Life of the Promoter

The Empty Room & The Band That Blows Your Mind

Art by Ohara Hale

It’s funny how things can turn around on you in the music business sometimes. When local concert promoter Noah Bick first started out, he was so hard up for shows that he would take any offer given.

But with Passovah Productions celebrating its fourth with a show featuring 12 bands and free soup, it’s clear that the times, they have a-changed.

Bick is modest about the reasons for his success.

“I like to think it’s half good taste and half luck to book a band that blows my mind,” said Bick.

“Like Women. I did their first show here at Barfly, and their first record is one of my favourite Canadian records in the last few years.”

When Bick booked the Calgarian shoegazers, he was still accepting offers from any band that contacted him. But now in its fourth year, his production company Passovah gets more requests than it can handle, especially with the McGill cultural studies student pulling double-duty on the promotion front.

In his second year of putting on multiple shows a month with Passovah, Bick was approached by Meyer Billurcu of independent Montreal promotion staple Blue Skies Turn Black to join on as a production manager—the position responsible for everything on the night of the show.

Now working with Blue Skies, along with summer work for POP Montreal and Just for Laughs, the young promoter is seeing many different levels of Montreal nightlife. But he’s still running Passovah, which he’s found fits best in the scene helping up-and-coming bands.

“Bands like Braids or The Luyas and Parlovr, these were bands I booked early on and I’m really proud and happy to see they’ve moved on to other things,” said Bick.

And while it may not take up all his promotion time, the company is as strong as ever, as proven by the success of their POP showcase last year.

“There’s no room for two Blue Skies. [Passovah] tries to work with local bands, help give them those first couple shows,” said Bick. “I’ve realized that the point of this fourth anniversary show is that these are all bands I’ve met over the years that aren’t only clients, but friends.”

He’s also learned how connected everything is, and how competition between promoters isn’t all that productive in a city the size of Montreal.

“There are very few rooms that are suitable for upcoming bands. Casa [del Popolo] is the last room you don’t have to pay to play, except for a couple coffee shops,” said Bick. Being the best place to promote without the risk of losing money, Casa’s calendar fills up fast.

“The best small room in the city is Casa, and you’re looking at the summer [for booking] now. It’s super competitive already, so there’s no point in trying to fight with independent, community rock,” he said.

The life of a promoter is an unpredictable one, with countless forces moving to determine the success of the show. It can be grueling at times, but Bick tries to not let the work burn him out. A great night is all that’s needed to remind him of why he started Passovah, and in the Montreal music scene, those moments come often.

“Every once in a while I run production for a band that I love, like Destroyer last year. Kaputt is one of my favourite records of 2011, so working that show and hanging out with [Destroyer frontman] Dan Bejar—it’s the best job ever,” he said.

“But other times I’m sitting at Il Motore from five ‘til two in the morning and there’s a band that’s four hours late and there’s no one there and it’s ice-raining. It’s a bizarre, bizarre existence.”

When it works, though, it’s work that thrives on community, on passing the torch to the next music-lovers to keep the scene alive.

It’s a tried and true tradition in Montreal; one that Bick has every intention of following.

“What I love is the way I looked up to Blue Skies as a kid, and I still do; is the way they looked up to the Godspeed, Casa/Sala era, and those people looked to the Fugazi movement of the ‘90s,” said Bick.

“It’s all people learning from other people, DIY and community.”

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