When Tir Na nOg announced in November that they would be closing their doors, it wasn’t just fans of the restaurant’s Irish cuisine who were concerned. Tir Na nOg also doubled as a music venue and had hosted the venerable Local Band Local Beer series since its inception in 2007. The free weekly concert series had been an immediate hit, but many worried the search for a new home would become too cumbersome for its promoters.
Fortunately, The Pour House Music Hall, just a couple of doors down from the series’ original home in downtown Raleigh, was more than happy to offer itself as the new host for LBLB events. They started the Thursday night shows in January, showcasing disparate local bands, featuring musicians that cross all music genres and levels of fame within the Triangle.
One band benefiting from the LBLB series is See Gulls. The young group, whose debut album, “You Can’t See Me,” was released last March, has received critical acclaim from both local and national publications. They are set to play the event once again on Thursday.
Lead singer Sarah Fuller says the reasons are simple for why bands keep coming back.
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“Every local band wants to get on one because they’re just really good shows,” she says. “You get lots of people showing up because it’s free, and honestly, it’s a really good financial boost for local bands.”
Fuller says the concert series has helped introduce nearly every local musician to area music fans who might otherwise ignore them.
“They are very open to booking a great range of bands, so it’s a really great way to get noticed,” she explains. “People will show up at these shows who wouldn’t normally necessarily be in that particular audience. When I was a kid in college, if there was free live music being played somewhere, I’d be there because I was wanting to be exposed to as much local music as possible without having to spend money. That’s why it’s such a good opportunity for different artists in our community.
“It’s not really networked towards certain genres or individuals; it’s just a staple within our community. It gives you a chance to explore with very little risk, because you’re not having to pay for a ticket to get in. The bars benefit, because people will drink during the shows, and they are relying on those sheer numbers of people showing up. I am very happy that we have this in Raleigh.”
This free opportunity to be exposed to local talent is especially helpful for locals who may have heard of See Gulls, thanks to the success of their last album, but still haven’t been able to catch the band perform. Fuller says she realizes that good press will only get a band so far, and that the promotional efforts of events like LBLB cast a wider net than an online blurb.
“It’s extremely beneficial to us, since we of course want to expand the number of people who have listened to us,” she says. “There will always be people showing up to these events who have never heard us before.”
“Also, we get paid,” she says with a laugh, “and we are working on our new album. I mean, it costs money to go into the studio and pay for time and pay for mastering. Manufacturing and marketing, just getting the word out about your album, gets really expensive.”
“Curtain Call,” the band’s much anticipated sophomore album, is in the final process of being mastered before its May release.
While some bands are willing to “go for broke” and invest every last cent they (and their friends and family) have in order to push for a rock-star lifestyle, the band members of See Gulls are veterans. Other than Fuller, each member has other projects that they work on apart from See Gulls, and with that juggling comes the realization that only so much of their personal money can be invested into the band’s future.
Fuller, who uses See Gulls as her main artistic outlet, understands that this is one of the decisions that you must make when becoming an adult.
“We all have pretty steady jobs, and we’re just trying to be wise with our priorities,” she says. “While See Gulls is my number one project, we have to be strategic about the sacrifices we make for this band, even when it comes to the decision on when to do shows and when not to do shows. Something I’ve learned from being in this band is that sometimes its better not to play a show every week, so you don’t saturate the market and begin losing money on shows.”
“I know this all sounds fun,” she laughs. “Please tell the readers that sometimes part of being in a band is doing un-fun things.”
Who: Local Band Local Beer: See Gulls, Naked Gods, Pie Face Girls
When: 9:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: The Pour House Music Hall, 224 S. Blount St., Raleigh