Adam Savage is a stalwart of the Baltimore music scene, where he is a booker and promoter for many of the best shows around town. It was great to talk to him and learn about an important part of live music that maybe gets overlooked. You can catch his shows at venues like the Golden West, Ottobar, Metro Gallery and Baltimore Soundstage under the name “Savage Party.” He also plays in several bands including his own: Cemetery Piss.
Whats the best part about being a booker? Going to shows for free? Meeting musicians you respect and admire?
Sure, going to shows for free is a perk of the industry. On occasion I will end up befriending artists that I have a lot in common with that I wouldn’t have ended up meeting if I weren’t in this position but meeting people that I respect and admire artistically doesn’t interest me all that much.
The best thing about being a booker is when you have a really killer show, the band is crushing it and feeding off the audience. There’s this huge energy and everyone there feels completely alive. When you can look at the show from the back of the room and realize that you helped provide all these people with an extraordinary experience, that’s the best thing about what I do.
Do you ever get into awkward spots where you want to help out a friend by booking a show but you actually think their music is quite bad?
I’m not a fan of every band that I book by a long shot but even if I don’t particularly like the music I can usually still tell if they are a good band or good at what they’re doing and if that’s the case I wanna help by getting them in front of the best audience that I can.
It can be a bummer when a friend is in a band that is just awful and I can’t really make anything work for them. Or if I have a relationship with a booking agent and I basically have to try to make a show work for them even though I kinda know nobody’s gonna like it and it’s gonna be a pain to find anyone to play with them. This would be the worst part of the job. More often than not, it takes two or three times as much time and effort to book a lame show rather than an awesome one.
Baltimore is a smaller city – are there advantages to booking acts here because of that? Fewer venues mean it’s easier to get in touch with people and have less overlap/competition on the same night?
It’s a little more complicated than it just being a small city. Some small cities can easily thrive when it comes to getting touring bands because of their location. It basically all comes down to our relationship and proximity to DC. It doesn’t seem like DC has all that many more venues or anything but it’s a much bigger market.
That being said, certain things just work here that don’t work there and vice versa. I often look at the website for 930 Club and see upwards of 10 ‘Sold Out’ shows for bands that I have NEVER heard of in my life. On the other hand, metal shows basically don’t even occur in DC and they do quite well here. Also, even though I’m not really part of it, the warehouse scene in Baltimore is pretty crazy, they don’t have that shit there. I guess Baltimore is just a little grimier, so that underground scene, metal, punk etc all seems to do better here.
What would be your dream act to book and at which Baltimore venue?
I dunno… Prince at the Ottobar
It seems easy for people to forget that being a promoter and booker is a business. Anything unexpected you’ve learned about business and finance that people on the creative side might not realize?
Honestly this hasn’t been too much of a problem for me. I think that people realize that I’m easy to work with but I’m also running a business. I’ve been doing this for 8 or 9 years and I’ve always stayed completely out of the DIY/collective/warehouse thing intentionally. Not because I don’t support that stuff but because I just wanted what I do to be separate. So I think that that helps.