House of Blues' Chris Spinks: "Venues Should Be Able to Help Each Other, Rather Than Fight Tooth and Nail"
Chris Spinks' folks raised him on a strict diet of classic rock. His friends upgraded that diet to all things Epitaph and Fat Wreck Chords when he got a little older, starting with Social Distortion's Live at the Roxy. From there, he played in a pop-punk band or two, landed a gig at the Vans store, did part-time work at couple different broadcast companies as a radio promotions assistant, and ran the entertainment at an Arlington music club. Most recently, he's landed a sweet gig working in marketing and talent buying for Live Nation at House of Blues Dallas.
Tell us your Hagfish story! When I was 20, my boss at Vans asked me if I wanted to go to a Hagfish reunion show on Christmas night in the Tea Room. It was a 21+ show but she snuck me in and introduced me to some of her friends. Turned out her friends were Zach Blair (Hagfish, Rise Against), Rob Marchant (Slowride, Riverboat Gamblers) and Tobe Bean (Street Dogs). I about pissed myself in excitement and Tobe proceeded to buy me my first, second, third and fourth Jagerbomb ever. It was such a great night and I still see those guys around when they're in town.
You wanted to be The Who's Tommy when you were a kid? I wanted to be Tommy so bad and I think I went on a two-month kick where all I wanted to do is play pinball. I was skating and playing guitar and bass in my high school years. My first band was called Fendie Niner. I think we played a total of five shows, including an early all-ages show at the old Galaxy Club. I still have the Observer strip ad form that show somewhere in my apartment.
Did you do some college time? After high school, I stayed in Arlington and went to UTA. I was working at Vans and met a friend of a friend and we decided to start a new band called Skylines End. Some of the shows we played were so ridiculous and that is where I got my first taste of the business. Club owners, talent buyers, promoters, people who called themselves promoters, people who were going to "take you to the next level"... The list goes on. And we had no idea what we were doing. We got taken for a ride and I probably learned more in the four to five years being in a band than school could have ever taught me.
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What were some exciting points of Arlington's music scene? I really wouldn't say there were a whole lot of exciting points with the music scene, but Arlington has tried its hand housing a decent live music venue. Dreamworld and some other one I can't think of, but nothing has ever really stuck. There is too much going on in Dallas or Fort Worth for people to go out and say, "I think I'm going to go check out a show in Arlington tonight..."
Was House of Blues right after that? I actually found myself working at The Ticket for a few years. Then a job opening became available at House of Blues and I was all over it. I called everyone I knew over here asking what it would take to get an interview. I got the interview and a few weeks later I got a marketing manager job. At first I only promoted our restaurant some other things but now have transitioned into a director role, in which I oversee all the marketing for the venue: shows, special events, the Foundation Room, our retail shop and our restaurant. It's pretty crazy to think about. I never would have thought I'd be in this position now after all the years of grinding in promotions.
Tell us about some of the most exciting DFW-based music you've seen at the venue. Ishi opening for Chromeo was awesome. I'm a huge fan of those guys. Green River Ordinance sold out their last show here in the main music hall. It was really cool to see those guys have success after working at it for so long. And hosting the DOMAs for the first time was really cool. Having all the best musicians and bands in Dallas in one place is really cool but to have it in your venue makes you take a step back and savor the moment.
Who do you like in the DFW talent pool? Right now, I would say Telegraph Canyon, Ishi, Whiskey Folk Ramblers, The King Bucks, A.Dd+, Burning Hotels, Prophets and Outlaws and the Brandon Steadman Band. Every chick likes a good two-step and a Shiner, right?
How about the scene itself? I think bands are getting much smarter in their approach. No one is putting all their eggs one basket to "get signed." They're using technology to their benefit. You can release new music much easier and still reach a ton of people. I also love the fact that Deep Ellum is starting to show some life finally. La Grange, Trees and The Door have all been killing it lately. At the Drive-In at Trees? Are you kidding me? So awesome. There is so much good music in the world that venues should be able to help each other, rather than fight tooth and nail for every show. Yes, this is a business and we all have to make money. And it's probably ridiculous to think that competing venues would help each other, but my thought is that there is a greater good out there for the city of Dallas. If the city is doing well, I'm willing to bet that shows and venues will be doing just fine, too.
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