By Scott Robertson
I don’t normally say nice things about commercial endeavors in this space. In a publication that sells advertising, we avoid giving it away free of charge in our editorial content. But there are a couple of companies doing something right now that’s exactly the kind of thing that will, in small ways, help Johnson City grow, and I want to make sure they get some recognition for it.
Wild Wing Café downtown and the radio station known as 99.3 the X have been bringing top touring rock bands into town to play shows during the brunch and lunch hours on weekdays. They did it in August and again this week.
It’s the kind of clever idea that sets Johnson City apart – in a good way – with the young professionals we want raising their families here. The idea that you can have lunch downtown while the band that has the No. 1 song in America performs in the same room is pretty cool.
It’s the result of a couple of young people coming up with a good idea for their businesses. Sarah Goodpaster is promotions manager at Wild Wing. Jason Reed is program director at 99.3 the X.
In Reed’s case, it was a question of maximizing the impact of having these bands pass through the area. Take the Aug. 22 event in which the group called Portugal, the Man played a brunch show. Portugal, the Man at the time had the top selling single in America, a catchy little ditty called “Feel it still.” The band was already scheduled to play a venue called The Orange Peel in Asheville the next night. Now, record labels tend to offer radio stations along their bands’ tour routes a chance to have the bands in studio, talking with the D.J.s and playing acoustic versions of their hits, so getting the bands into Johnson City isn’t a problem. Getting those bands onstage, however, is a different matter.
The Orange Peel, like many other venues, reportedly protects itself from bands overbooking themselves by having a 100-mile limit. No band that plays their venue can play another paying gig within 100 miles. This keeps a band from playing a $30-a-ticket show in Johnson City the night before they are scheduled to play a $40-a-ticket show at The Orange Peel. It’s sound business, but it keeps a lot of great acts from playing the Tri-Cities.
Reed, however, went to Goodpaster with the idea of a free show – not a paying gig – that would bring music fans to her restaurant while making better use of the band than just having the members sit in the studio talking with a D.J. The record labels have been eager to go along.
“This is a free show. There’s no ticket sales involved,” Reed explains. “So the show doesn’t take away from The Orange Peel. When you go to The Orange Peel, you’re going to see The Struts or Portugal, the Man play a full set. Here, they play three or four songs in an acoustic setting.” It’s what the band would be doing in studio, only they do it for a live audience that also buys brunch or lunch.
It’s good for the station. It’s good for the restaurant. It’s good for the band. But it’s great for economic developers and business recruiters trying to bring young families here to grow our economy.