Friday, June 17, 2005

Velvet Gold Mine

This following article appeared in the recent Washington City Paper (I would direct link to it if the City Paper didn't have such a shitty unusable website that makes it impossible to link to anything and expect it to still be there in a few days).

I'm not defending the pilfering band in question nor do I defende Velvet Lounge but I am criticizing Washington DC for not being able to support a more robust live music scene. I'm one to talk because I think clubs get it all wrong and should be building environments for people to enjoy music and the company of each other, not be treated like sardines and smoked hams. Yes, clubs have discovered air conditioning but still its a nasty unpleasant experienced. Contrast current mid-size rock venues (930, Black Cat) with Blues Alley and you'll see what I mean. That said, who really wants to go to the Velvet Lounge? Because of their assinine policy of not paying bands unless they get a certain amount of paying customers is dumb and it leads to them not being able to book bands that get people in the door! Funnily, Warehouse Next Door and even Galaxy Hut, two smaller and somewhat poorly situated venues get way better bands - who... guess what Chris Connelly - attract people. The Velvet Lounge seems to think it is incumbent on these out-of-town bands to magically form street teams and get people into their shitty, overpriced bars. Get a decent booker and promoter and pay the fucking bands, dooshbags.


By Chris Shott

If your band books a show at D.C.’s Velvet Lounge, it’ll be hard for anyone to call you a sellout. Club owner Chris Connelly confesses, “We’ve had well over 2,000 bands play there, and probably close to 1,000 of them have gotten paid zero.”

That’s because the small two-story rock venue at 915 U St. NW adheres to a strict per capita pay system for weekday performances. The bottom line: No crowd, no cash. “You need to get out at least six people to get paid,” Connelly explains. “That sixth person gets you $5.” And each extra head nets you another fiver on top of Velvet’s base-level compensation for all bands: a few free beers apiece. (On weekends, the pay is more equitable, with the club handing out half of admission fees to performers.)

Some bands, though, want more than the same old frat-house deal. Last week, one such group of disgruntled rockers discovered a new revenue stream at Velvet.

On June 8, after the last band finished its set, at around 1 a.m., eight microphones were taken “without permission from the stage area,” according to a police report. Connelly, who values the missing items at a combined $740, says the apparent theft effectively wiped out the club’s entire supply of mikes for vocalists, leaving the venue only instrumentally equipped.

You might say it just wasn’t a good evening for nightspot security along Metrobus Route 98: Mere hours after the Velvet’s mikes went missing, police say, someone also broke into Peyote Cafe in Adams Morgan and made off with 10 bottles of various top-shelf vodkas.

But unlike Peyote’s alleged burglary, which a police report attributed to “unknown suspect(s),” Velvet’s multiple-mike heist had an obvious suspect, says Connelly.

The disappearance of those electronics followed a heated verbal dispute between club management and the evening’s headlining act, Elevado, an Atlanta-based quintet described on its Web site as “retro/Êfuturist indie-meets-krautrock rockers.” The contention centered on the performers’ portion of door receipts. Or lack thereof. “They thought that they were supposed to get paid whether they brought out a substantial number of people or not,” Connelly says. “I think they brought four people, and our pay deal does not yield pay at that level of draw.”

Following the spat, the band packed up. And it apparently had some trouble differentiating between its property and the club’s, Connelly says. A Velvet sound tech noticed that a kick-drum mike belonging to the club was gone from the stage. The club recovered the mike, which had been tucked away with the group’s equipment. Connelly further alleges that one of the band members also ripped a mirror off a wall in the restroom.

Threatening to call police, Connelly went John Wayne on the outsiders, warning them “to get out of town and not come back,” he says. The following day, club personnel found that four vocal mikes and four instrument mikes were gone.

Connelly & Co. weren’t about to let the alleged klepto-rockers get away with the 6-month-old equipment.

Digging up a schedule of Elevado’s subsequent show dates, Connelly called up the next few venues on the list to warn them that “these guys might be up to shenanigans.” He and VelvetVelvet crew was there waiting by the bar. booker Rob Curtis also set out for the next spot on the group’s tour: Baltimore’s Talking Head Club. When the suspects arrived at that club just two nights after the reported mike swipe, the

Despite their apparent anger and banter about “grisly affairs,” Connelly says the Velvet posse refrained from physical confrontation. Instead, Connelly demanded $800 worth of Elevado’s equipment. The band’s singer, Justin Sias, called Baltimore police. The cops stopped Connelly from taking any of the group’s stuff, Sias says. But authorities needed a warrant to address the mike issue. Connelly and Curtis left Baltimore empty-handed. Later that night, though, the band drove back to D.C. and returned all eight missing mikes.

Elevado drummer Jonathan Vance admits that he swiped the mikes. The club had been upfront about its payment policy, but Vance thought the group deserved a little more love. “I was surprised that they weren’t even giving us a sympathy $20 or something.”

He also wasn’t happy with the way Velvet management spoke to his wife, Maryn Vance, Elevado’s violinist and business liaison, when she asked about the money after the band’s set was over. “I thought that the way that the club owners talked to her was really, you know, disrespectful. And it kind of set off this dumb-jock instinct in my brain to do something in retaliation,” he says. “The equipment was just lying onstage. And I had a deep bag.”

“I felt terrible about it the next day,” he adds.

In his guilt, Vance suggests that he intended to return the mikes of his own accord. “But they showed up in Baltimore first,” he says.

In the aftermath of the Velvet incident, Vance says, he and his wife have dropped out of Elevado. Singer Sias says the episode “has really hurt our reputation.”

“Out of 2,000 bands, we’ve had a couple of pay disputes,” says Connelly. “But nothing like this.”


Post a Comment

<< Home