Local Music Venue Check-in: Tea Bazaar

Posted on March 12, 2014 by

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Most of us in Cville have been to a show at the Tea Bazaar. You probably bought the ticket to see a friend’s band open for someone you had never heard of and wound up staying until the end because that band turned out to be awesome. For Amanda Laskey, Booking Agent/Promoter for the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar and founder of booking/promo company Lap The Miles, this kind of experience is what she hopes for.

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Under Amanda’s care and the care of her predecessors, the Tea Bazaar has hosted many next-big-things, including Animal Collective, Washed Out, and Diarrhea Planet, many of whom were relatively unknown at the time, but went on to play larger venues like The Jefferson and The Southern on their next trips through town. Through her work at the Tea Bazaar and Lap The Miles, Amanda not only brings bands worth knowing into the Charlottesville consciousness, but also helps local bands break onto the scene, all while keeping ticket prices low.

This week I had the distinct pleasure of talking to Amanda Laskey to find out more about how she first got involved at the Tea Bazaar, the founding of Lap The Miles, and what the future holds for the Tea Bazaar as she graduates from UVa this Spring.

When and how did you come by the job of Booking Agent for The Tea Bazaar?

Well, when I was a second year at UVA, I went to a few Tea Bazaar shows and I was really into the bands that were playing. I reached out to Jacob Wolf, who was booking at that time, and asked if I could be his intern. He actually moved to New York right after I started working for him and so I was kind of thrown into more responsibilities than I originally planned! Then a few months later, Matt Northrup took over booking responsibilities and I did some intern work for him. When Matt decided to move back to North Carolina I asked if I could take over, and here I am!

625506_108063126059738_2102883448_nWhen did you start Lap The Miles? Tell us a little about that.

I started Lap The Miles in May of 2013 just so I could have a name under which to operate. Around the time that I was taking over the booking duties, Jacob started doing more work as a booking agent and Matt was using the Holy Smokes name for some tapes, so I was encouraged to operate under a different name. It is basically just the professional name I use as a promoter for the Tea Bazaar and when working as a booking agent for some local bands.

Describe a day in your life as a Booking Agent/Promoter/Owner.

Most of what I do happens behind a computer screen. 95% of my job is responding to emails. The other 5% is promotion and production. Promotion includes working with our online ticket site as well as managing social media. And production is the best part of my job – when I set up all shows, run sound, and run the door.

What are the most challenging things about running your own booking company? What are the most rewarding things?

The most challenging thing about running Lap The Miles is that it’s just me. If I don’t want to make the Facebook event, I can’t just pass it off to a “social media coordinator.” I don’t have a huge fund to draw from for guarantees – it’s just my own money.

The most rewarding things are also due to the fact that I do everything. Being able to start a process from negotiating with an agent to finally seeing a show come to fruition is an unbelievable feeling. Also, I get to meet really, really cool people. I have been extremely fortunate to only work with nice, interesting, and talented people over my time at the Tea Bazaar, and it makes going into work a fun adventure. I have told people time and time again, “I have the best job!”

You have had many critically acclaimed acts, such as Diarrhea Planet, Speedy Ortiz, and The Men, play at The Tea Bazaar. How do you find and bring in such talented artists?

Well, Matt technically booked The Men, so I can’t claim that one! Booking agents and bands reach out to us because they’ve heard good things about the Tea Bazaar or me in the past. I work with the same few agents time and time again because I try to treat all the bands fairly and really care about what I am doing. Many artists who end up playing the bigger venues in town start at the Tea Bazaar, and I think the fact that we are able to bring notice to really talented bands that are on the rise is something that is appealing.

What has been your favorite act/show that you have booked at The Tea Bazaar thus far? Why?

The shows that are my favorites aren’t the ones you would normally expect. At some of the bigger shows like Speedy Ortiz, I can’t really have as much fun because I am stressed about feedback, running out of one dollar bills, and staying on schedule. Therefore, my favorite show ever has definitely been Lust-Cats of the Gutters + Mannequin Pussy + Big Air + Lil Huffy. I booked this show about two weeks before it happened which is unusual for me. Lust-Cats and Mannequin Pussy had an open date and reached out. I saw that Lust-Cats of the Gutters were on Burger Records that is one of my favorite labels around and I knew I wanted to make this show happen.

When it finally did happen, it was a cold, rainy Thursday night and I was really prepared for a low-attendance, low-energy night at the Tea Bazaar. Not that many people showed up in general, which was expected, but everyone who did show up had a blast. It was the first time I booked Lil Huffy, who is one of my favorite bands, and they were the goofiest and most fun dudes. Mannequin Pussy and Lust-Cats were unbelievably good and were extremely nice. Also, this was the first Big Air show I had ever seen, and as everyone now knows, Big Air is the best. We all had a blast and I’m pretty sure everyone that played that night is now friends. Pretty dope.

What is your vision for the Tea Haus & its relationship to the music scene in Charlottesville?

The Tea Bazaar is a super strange music venue, I realize that. Despite its many flaws, it’s a place in Charlottesville where bands that go on to be super famous, such as Animal Collective (seriously, they played the Tea Bazaar!) come play their first show in town. And luckily, these bands usually have a great time and want to continue playing this venue. In Charlottesville, if you want to go see an experimental or rock show for less than $9, you can always count on the Tea Bazaar. I am extremely selective with who I book and I think that usually results in consistently solid shows. Also, I always try to get new local bands in the mix, so as a Charlottesville band the Tea Bazaar is really important for breaking into the scene.

1119973_10153029434125467_1186336572_oWe heard a little rumor that you might be leaving your post come September. If so, what might you be moving on to?

So, besides being a promoter and gelato scooper, I am also a 4th year student in the McIntire School of Commerce at UVA studying accounting and marketing. I am going to be moving up to New York to work as a tax associate with a Big-Four accounting firm. I actually just found out I’ll be moving up in July, so a little bit earlier than expected. I have been talking to a few people about taking over, but Shannon Long has been coming and sitting in on all the shows. You have probably let her take your money if you’ve been to a show recently!

What is next for The Tea Haus? Anything exciting in the works for upcoming shows or events?

I have planned concerts for all the way until June, but I can’t announce too much right now! However, there is an awesome show I just booked on March 29th with Peak + Klauss + New Bosss.

Finally, thanks in large part to your efforts at the Tea Bazaar, Charlottesville has a thriving and talented music scene. What encouraging words would you give to people prone to not coming out to shows?

I completely understand why people don’t come to shows, because I used to not go to shows! The two main arguments are that they cost too much and people don’t want to go by themselves. I have never had a show more than $9, which is the same price as a drink at C&O or The Whiskey Jar. Also, the Tea Bazaar is the best place to go to a concert by yourself. In between sets, if you don’t have a bud there, you can go sit on a sofa and read a book. Plus, I’m pretty friendly, so you should come talk to me!

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