Cayenne Shame

Why throw an indie festival if no one will come?

Bombard us with mainstream no-brainers like No Doubt, and hey -- we'll pack an arena. Now you can even make that conclusion with a now-major-label "indie rock" band like Death Cab, which Levy brought to the Marquee Theatre a couple of weeks ago. Back when they really were small-time, they played intimate venues. Now that they're the darlings of Rolling Stone -- and getting airplay -- they play big, sold-out shows.

And although stations like The Edge harass us with promos every 10 minutes when they have a concert of their own coming up, nobody spoke up to help Levy to get his own gig ingrained in listeners' brains. Not that it would have mattered. Why promote a show when you don't play the music?

I believe Levy when he says he's an expert at predicting attendance, like how he almost exactly called the draw for the nearly-sold-out Bright Eyes show at Celebrity Theatre. But he bases his forecasts on advance ticket sales, not the swirls in a crystal ball. So while plenty of folks thought they were safe waiting until the day of the show to pay admission, they were unknowingly sabotaging the chances of its happening at all. When it came down to canceling the Grand Cayenne Festival, Levy was only using the same instincts he's been honing for 10 years, and I can't blame him. What are the chances of a thousand people buying tickets at the door?

Levy says he could've tried to bring in somebody huge, like the Flaming Lips. Thing is, that would've raised the risks and expectations even more.

But maybe it would've made a difference. Maybe our scene needs to be lured by a big headliner, or at least needs more time to grow an audience for underground music. Maybe we're not as strong as we'd like to think we are.

For now, I'm happy to say better luck next time -- just as long as there is a next time.

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