With new singer Adam Clemans in tow, the Athens, Ohio-based metal band Skeletonwitch makes their noisy return to Columbus on Saturday night in support of the recently released EP, The Apothic Gloom. The show at Ace of Cups has significance as the co-promoter of the event, Starwood Presents, is treating it as a 10th anniversary celebration. Tickets are still available ($15) for the show that will also feature Fuck You Pay Me, Nukkehammer and Fever Nest.
If you’ve followed the metal scene in Columbus over the last decade, chances are you’ve attended one of the 300 mostly metal shows that Chris “Woody” Wood has booked under the Starwood Presents name, starting out at Ravari Room before moving onto other clubs like Ace of Cups and Park Street Saloon.
I’ve known Woody for well over 20 years, first meeting him as a drummer when he was in the band The Gingerbread Men (at least that’s where I think I met him) and have – many times over the years – been very thankful that he’s gotten into the booking game as he’s brought some of my favorite bands to Columbus (Helmet, The Dollyrots, Royal Thunder, etc.). While we’ve all attended Starwood Presents shows, I realized I didn’t really know the history of the promotions company so I sent Woody some questions to ask him for some background.
How did you fall into the booking thing? You mentioned you did some stuff (which I remember) at The Factory in 2002-2003 but I don’t know if I’ve ever heard how it all got started.
I’m a drummer and way back when I was playing regularly I was usually doing the booking or made the contacts for the bands I played in. It came naturally to me and I enjoyed it. I’ve always been interested in how things happened and the details related to booking and promotion. In the year 2000 I landed an internship with PromoWest Productions which led to a full time position in marketing for the Newport Music Hall. I moved on from there to work with a talented group of people starting a new downtown club in the Buggyworks building where the nightclub Mekka had been a big dance night success. After Mekka folded it became The Factory. Two of my booking highlights there were confirming UK band Sneaker Pimps at the end of 2002 and Interpol picked us for their first Columbus performance in early 2003. That was an amazing time!
Which came first, the name “Starwood Presents” or booking the Valient Thorr show? Was Valient Thorr’s agent somebody you had worked with in the past who reached out to see if you could book a Columbus show and you decided you needed some name to book it under or did you start Starwood Presents and then reach out to your former contacts looking for shows?
The Valient Thorr show came first. That was technically my “first” show at Ravari Room (Hounddogs) in 2006. I squeezed it in before karaoke on a Tuesday. I booked that room with the owners approval as the talent buyer for nearly 5 years. I had not yet decided on any promotion name. Prior to that I was involved in a show at Ravari that was the night before the smoking ban went into effect. Amps II Eleven and Grafton played and they had a big fight over a pizza during load out. It was intense.
Why Starwood Presents as a name?
I brainstormed for a long time for a production name but to put it simply I love the movie Star Wars and with the last name Wood and I ran the name parts together for Starwood.
You must get hit up by agents pretty regularly. What factors do you take into account when deciding who you want to book?
Factors: Have they played this market yet? If so, was it successful? What day of the week does it fall on? Is there any similar competition that same date? And of course how much $ are they asking for?
This is not meant to slag other promoters in town, I think you each have your own niche, but why do some promoters put 6 or 7 bands on a bill while others may put one or two local support acts on a bill?
Essentially to add extra support bands on the show to sell tickets. More bands also stretch out the night and help increase the bar sales. I personally do not enjoy booking or going to a show with more than 4 bands. 3 bands is perfect. 3 to 4 has a nice flow and the crowd stays engaged and has energy.
I know that you’re into hard rock so that’s probably the most comfortable genre for you to book. What act have you booked that is most outside of your tastes?
I booked Yelawolf at Skully’s in 2012. That was my first hip hop show. It was a success!
From a pure success factor, what three shows were your most successful ones?
Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls (at Outland 2012), Converge (at Skully’s 2012) and C.O.C. (at Park Street Saloon 2016)
What bands have you booked that – after the show is done – you say, “Holy crap, I just booked ______”?
Helmet (at Ravari Room 2007), Goatsnake (at Ace of Cups 2015) and Deafheaven (at Ace of Cups 2016)
For a while, it seemed like you were mainly booking Ravari Room. As an independent promoter, you’re not tied to a specific venue. Is that good or bad?
I was learning and developing as a buyer while I was exclusively booking Ravari Room. I think it’s important to have other options. It’s critical to have relations with other clubs so if one is booked you can try and secure the date at another appropriate club.
First as a musician and now as a promoter, you’ve been part of the Columbus music scene since the late ’80s. You’ve seen the endless cycles of local bands, of clubs opening and closing, etc. In your opinion, what makes Columbus such a great music city?
Columbus is a great music city. It has tons of music history with the Palace Theatre and Newport Music Hall. It has an excellent assortment of musicians playing all styles of music at bars, clubs and events nonstop. Top of the range record shops too! And even though times have changed I think radio is a key component to a great music city. WCBE90.5, WLVQFM96, 99.7 The Blitz and CD102.5 all do important things to keep their listeners interested, educated and involved.
Ten years in, got another 10 in you? If so, any plans to expand or are you comfortable where you’re at?
As of right now, 10 years gone by and I’m still very passionate about this business but it’s difficult and times change. I see it as a milestone and maybe it’s time to take on something new? I’m not certain if I have another 10 in me …haha.