Jamie Kinser, DFW's Lady in Black
Welcome to Local Music 'Mericans, where we get to know the people behind the scenes in Dallas/Fort Worth music.
Jamie Kinser started booking shows after shaking hands with Ernest Tubb's nephew, Lucky Tubb. Before long, a handshake turned into a partnership. Next thing you know, Kinser's original endeavor of booking theatrical productions was put on the back burner. She managed Tubb, networked her way into the booking racket and the rest is history.
That was in her Austin days. Now, she's based out of Forth Worth and running her own operation called Blackbox Presents. For a while, she was a pivotal part of Overtone Booking, but now she's making a go of it on her own, booking shows for Here Holy Spain, The Phuss, Convoy & the Cattlemen, and throwing an annual birthday bash for Johnny Cash, of whom she's a big fan. Like so many of her fellow Local Music 'Mericans, Kinser puts a special touch on her presentation, one that says she's having the time of her life in the music world.
How did your latest Cash Bash go? I know those are very special to you. Just got in at about 4 a.m. from the Austin Cash Bash. It was the sixth annual one there and it was great as usual. These bands always put so much care into paying tribute to Cash and you can see it in their sets, with the extra rehearsal time and the fun they really have with playing covers that aren't part or their usual repertoire.
I didn't know you also did one in Austin. I was referring to LaGrange last Friday night. The Dallas Cash Bash at LaGrange was killer! Love that venue so much, too. I've been doing the Cash Bashes for four years now with Rowdy Times, a syndicated country music radio host in Austin who started them six years ago on Cash's birthday every February 26. To me, they feel like mile markers, since I really cut my teeth on event production with these shows -- getting the venue, booking the right lineup, promotions, sponsorships, budgets, ads, all of it. It's important to me to see the progress I've made in the quality of my productions and Cash Bashes are always great for reflection.
And, of course, Cash is important to me not just because of the music, but as an example of someone who was uncompromising about what he wanted for his life. He and I certainly have our differences in what right and wrong means -- he's very much a grandfather figure in this way -- but his no-B.S. policy about life is something so valuable to me.
What was the first show you ever wove together and put in a venue? Well, I was a theatre person for about ten years. I think the first shows I ever put together were plays. I directed An Adult Evening with Shel Silverstein in 2004 and in between the short vignettes, we had a wicked combo of musicians playing Shel Silverstein songs, which are funny and true in a way only Silverstein can do. I was in college and a local reviewer gave it a rating of "A" in the Star Telegram, which was incredibly exciting since that was a time when I would have been happy with an "A" in one of my classes.
How about the most successful? The most successful shows I've done have always been by such different means and yielded such varied positive results. You may lose money on one, but you'll gain an important relationship, ya dig? I'm most happy with our recent Blackbox launch party at Lola's in Fort Worth with the Burning Hotels, Mon Julien and Ishi. Getting all those bands on a bill is a no-brainer for success, but it was such a great way to kick off the new company and was frickin' packed! Also pretty proud of the Stardeath and White Dwarfs/Epic Ruins bill at The Wherehouse last year. So many more good ones to come!
What started you off doing this? Were you at a concert? I was living in Austin in 2008, trying to start a theatre company at this cool outdoor space called Project Imagine. Being in Austin, we had the idea to raise some start-up cash by throwing some shows with local musicians. They ended up being more fun than theatre, and that was also where I met Lucky Tubb, nephew of country legend Ernest Tubb. Lucky needed a manager. At the time, the man still had a rotary phone, but he knew how the music biz worked and taught me a lot. He also put me through country music boot camp when he found out I didn't know any Waylon songs.
So, suddenly your entertainment focus shifted direction? I was still trying to decide whether to focus on theatre or music, going back and forth between a national puppetry tour of Petrushka with Basil Twist's company and Tubb's shows, when Lucky got the gig opening for Hank Williams III on his East Coast 2009 tour. I went with them. I met so many people, went to badass venues like the 9:30 Club in D.C., which is my favorite, and saw how many people came and brought so much energy to those shows. I haven't done another play since.
Where would you like to take Blackbox? Right now we are focusing on national tour booking and talent buying. I want to bring amazing bands here and send our great bands out! I really like Transmission Entertainment in Austin, and it's always been my goal to work on festivals, so we're definitely headed in that direction.
Most frustrating thing about doing these shows? Most rewarding? Most frustrating has got to be the strain that being in a "party business" puts on your sleep and home life. It's impossible to do good shows if you don't go to shows. You have to go to everyone's shows. You've got to be out there, then you realize you've gotten nine hours of sleep all week and it's easy to burn out. Finding that proper balance is vital to longevity in this business. I've always thought of success as simply making a living doing something you love, so to not only be able to do that for myself, but to be able to do that for others is insanely rewarding.
It's been fantastic recently pairing up with my ultimate partner in business and life, Aaron Knight, and see him realize it's possible to really do some exciting things while having a solid business model. Most rewarding is probably being able to hand a band an envelope stuffed with cash or a big check at the end of a great night.
What needs to be done around here to put our local braintrust on the map? Well, first I feel like we need more of a festival presence. Pre-ACL Austin and Fun Fun Fun Fest really didn't have too much on what we have going up here right now. NX35, Homegrown and others are working to bring that. Our company is kicking off one in the fall with very ambitious goals. Mostly, we need to grow the audiences at our shows. This can happen in a number of ways:
1) We need to go to each other's shows as much as we can!
2) Reach out to people who don't go to music a lot and buy them a ticket to something.
3) Each production I do, I try very hard to bring as many different contributors on board as possible. We should all be a little more creative in this way. Don't just book a rockabilly band, make sure you call the car guys to bring out some hot rods and the pin-up photographers to do some shots and the tattoo artists to promote their work. Look at Alex Grey's Manifestation Celebration: Music, art and science all in one. We should try to get as many people involved as we can. It will grow not just in size but in creativity and quality.
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