Open Doors

Buzz-Oven is cooking up a new audience for local music. One 16-year-old at a time.

Andy Richardson is 17 years old, a student at North Mesquite High School in Mesquite, a skinny kid just this side of geeky who plays guitar in a band just this side of punk rock called Dogs in Heat. He's also a "buzzer," one of a few hundred high school and college students in Dallas and Fort Worth (and Lewisville and Garland and Denton and Plano and Arlington and...) who spend their free time promoting local music. They wait near the doors after concerts and hand out fliers, tack up posters outside classrooms, bug video jocks at GameWorks, whatever it takes. "You really have to get out there to find the kids that really care," he says.

Richardson's a recent convert: He went to his first local concert just over a year ago, a gig at Trees on December 2, 2000, with Baboon, Chomsky and Lucy Loves Schroeder on the bill. The show was put together by Buzz-Oven, the collective Aden Holt started in early 2000, and when Holt first came up with the idea, Andy Richardson was exactly whom he had in mind. Not Richardson, specifically, but him and people like him, high school kids in the Dallas-Fort Worth area weaned on bad radio. Holt's plan was to show them that the good stuff was right here if they wanted it, that they just had to know where to look. For almost two years, he's been pointing the way: Buzz-Oven recently released the fifth volume in its series of local sampler CDs (this one has songs by The Burden Brothers, The Deathray Davies, [DARYL] and Bee) and is set to host all-ages shows on April 6 and 13 at Fort Worth's Ridglea Theater and Trees, respectively.

Holt knew the potential was there; Buzz-Oven got its start when he noticed how many under-18s turned out for the all-ages showcases he assembled for the label he owned and operated at the time, One Ton Records. (After more than seven years, One Ton went out of business last July.) A few months later, the basic structure of Buzz-Oven was in place: Holt compiled a disc with two songs each from Slow Roosevelt, Red Animal War and Valve, booked a pair of all-ages shows and assembled a network of young fans (the so-called "buzzers") who wanted to be involved. "I just wanted to expose more bands than my bands to that market," Holt says, "because it seems like it's a really tough market to get into for most bands."

All access: "I just wanted to expose more bands than my bands to that market," Buzz-Oven’s Aden Holt says (with Dallas team leader Mary Frances Poston), "because it seems like it's a really tough market to get into for most bands."
Stephen P. Karlisch
All access: "I just wanted to expose more bands than my bands to that market," Buzz-Oven’s Aden Holt says (with Dallas team leader Mary Frances Poston), "because it seems like it's a really tough market to get into for most bands."

Although it was a noble idea, that didn't mean it would work. Chris Lewellyn tried the same thing (basically) a few years ago with his pair of Dos Sensenseos compilations and accompanying all-ages shows at the now-defunct Orbit Room, and his efforts, unfortunately, were met with varying levels of indifference.

To get everyone up to speed: Exasperated with the lack of support for the all-ages shows in the area and the absence of Dallas-Fort Worth-area artists from local radio playlists (sound familiar?), Lewellyn, then working at Last Beat Records, put together Dos Sensenseos. The disc was loaded with tracks by local acts, and he distributed about 1,000 free copies to a dozen or so area high schools. Each copy of Dos Sensenseos also included a calendar of upcoming all-ages shows he had booked, each gig featuring a handful of the groups that appeared on the disc.

"I thought that there were a lot of bands that they [radio stations] were neglecting," Lewellyn said in 1999, a year after he released the pair of local compilation discs. "But I was also frustrated with the all-ages crowd, because, basically, all the kids that I wanted to come to the shows weren't coming. And it was only because--what I felt was the reason--they didn't know about these other bands that they weren't hearing on the radio. These other bands are almost 10 times better than a bunch of stuff they're hearing."

Compare that with the mission statement found on the Buzz-Oven Web site (www.buzz-oven.com): "As commercial radio becomes less diverse, the opportunity for young music fans to get involved in their own music scene has become even harder. Very few young people are exposed to the wealth of talented bands that exist in their hometowns. Most bands that become radio favorites spend up to 10 years playing concerts and recording music before their music is heard by a younger audience. Buzz-Oven's mission is to enhance traditional methods of music distribution and bring it straight to the fans themselves as it is happening."

Like Lewellyn, Buzz-Oven attempts to do this by seeding area high schools with music, distributing free CD samplers with a pair of songs by three or four local bands. The discs are basically invitations, audio fliers for the low-priced, all-ages shows Buzz-Oven hosts a month or so later, featuring the same groups on the sampler. Most of these gigs happen in Dallas or Fort Worth, but Buzz-Oven also goes to where the kids are, setting up shows at Eisenbergs Skate Park in Plano, Lone Star Country Club in Coppell and, recently, Grapevine's Palace Theater.

Buzz-Oven, however, has taken Lewellyn's concept and put a bit more muscle behind it, thanks, in part, to a sponsorship deal Holt set up with Coca-Cola at the outset; the added funds allow Buzz-Oven to manufacture a minimum of 3,000 copies of each sampler. It doesn't sound like much, especially when you consider that Creed's latest effort (and that term is used as loosely as possible) sold about that many copies a week--in D-FW alone--during its first month in stores. But it all adds up, all helps: If you want to defeat a giant, you need a good slingshot and a big pile of rocks. Or rock, as the case may be.

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