Sunday, December 9, 2007

Burn Your Barbie

In late 1992 my former band Adulterous Woman was brainstorming ideas to get more people to come to see our live shows. We were based in Tempe, Arizona, home of Arizona State University. Despite the college campus population being all around us, we still had a rough time interesting people in our music. The bands that were most popular were the middle of the road bar bands playing covers or weak, unimaginative originals. We were used to only having about 20 people at most of our gigs, so we decided to put our minds to it and try to improve the numbers.

After throwing out many ideas, we finally hit upon a couple that seemed likely to work. First we decided to try to make our shows accessible to all-ages, even though that would mean talking club owners in to the idea. Secondly, we decided to have themed shows, the idea being that it would be easier to interest local press in a show that was an event rather than "just a few bands playing another gig". We approached a club called Hollywood Alley in Mesa, AZ about it doing the all-ages shows and they were agreeable to letting us host one night a month. Fortunately we had a good relationship with the club, had played there many times, and they liked that we were taking our gigs seriously.

Burn Your Barbie wasn't our first all-ages theme show, but it was the most successful. The idea came about thanks to a then recent news item about the Barbie Liberation Army. After playing the first show in October 1992, we scrambled to quickly organize the elements of Burn Your Barbie and to start our pre-show preparation for the date in November. We took photos of a burning doll (not a Barbie unfortunately) and made flyers and homemade t-shirts. We wrote a press release and sent out packages to all the local papers for which we could find contacts. We typed and copied flyers with pro-Feminist information on them to leave on tables at the club. Everything was falling in to place.

Then we discovered a glitch in our plans. The night of our show, which was November 15, ended up being the same night that the Ramones were playing in Mesa with Social Distortion supporting them. We momentarily thought we were sunk. Then we found out that the Ramones show was actually beginning early in the evening and supposed to be ending around 10PM or so because it was at an outdoor venue and the city of Mesa had strict noise ordinances. So we kept up our pre-show planning and hoped it wouldn't be a problem.

The press releases were a success. Several smaller papers mentioned our show. And the ASU Campus paper, called The State Press, wrote up a full page article about the show, taking info from our press release packets. Even Phoenix's city paper, The New Times Weekly, had a mention and a picture in their "things to do that week" calendar section. We didn't stop our promotional efforts there. The evening of our show, we headed over to the Mesa Ampitheatre and flyered hundreds of the Ramones/Social D fans' cars before being asked to leave by security (they also asked us to go and remove all the flyers, but yeah, like that was going to happen). We billed our show on these special flyers as a Post-Ramones/Social D. Party.

The other bands that we asked to play for Burn Your Barbie were selected very deliberately. We knew an all-woman hard rocking band called Burning Bush (they even had fire in their name!!!), and had played with them before. They were a perfect choice so luckily they were totally in to it. The other band was from Tucson and were called Crotch City. I recall that they were recommended by someone, perhaps Hollywood Alley door man Steve Metz with whom we were friends. Crotch City were beyond punk rock and bordering on performance art, with on-stage dancers and other antics. One of the male dancers wore pink furry briefs and for much of the show nothing else. The drummer stepped out from the drums on selected songs and played trumpet. They were pretty amusing.

Our set went very well, and by the time it started we estimated a crowd of about 125 people. Hollywood Alley was fairly packed, and it was all of our effort that got people there. We felt pretty proud. After our set ended we were approached by a staff member of Hollywood Alley asking us about possibly using our equipment to have a jam session. He said he was friends with a couple of guys from Social Distortion and they wanted to play a little. We were floored! Members of Social Distortion actually came to our Post-Ramones/Social D. Party. It just goes to show you how hard work can pay off, i guess.


Daniel said...

How cool is this story? You have to make sure your kids hear this one.

TFO said...

Thanks Daniel. Yeah if i can't remember well enough to tell it to them in 5 or 6 years then hopefully i'll still have my blog entry. i gotta start backing this stuff up on disc!

chris said...

I still have a "Burn your Barbie" Tee-Shirt!!!


(At least I /think\ I still have it!!!

Kelly O said...

I can help you back up your blog, dog. Let's talk tonight. It's business time, anyway.

A N D R E A said...

God, I love that story!! Those were the days huh? At that point, I had been in DC for a little over a year.. wishing I would have been at one of your shows!!

TFO said...

Thanks Andrea! i wish we had met you years earlier than we did too. Swell kids like yourself are rarer than good poets.