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LA Booker Interview: Brian Smith of The Troubadour

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If you go as far west as you can in West Hollywood on Santa Monica Blvd., right before you wind up in Beverly Hills you will see the Troubadour - one of the most famous rock clubs in the world - established in 1957.

Home of the Eagles, Jackson Browne, Elton John, and Linda Ronstadt in the '60s and '70s, the warm, rich club also saw the likes of Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, and Randy Newman among others. Lenny Bruce had even been arrested there for obscenity in the late '50s.

Many don't realize but despite the Troub's love for folk acts, it also opened its arms to metal and hard rock in the late '70s and early '80s with acts from KISS to Guns n Roses to Motley Crue gracing its small stage.

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There are many places to hang out and hide at the Troubadour. There's the front bar, there's the back bar where you can even order food, there's the Attic, there's the seats in the balcony. There's so much history and so many rock n roll ghosts.

But the best part is the club is as vital as ever. This year alone has provided great shows from Dinosaur Jr., The Mars Volta, Crowded House and The Meat Puppets, among others.

As we continue our series on the men and women who bring the bands to you, we have Brian Smith of the Troubadour who answered our hard-hitting questions after the jump.

Name: Brian Smith
Club: Troubadour
Address: 9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Capacity: 501

What sort of bands normally play your club: Hopefully the good ones…

What are the most famous bands that have played your club: Elton John, Bob Dylan, Lenny Bruce, Tom Waits, Eagles, Buffalo Springfield, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Captain Beefheart, the Byrds, Randy Newman, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Cat Stevens, Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen, Guns N Roses, Metallica, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine, Foo Fighters, Johnny Cash, Radiohead, Coldplay, Ben Harper, Fiona Apple, The Strokes, Wilco, White Stripes, The Killers, Arcade Fire , Elvis Costello.

Who is the owner of your club: The Karayan Family

How did you get your job booking shows?
I was lucky. I was in the right place at the right time and I made the most of the opportunity.

What types of previous skill sets or experiences made you qualified for this job?
Most importantly, I am passionate about music and the experience that an artist and the audience has at a concert. I am modestly organized, inquisitive, present…and I am easily engaged. I worked out my “cool kid” issues in high school so I know the difference between business and friendship.

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What makes your club special or unique?
It has been around for 50 years. Life changing shows take place here that span generations; at the Troubadour, my folks saw Lenny Bruce and I saw Radiohead perform Ok Computer. The philosophy of the room is very simple and it is run very proficiently. I don’t think we will look back with embarrassment at how the club presents itself, in the way that perhaps Loverboy or Kip Winger might feel when they are alone and being self reflective.

As you figure out what bands to book, where are you trying to steer the club?
I am just humbly trying to add to the great history of The Troubadour. I love LA and I think this room means a lot to the people that live here. It would be nice if in 20 years people look back fondly on their memories of the shows that took place when I booked the room.

What's the biggest mistake bands make when they approach you trying to get booked?
There is no proper method. Being a quality band and making personal contact seems to work pretty well. Selling out a smaller club is a pretty good sales pitch. If a band gives me a hard sell and they don't draw a crowd...well, i would never book them again. It is best to make a strong impression on a booker on your first play because there are thousands of other artists dying to play a show...

What's the best thing bands can do to get booked at their favorite clubs?
Make some noise. I assume most bookers read the paper, look at music websites. Word of mouth is a powerful tool.

Who has been your mentor as far as showing you the ropes about booking?
Liz Garo.

If you weren't working where you are, what other rock club would you love
to book for?

The only other “club” that I would consider working for at this point is the one that is right on the beach in the south of France and is paying BIG euros. Sadly, they have yet to build this club.

What is the best show that you ever put together - or your favorite?
PJ Harvey, Patti Smith performing Horses, Joanna Newsom, Gogol Bordello, Explosions in the Sky

What is your favorite LA rock moment outside of the club you book for.
Nick Cave / Sinead O’Connor at the Wiltern
Flaming Lips at the Knitting Factory
The Breeders at The Echo
Elliott Smith at Spaceland
Gun Club / Pretenders at Viper Room
Geraldine Fibbers at Aaron Records parking lot
Tom Waits at The Shrine
Bjork at Palladium
Portishead at American Legion Hall
Fugazi at The Palace (now Avalon)

What's your second favorite place to see live music in LA, next to your
own club?

The Echo

What band would you die to have play at your club?
Roxy Music with Eno would be pretty nice but I would settle for Bob Dylan or Tom Waits or Captain Beefheart or Leonard Cohen or Nick Cave or Neil Young or Prince or The Smiths or Radiohead... So if you are reading this CALL ME!

*Previously in this series:*
Patrick Llewellyn of Safari Sam's
Jennifer Tefft of Spaceland
Chris Diaz of The Knitting Factory

exterior photo of the club via Troubadour website, others by Tony Pierce for LAist

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