When Ian Thornton started booking bands at Marley’s Doghouse last year, he brought something with him that some booking dudes at venues don’t; the experience of being in a band. The 25-year old Huntington resident (and former Love Coats bassist) has helped smooth the transition from Marley’s to what is now Shamrock’s Irish Pub by simply treating bands with respect.
“As a working musician I can look at the scene from two points of view. I’ve been the guy calling and emailing trying to get bars to work with you, and honestly it can be quite difficult,” Thornton said over email. “You learn that a lot of club owners aren’t very willing to work with the bands; they’re just looking for entertainment that will make them as much cash as possible. I try to take a much different approach when I book shows.”
In addition to booking bands and scheduling cool weekly events like open mic/acoustic and honky tonk nights, Thornton has come up with an idea that has to this point escaped area venues for whatever reason; selling local CDs straight out of the bar.
To this point Thornton has approached bands and artists like Genuine Junk Band, Bud Carroll & the Southern Souls, Jeff Ellis, The Demon Beat, Sarasota, The Family Conspiracy, Attack Flamingo, The Greens, Billy Matheny, The Red Velvet, The Salty Sirens, Jordan Andrew Jefferson, Kevin Arbogast, and Jess Graham about having Shamrock’s operate as a sort of local music clearinghouse to help get the word out about the bands in the area.
“This is actually an endeavor that I have taken on personally with my own money, and using Shamrock’s as the outlet,” he said. “Bands have all been great and more than helpful with me in terms of acquiring CDs. My approach was to pick out about 15 bands and purchase five copies of their CD at a somewhat discounted price. This way they get their money right away as opposed to dealing with consignment. I have told them all that no CD will be sold for more than $8, figuring if we keep the music cheap people will be more inclined to venture out and look for something new.”
So he avoids the can o’ worms that can come with spec-type deals, and is using his own money for this. Let that sink in.
“The bands have been great to work with so far. By purchasing them outright they see their end instantly, so hopefully we cancel out any sort of chance for animosity or misunderstanding between parties. They have all commented that they really like the idea and are willing to lend a helping hand however. Plus, it’s a win win, for them; they’re selling numerous copies of their CDs and getting their music exposed at a new place.”
Thornton added that neither he nor Shamrock’s profit off the sales of said CDs, but will use the money to buy more CDs and, hopefully, just make his startup money back. It’s the kind of idea that seems so crazy, it just may work, kind of like having honky tonk Wednesdays, hosted by Paul Weaver of Dig-Its fame.
“Paul is a friend of mine and when he approached me with this I thought it was a cool idea, but I was a bit skeptical,” Thornton admitted. “I mean Honky Tonk vinyls all night at an Irish Pub? lol. But honestly they’ve been going great. Paul has a great selection of stuff, and who doesn’t love “GOOD” country music? He always keeps it different as well. You’ll never hear a bunch of the same stuff from week to week. Our regulars all have a good time, and the crowds keep on picking up.”
Thornton, who’s in a new Huntington-area band called Whirling Dervish, said that while in The Love Coats, Marley’s was their favorite place to play because of the laid back rock and roll atmosphere, and that was something he and the management wanted to bring to Shamrock’s.
“I really loved Marley’s. We definitely wanted to keep the feel of “realness” if that makes sense -- not a plush place where you’re afraid to spill your beer; a place to get up close and personal with the acts on the stage. We just wanted to clean up the joint and create a great venue in Huntington where people could have a good time and see good music.”
Thornton says it’s worked so far.
“We’ve heard a lot of positive feedback about the new place. I don’t believe that we’ve had one problem with bands, which is kind of amazing. It just goes to show what can happen when there is mutual respect and not some sort of hierarchy or roles. I believe people are really happy with the way we (my brother Shane, his wife Sara and I) run Shamrock’s.”
For Thornton and the Shamrock’s crew, it’s kind of a labor of love, working with bands.
“I feel that I’m here to serve the scene,” he said. “Granted, I want Shamrock’s to be as profitable as possible so that we can keep putting on shows, but not at the expense of bands. I do my best to treat all the bands as well as possible. We’ve got a great scene here in this state and we need to fight for it to show that to people. There’s a great buzz going on in this town and I see many good things to come.”