowy mountain range, that winter interaction can mean everything.
I give you this recipe free. Take it to your nearest dive bar manager. Find your musicians. Find your comedians wanting their training wheels to finally be off and a way you go. Find your community. Show them a good time.