Saturday, April 16, 2005
"Come and NACA my door"
That was the theme for the 2005 Northern Plains regional conference of the National Association for Campus Activities last weekend (catchy, although I got a little tired of humming the Three's Company theme song to myself. Next year's is something along the lines of "Swing your partner to and fro, off to NACA we will go," since it'll be in Cedar Rapids and Iowa is of course the center of the square dance universe). 1300 students and staff advisors from campus activities boards in Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Montana, Nebraska, and Wyoming came to the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minnesota to spend a four-day weekend being courted by performers. And had you been one of those students walking around the marketplace you might have happened past a booth for Central Standard Time, nestled in between booths for a company that provided clowns and clown gear and another that did booking for hypnotists and magicians - and maybe three, four booths down from Peppermint Records where you could book Storyhill. Imagining for a moment that you stopped to see what exactly "Central Standard Time" could do for you as a campus activities person, you would have gotten to talk to Matt and I, who would have struggled with trying to define how we sound (Simon and Garfunkel-ish was the comparison we used most often, although that's certainly not dead on (and more than a little presumptuous). Anyone with good ideas about how to describe the Central Standard Time sound to someone who's never heard us, please send 'em my way), asked you about the role acoustic music plays on your campus, offered you a promo CD, talked about how cool it is that said CD is dual-media, asked you to sign our mailing list, and wished you a pleasant weekend. Hopefully you'd have then immediately gone to find the other campus activities people from your school and told them they needed to - indeed, they must - book CST and do so quickly, although if that happened we never found out about it.
'Twas certainly an interesting weekend. Matt's and my expectations were ever so high going into it - we wouldn't have been surprised at all to leave Rochester with a dozen shows booked and confirmed. Indeed, we spent some time discussing what sort of limit we would set for too many shows so we wouldn't overextend ourselves. Pitiful, yes, but to our credit it only took us about half an hour to figure out how naive we'd been. Then we went through a period of despondence as we thought about the $1000 we'd spent to come to Rochester and not gain anything substantial from the trip, but we got over that pretty quickly, too, as we talked to campus activities people who seemed interested in us (particularly because we were there instead of an agent - there weren't many performers in the room) and took promo CDs and left contact information. So far we don't have a single show on the books, but we have over a dozen strong maybes, and we certainly don't need all of those to turn into shows - not even close - to make our money back. And next year people will remember us from this year and be more inclined to take us seriously.
And if nothing else, it was really neat to do such a "we're really a band" thing. Central Standard Time will never be a full-time job for Matt or me; neither of us are in a position to pull up stakes and tour nationally. Every time we do something band-ish, though, it's a little piece of my childhood dream of being a professional band-in-be-er (specifically, being John Lennon (no reason to aim low, after all)) coming true. I still remember when we recorded our first CD - no studio or processing or effects or anything fancy like that, just two mikes and two guitars run through a mixer into a DAT. I can barely stand to listen to it now, but it hardly ever stopped playing back in May Term '96. A couple of years later we played a concert on campus for 100 people. Horrible sound system, still quite an unpolished stage presence, but we were playing our songs and people were listening and clapping for us - it was one of the biggest rushes I've ever gotten. Last weekend we went to Rochester and met with campus activities people and networked with other performers and handed 'em CD's and referred them to our Electronic Press Kit and discussed fees and stayed in a really crappy hotel with a bed that almost took off one of Matt's fingers. It was a step towards a next step, and even if nothing comes it that's exciting unto itself.
This is exciting. Also exciting is the fact that you are still alive. Alive is a good thing. I like "Storyhill-ish" as a comparison, too, but it is perhaps more limited in its regional and generational applicability.
I am definately a big fan of CST and look forward to seeing you guys this Friday right here in our little town of Waverly, Iowa!
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