The New England Music Awards, Last Band Standing will be holding their finals on Saturday, October 17, at the Hard Rock in Boston. Examiner caught up with Joe Graham, one of three founders of the NEMA, at the Hard Rock for night 4 in the competition.
Graham and his founding partners John Fleming and Mike Flynn, came up with an idea to showcase rising bands and new acts in New England.
Examiner spoke with Graham at the Hard Rock Cafe in Boston where this Examiner sat on the judging panel. The bands competing on night 4 were: Singlecast, Didn’t Planet, One Eleven,
Jane’s Great Dane, The Dirty Dotty’s, In Spades, and The Daybreakers.
The winners to date are: Flight of Fire on night 1, Milo Bigwig on night 2, Marriage Material on night 3, and The Dirty Dotty’s on night 4.
For night 5 in Lowell on Friday, September 25, the bands competing will be: Black and Blue Morning, Blindspot, Melt, Hunter, Tribal Wisdom, and Carrissa Johnson.
Examiner: How did Last Band standing come about? Whose idea was this?
Graham: The event came to be as the result of a number of thoughts and ideas all coming together. My NEMA partners, Fleming, Flynn, and I, were looking to create some type of event to showcase some of the rising, new acts in New England. We also wanted to focus more on bands that would benefit most, from such an event. “What does that mean?” Simply put, the acts selected by the NEMA committee to play the Last Band Standing, are mainly upstart and newer acts. Their opportunities to perform live in front of new audiences and new venues is somewhat limited by the unfortunate nature of the beast. Most venues won’t book an act unless they have established a draw, an audience, and a following. There are very few venues, if any, that will showcase new acts with no audience.
AN: So, you made the event the draw?
JG: Yes, the planning and thinking of the idea became this; “The Event” needed to be the draw and the attraction, not the bands. It took us over a year of thinking, planning, deciding, and toying with the question(s); Can we do this? Create an event that will be the main attraction?
We needed to celebrate this thing as a showcase of rising acts, something worth seeing, and we needed to make it attractive not to just the acts on the lineup that night, but all acts playing the event. Also, all of the bands selected to perform the event are free to attend any and all Last Band Standing events. We’ve seen that, the bands who played on Thursday were in the room on Friday. We created a panel of industry types to attend and serve as a soundboard to all the acts: Radio DJ’s, Music Writers, Talent Managers, Recording Engineers, and even other award winning musicians have been on hand offering the performing acts some free feedback and advice. And as true with all the bands selected, those we ask to sit on the panel are free to return on all nights, and they do. It makes, The Last Band Standing more than just a gig, it’s an industry social, it’s a new act showcase, and it’s a network opportunity for all who come. Best of all, it is an opportunity for an upstart rising act to gain the exposure needed to advance.
AN: When did you realize that this was something you could do?
JG: The answer to that question came fast and it was a resounding, YES! Our first event last year was a sellout at The Hard Rock Café in Boston, and three of the five Massachusetts events were sellouts. Our first Manchester New Hampshire event last year was a full house. This year two of the first four Boston events have been sellouts. On Friday, September 25, the event comes to Lowell for the first time and attendance expectations are high. We’ll return to Manchester, New Hampshire on November 6 and are taking the event to Providence Rhode Island on October 10. We are currently in talks with a couple venues in Connecticut.
Our ultimate plan is a six state event that names one band from each New England state as “The Last Band Standing” in their state. But some day, we will announce an event that brings all six state winners back for one more night, and we will announce one band as, The Last Band Standing in New England.