Members of Parousia Bob, Patt and Gerry head off to New York City to try and drum up some bigger music industry attention in the wake of the Filippone Sound Studio recordings (including songs: ‘Life Is The Real’, ‘Rock Bottom’, ‘Ego’s’, ‘Lie Awake’ and ‘Pain Desire’) and the unveiling of the new Art & Science show set.
In the fall of 1985, the band was itching to get onto a college circuit tour. We had just met music producer Colin Hilborne, a fine chap from England. He had a great deal of experience in the music industry and was an ex-roadie for Elton John & the Faces. Back in England, he knew many of the British Invasion bands from the 60s and 70s and had interesting stories to tell about some of them like Ronnie Wood, Keith Richards and Elton John (who according to Colin was particularity fond of being called ‘Elsie’ by his bandmates backstage). Colin recognized talent and we were flattered to know that he saw that in us.
Colin encouraged us to get out of Buffalo and find a bigger market. That forced us to put a lot of thought into who we were as a band and where we were going. We had plenty of unique material (having just recorded six new songs at Loft Studios), local airplay on WBNY (91.3FM) and an artsy image, (thanks to Bob Lowden). Our September performance of our new original music show “Art & Science” was a smashing success at the Plant 6 in Kenmore thanks to our new fans and hard core friends & followers.
We knew that Colin was right and that out there on the college circuit there was a willing audience for our music. We had put aside our early failed attempts to grab the attention of local booking agents like Starstuck and JR Productions. Now the plan was to get out of Buffalo and attract the attention of a producer, manager and booking agent capable of providing more than what we could find in Western NY. That place we thought was New York City.
Garth couldn’t make the trip due to work related issues so Robert, Patrick and I grabbed a handful of Parousia music cassettes, a few ‘Keep Running’ videos and our best promo materials and headed to Rochester where we caught the next flight down state to the Big Apple. Somewhere in this town of hipsters, shysters and artists we were bound and determined to find an entertainment professional to market our band across college town America. Well we found that and lot’s more too…
Before our trip, we did careful research and developed a list of producers, managers and booking agents to solicit. Pat Connolly was our ‘map man’…a true wizard at planning our route around the big city on foot (our budget didn’t include taxi cabs).
We arrived at JFK and grabbed a bus into town, last stop Grand Central station; it was ugly, crowded, smelly and in your face just as we always envisioned… except it’s hard to imagine the smell until you’re actually engulfed in it! Just outside the station was 42nd street in all its glory (before they cleaned it up) and it was uglier and smellier than Grand Central.
Street vendors lined the curb playing the old shell game and hustling tourists out of there money. It was amazing how fast those guys could pack up and go when New York’s finest came near. We saw pimps and hookers galore, flop houses and plenty of greasy spoons along the way to our hotel, ‘the Clinton’. It was a pay-as-you-go “I don’t wanna’ know your business” kinda’ dive. It was loud, smelly and not very clean, just perfect for our price range.
We booked two rooms. Patt stayed with Robert in one room and I stayed with my girlfriend Kim Montesano in the other. Kim was living in the Brooklyn at the time, employed as a fashion designer on Broadway. She knew her way around the big city. Kim was amazing to me and the band. She designed and hand-made my shirts and jackets and helped create a new backdrop for our shows.
After I unpacked, I couldn’t resist exploring the room and looked in the closet where I found a bunch of old cooked up spoons left over from junkies who obviously frequented the place. We were too afraid to look under the mattress, so we didn’t. The ambient noise of the city never stopped and the sirens blaring outside our window reminded us to keep the doors locked.
The next morning we got on the phone and stared calling everyone on our list to confirm our appointments. Some didn’t return our calls but we had enough to begin our journey for the day. We gathered up our press kits and headed out on foot to take on the city.
The New York Music scene had changed dramatically over the years and so we knew it would be a challenge to find the right niche for our style of music. By 1985, the scene was trending toward hardcore and had become inhabited by straight edger’s and skinheads, including bands like the Cro-Mags, Heart Attack, Youth of Today and Warzone . Much different than the art-rock we were creating back home.
We ended up at a high rise on Broadway (many of the music professionals were on 7th and Broadway at the time) to see a producer who said he was very interested in our music. We had already sent this guy a promo kit in advance so he knew what he was getting into and yet he still wanted to meet with us… cool. We were excited of course… we had someone who actually wanted to work with us.
He had an ancient secretary who was nice but apathetic to our presence. The producer buzzed over the intercom that he was ready to see us and we were herded into his smoky office. I swear the guy looked a lot like George Burns, he had an older style suit with a hanky in the pocket and a cigar hanging out of his mouth.
He sat in a big chair with two goons standing on either side of him. I could swear we were in the presence of a mob boss… He said to us in a gravelly voice, “I listened to your music and I heard good things… you know that song “Afternoon Delight?” Yes, we all nodded. “Well, I produced that band… and I can make you guys sound just like that”. Alarm bells started going off in our head as none of us in our wildest dreams could imagine Parousia sounding like the Starland Vocal Band! Anything he said after that kind of drifted into the background and all I could think about was how we were going to get out of there…
The next memorable moment came on 7th street in a real swanky high rise. We met a professional booking agent/manager who actually booked bands on the college circuit. We all sat down real low on a leather couch. She was looking down at our press kit with her trendy bifocals then peered, over the rims and looked us over.
We started our pitch and before we could finish she interrupted and said, “Look guys do you know how this works?” She paused for an answer and when we said nothing (we were like deer in the headlights) she said, “Ok, here’s how it works, if you want to go on a college tour you have to start by building a following in your home town, OK? And when you have fans lined up around the block to see you then you can come and talk to me.”
We were mortified… but her words stayed with us all the way to Buffalo. She made us work harder than we ever had before.
We had a taste of Big City competition and we were ready to rise to the challenge. Back home Parousia began recording four new songs for the EP “Turnaround” produced by Colin Hilborne. We started with “Place your Bets” at Select Sound in Kenmore and then recorded three more tunes at Mark Studios in Clarence.
Soon after that we began hosting our own showcases and concerts at a loft on Kenmore Avenue that we called “the Chamber”. And guess what, we had fans packed into that room, all the way down the stairway and out the door in the parking lot… just what the booking agent told us to do.
We did, and it was all starting to come together. After several more concerts at the Chamber, Plant-6 and Broadway Joe’s, the band was ready to take the show out west with Robert Lowden leading the way to Hollywood.