Breakeven Booking's John McHale: Broward Needs More All-Ages Music Venues
John McHale is quite possibly the busiest independent promoter in South Florida. For about 11 years, McHale has tirelessly booked the best in national and local hardcore, punk, metal, and indie acts under the moniker Breakeven Booking. He also fronts the bands Guilty Conscience and Street Judge and is considered by many to be the wayward saint of South Florida's hardcore-punk scene.
Last year was undoubtedly a tough one for Broward County's music community. We lost venues, we wrote far too many obituaries for beloved musicians, and it was a really lean time in terms of national tours coming through town. While most new-year conversations center around the positive, we thought McHale's not always upbeat, unfiltered perspective as a stalwart of the Florida music scene might help lead the community in a better direction for 2015.
New Times: What were your highlights booking shows in South Florida last year?
John McHale: It's kind of like a big blur. Midway through the year, we had to close down the primary venue in the area for all-ages shows, the Talent Farm... That Bane show up at Propaganda was pretty sick. There were a lot of smaller ones that were really tight, like Deafheaven at Churchill's was awesome, and OFF! at Churchill's was a fuckin' wild show! Hounds of Hate at Space Mountain is definitely up there. There were a lot softer-sounding bands this year, like Touché Amoré, Seahaven, Modern Baseball, that all went over really well.
I don't think a lot of people truly grasp what a loss the Talent Farm was.
It definitely was a kick in the ass. Things seemed like they were finally looking up, and the next minute the landlord and whomever else pulled the plug. It left us scrambling to move a ton of shows, and we were lucky to get them to places like O'Malley's in Margate, Propaganda in Lake Worth, Space Mountain and Churchill's in Miami. A lot of them became house shows. It was kind of a crash course for everyone.
As someone who's been consistently booking shows in South Florida for 11 years now, what does Broward need to preserve and sustain its younger and hardcore-punk scenes?
Let's call it like it is: No bars really want to deal with all ages. They don't see the bigger picture. It's just a room full of kids not drinking in their eyes, and all they're thinking about is that they're not making money at the bar. So yeah, I get it, the whole instant gratification thing, the idea that they could have something in the bar "making money." But really, what is there? I've seen plenty of bars that could house these shows just fine that are dead quiet most nights of the week. I think the real solution is to make your place a destination.
Do you have an example of places it's worked in practice?
I understand that you have to deal with and respect the laws that pertain to underage patronage, but I think places like the Factory were so crucial because they allowed the all-ages shows, and that's why all of these great tours were hitting that spot! Same thing with Fubar -- they're both bars! They just figured out how to section it off so that the drinkers stay separate from the rest of the show. It's not that hard. Also, just because a show is all ages doesn't mean that your bar is going to be completely dead for the night.
The thing is, it's all very interconnected. Bands talk, booking agents talk, management companies talk. When there's a venue and good things come through it, it becomes a destination. That's pretty much what happened with the Talent Farm -- a rehearsal space in the middle of the swamp! Bands that were not necessarily a part of the all-ages crowd were trying to play there, and it's just a part of the bigger picture.
Any venue can become a destination spot, but if you want to have bar bands and try to attract people out with your drink specials, I guess that's great. But if you have a stage and your whole thing is live music and you refuse to do under-21 shows, you've got another thing coming, man. You're missing an entire market.
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