Photo Credit: Zb Images
This month’s Expert Fan is not a stranger to you if you are even a semi-regular on the LA music scene. She can be found at shows she booked or behind the light board at The Satellite (Sometimes other spots as well!). She’s been booking shows, lighting bands, and doing everything in between since she was a wee teenager, meet Expert Fan Rebecca Balin.
I met Rebecca the night of my very first show at Silverlake Lounge almost two years ago. She is someone that offers help immediately, and clearly enjoys all aspects of the music scene. She is great at giving bands a chance and if she really loves your tunes, she will go damn near to the end of the Earth to help your band get shows, be well lit, and just generally promote the hell out of you. To top it off, every once in a while you can catch her playing her own tunes!
Recently, Rebecca and I were able to take some time to sit down and chat, so read on to find out how she got started in the music industry, what bands she was crazy about first, who makes up her dream lineup, and what advice she has for bands!
Hometown: North Hollywood
Who were you favorite bands growing up?
I listened to a lot of radio. I didn’t get my first CD until I was nine. I went to my first concert when I was 13. It was always whatever was on the radio, mostly whatever my mom wanted to sing in the car, which sometimes I didn’t like. Anytime Selena and Ace of Base came on, I listened to a lot of that. No Doubt, when I was a teenager. But then I started getting into going to live shows, music like Taking Back Sunday and The Used. I feel bad, almost shameful for the type of music that I listened to, the pop-emo stuff, but at the same time –
Jo: It was so important to you.
It really was. I lost count at a certain point, but I would say, between the ages of 15 and 22 I’d seen Taking Back Sunday more than 25 times live. I’d wait in line all day, and skip school to be in the front. But it was mostly also just because of the people I met. I made some really cool friends. I haven’t talked to them in so long.
Best live show you’ve ever gone to?
I go to so many that some of them become a blur, which is unfortunate. It’s almost like you are watching a show and then another band will come on and sometimes you want to still want to just resonate in the glow of like this amazing set you just saw. But, many times there’s still another band after your headliner and you want to be in that moment, but then it gets like Men in Black wiped out. I just did lights for The Entrance Band at The Satellite and it was awesome. I enjoyed it even though I was working. I was half surprised by the things I was doing too. I wasn’t really expecting for it to come out the way it did. It looked cool and the sound guy that night was great. It was packed and I liked that.
There was also this one Brothers Zmed show at the Century City Mall, where they were singing this great song, “Living in Denial”. I thought they were going to say this one inappropriate line, so the anticipation of thinking that they were going to say the line ‘My dick in my hand’ in a public place was thrilling. I didn’t know what to expect.
Other than the music, what makes a show epic for you?
Other than the music, what brings me to a show is the mutual friends. I think it’s important to have a really good connection with your fan base to make things fun and interesting each time, so that they’ll want to come back. Also, half of the reason why I went into lighting was because I would watch my friend’s bands and I’m like, “These guys are so good, where are the pyrotechnics, strobe lights, the dry ice, like where’s everything?!” I want to watch, a good visual aspect that matches the sound.
You’ve done a variety of different things in music, so talk about how you started. You book venues, do lighting, and all kinds of cool stuff.
My friend Daniel is in Gothic Tropic, he’s the bass player. One day we were sitting down and he said to me, “You had a blog before there were even blogs.” I sort of did, I had this website with my sister because she was working on this movie and wanted to get investors interested in her film. She made the band real, and then wanted there to be like this fan site. It was originally all going to be fake, as I was under 18, I was like 16. I didn’t want to do it, but my sister said she was too old. The way she really got me into it was because she said, “Think about the free tickets you can get.” But, it was the sweetest fan site, we actually made a review site and just tried a bunch of ways to get more hits. It totally worked, we were pretty big in Japan and had a really big following, but now there is no shred left of anything about it on the Internet. I’m okay with that. Anyway, we did go to SXSW with that site. We started doing shows as well, before we went offline. That’s how I learned the hard way never to pay rent for venue, a bar guarantee, or do pay to play. I lost a lot of money. But it was cool for a while. Sonny from Skrillex came to a bunch of my shows. He was 14 and we had some mutual friends. Tristan Prettyman played the first show I ever put on.
