Music » Sound & Fury

The truth about Sam's Burger Joint and young, local bands

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“Sam’s Burger Joint is closing its doors to local bands,” someone said, and I didn’t believe him. Even though Sam’s is known for hosting mostly touring acts, plenty of local bands have and will — at least in the immediate future — play there. But my informant kept telling me, “Check it out.” So I did.

I asked Keith Howerton, Sam’s entertainment director. Is it true?

“That is false and a rumor,” Howerton wrote in a long email to the Current. “We have always booked local talent and will continue to book local talent.”

So what is the problem? When did the rumor start?

“We did recently make a decision to not do multiple-band shows of five and six bands that are primarily very young local bands,” Howerton said. “That might be where this rumor started.” You think so?

“These shows,” he continued, “were organized in a way that just did not support the venue as a business. The fans of the bands were all underage and our venue just does not have the space to support the gear storage requirements.” So Sam’s decided to change their stance, and here comes the good part: “We decided as a business that the really young bands under the age of 18 should likely play in other venues or at school.”

Wait; the “Ouch!” comes after the following line.

“Also, many of the bands on these shows just did not measure up to the quality of music that the management of Sam’s wants to host on the stage.”

I know it sounds horrible, but is it fair to condemn a venue for trying to make a few bucks? Is it right to ask a successful venue that’s used to two to three acts (who share drum kits and sell tons of drinks) to suddenly stop having bar sales and “spend more time changing gear than even having music”?

Howerton insists that good local bands (over 21) with a good (and thirsty) following will always have a place at Sam’s, but that some changes had to be made.

“Some will not agree with us … but we have to make owners’ and managers’ decisions and some will not be happy about not getting to play at Sam’s … fans who think their friends are good and should play,” Howerton said. “It is impossible to keep everyone happy.”

Read the whole email HERE and tell us what you think.




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