Welcome to Local Music 'Mericans, where we meet some of the people behind the local music scene -- those who aren't necessarily members of local bands, but more the people who make the scene move.
As a talent buyer at the House of Blues, Brian Lowe's kind of the definition of a behind-the-scenes player.
And he's perfectly content to fly under the radar, instead choosing to spend his time adding local talent to bills with national touring acts, assembling themed nights for the venue's smaller Foundation Room upstairs and sifting through what must be an exhausting variety of submissions from bands not only in the metroplex, but surrounding cities as well.
Thing is, Lowe was just a punk rock kid when he started out as a House of Blues intern on the East Coast. Since then, he's worked for the venue chain in three different cities now, moving up from the marketing department to the talent-buying one.
From all perspectives, Lowe contributes a great amount of hard work to brainstorm scenarios and opportunities for Dallas bands to perform on HOB's coveted stages. And, since he does it on such an incognito level, it would appear he does it for the love of the music and in support of the scene.
After the jump, we try to find out, as we bring Lowe out of hiding and get to the bottom of his world at the House of Blues.
So, tell us about your pre-House of Blues past. What led you into the concert promotion world? A particular concert-going experience or two, maybe?
I actually started working as an intern for House of Blues in Myrtle Beach while still in college in 2001 to 2002. As far as my professional career history, it's all been with this company. That internship turned into a full-time job when I finished school. I spent a few years at the venue and then a couple of years at HOB Cleveland before moving to Dallas at the end of 2006, just prior to the venue opening here. I grew up as a big music fan and played drums in a few crappy punk rock bands in my high school days. Warped Tour was always a day I looked forward to as a teenager. It was great to be able to see so many bands in one day. I was also introduced to the music of some of the great singer-songwriters, like James Taylor, at a pretty young age. I remember a James Taylor show in Columbus, Ohio, when I was in high school. I think that was the first time I had seen 15,000-plus people in one place, all singing along with the artist on stage. That is a pretty powerful experience. So yeah, I'd say my music upbringing was pretty diverse!
Since starting work at HOB Dallas, you've moved from marketing to talent buying. Quite a different animal behind the scenes?
The role and the day to day responsibilities are definitely different, but overall it isn't that big of a change. We're really all still working towards the same goal and interacting with a lot of the same people.
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I picture a ton of local music acts reaching out to you and the venue -- like a modernized version of what bands used to do to record labels, before things started to look rough over there. It seems like the concert promoter is the great hope for the "unsigned" band. Is that the case? Are you overwhelmed with submissions?
We do get a lot of submissions from local artists. Touring and just playing shows has definitely become an even more important way for bands to get their name out there, since the labels have pulled back over the last several years. I wouldn't call it overwhelming for us, but we definitely try to keep on organized system so that we aren't swimming in band submissions. I guess the good news is that it's pretty much all electronic now, so it's mostly emails and web links instead of big bulky folders.
You guys seem to do a better-than-average job of being able to pay attention to local music and find so many cool things to do with it.
I think that really comes from necessity. Oftentimes, when we get asked to add local support to a national headliner, we only have a few days before the show. Obviously, we want to be sure we are suggesting the best possible fit for each of those opportunities. Because most of the submissions are electronic, it doesn't take too long to give them a listen and have an idea of how they would fit with a certain genre or artist.
HOB seems to be constantly experimenting with different things -- tribute nights, talent showcases, guest DJs, etc. It seems like your powers-that-be are supportive and open-minded as far as giving you guys the green light to try different things. Accurate?
Absolutely. It is great that we can get creative and try new things. We have a couple of different-sized rooms, so that adds some flexibility too. Ultimately, the music fans win when we can offer a wider range of events.
What local music would you be willing to bet will break out and get recognized nationally?
So much great talent...it is really hard to name names here. Ishi is a band that has really made a name for themselves and will continue to grow. Kirby Brown has a great sound. I see a bright future ahead for him. I also think Larry Gayo (aka Larry Gee) has some great new music that people will like.