But that’s how I got into doing shows. I was also doing reviews for LA Record at the time. I got bashed one time for giving an honest review. It’s crazy because I became friends with the band’s mom, who is awesome and supported my decision to write what I wrote. She was like, “She was giving an opinion and you know it. The boys played great after what she wrote.” They took it into consideration. Apparently, at the time, I got the most comments on the LA Record website.
I was also involved for a while with the theatre group called ‘Unknown Theatre’ and they put bands on after their plays, so the bands are playing on this really cool stage set from the play.
A lot of people didn’t go to the play before hand, so nobody really knew that this set of this really cool apartment was actually the bedroom for some homo-erotic theatre. These raunchy, crazy, well written, yet dirty, perverted, funny plays. I was putting on shows there. My friend Terrence got me in with them. Then they asked me to help as a Stage Manager and that’s how I really learned how to do lighting. We were playing around with the board and then I realized this board is the same or similar to one at this venue or that.
I also worked at Warner Records with their street team department, I still do a lot of street team industry promotion now. Anyway, my internship with them turned into a job and I was the receptionist there for three years. I’ve met a lot of people via that.
What are some of your favorite moments?
The other day I was working door at a venue, so I was the one signing people in and this guy came up to me and he says his name. It didn’t even register at first, but it was Josh Haden from Spain. The Ross Sea Party played my birthday party one year and they were one of the first special thanks I got on the back of a record. My friends Americanized gave me a special thanks as well. That was cool.
When I worked at Warner, Tom Petty walked by and said, “Hey.” I’m a big fan of Tegan and Sara and I’ve gotten to meet them as well as their lighting designer, which was really cool for me. Tegan and Sara came in to see someone in the International department and I asked, “Are we signing Tegan and Sara?” And she was like, “Yeah the album is already made. They had already made it and we’re buying it.”
It was their first release through Warner. I think they had another one or two after that. So, she’s like, “Yeah, we’re signing them. Are you a fan?” And I was like, “Yeah. That is so cool.” Then they came in a few days later and I’m totally keeping my cool. Then this lady comes to get them and as they’re about to go back in the office and she goes, “Oh wait, Rebecca our receptionist is a really big fan of yours. Would you like to meet her?” And I was like, “Please don’t do that.” Then the twins were like, “What?! You’re a fan? Why didn’t you say anything?” And I was like, “I didn’t want to get fired. I didn’t want to be like a total dork and get in trouble for telling you that I was such a big fan.” They were like, “What no, that’s awesome!” They gave me a hug, and then they called me out from behind my desk.
Favorite venues in LA?
That’s tough for me. I love all of them and I hate all of them at the same time. Obviously, depending on capacity, I love the Hollywood Bowl. Then, The Satellite, The Echo, Silverlake Lounge, Hotel Café, Lot 1 and then there are like all these random hole in the walls. I love the Piano Bar. It is just so fun. On Sundays they do free BBQ from 4:00 to 7:00 and it’s actually really good.
There are so many great bands, and there are so many great venues! It’s a pro and con of being here in LA, there’s so much of it, its hard to think about these things. But it’s definitely not boring. If I’m having a bad time at one club, most likely I can walk down the street and go to another club.
If you could book one night with any bands, who would make the lineup?
Mizz Absurd, I would clone her four times, or just ask her to do four sets and that’s it. Kidding! Mizz Absurd, Tom Petty, Built to Spill, The Thermals. Here is another one, it would be WASI, Mars and the Massacre, PLaNETS and The Janks.
What bands are you currently listening to?
Mizz Absurd. I booked her a bit for some shows that I put together and she got invited to play the Big Horn Music Fest. She invited me to be her guest, it was so cute and sweet. She was like, “I just want to thank you for booking me and everything you’ve done. I would like you to be my guest at this music festival because you’ve supported me.” and I was like, “Heck yeah, I want to go!”
Also, The Downtown Train, they play every Monday at Good Times at Davy Wayne’s.
What’s one piece of advice that you would give bands?
Please don’t spit on the stage or spit out in the crowd. You’re better off just throwing water or beer. Also, I signed up for your email list and you never emailed me. That happens a lot. Then, all of a sudden I get an email from the lead singer of that band, but not for that band. They have a new band, and they’re using an old list.
I’ve read your previous Expert Fan profiles and many say something that I do agree with, which is engage your fans. Surprisingly, not a lot of people do it. Just say hi, thanks for coming to my show, bye. It’s simple.
Thank you for having me as an Expert Fan Jo!