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Marc Brownstein Talks City Bisco, The New Normal and Jim Carrey, Too

Shifting to your work with HeadCount, when you and Andy Bernstein conceived the organization in 2004 we were in the middle of an intense political climate, but now things are even crazier. How does that change your mission?

It’s a lot crazier, although I’m leery for people to forget we were dealing with at that point. I hear a lot of people say, “I’d do anything to have Bush or Reagan back.” Lest I remind you that we were marching toward war at that point. And it was being sold to the American public as something other than what it was about. At the time, that was a really big issue, and it turned out to have gigantic ramifications that we’re still feeling today. I caution anyone that would say, “Back then feels like nothing compared to now.” I don’t know how to quantify it. It seems crazy right now, and certainly it’s scary and the times seem dangerous, but never more than before is it time to spread the message.

Engagement is necessary, not only every four years in presidential elections, but during local elections, at the local and state levels, and during midterm elections. The midterm elections are going to be monumentally historic. I hope that we’re able to ride this level of energy, on both sides, to drive engagement up. If you look at the last forty or fifty years, the amount of people that show up for midterm elections has steadily decreased from one election cycle to the next. I look at that graph, and I see the future. I think in the future, we could turn that tide to where we’re bringing it back and gaining engagement during midterm elections.

You can’t stress enough the importance, especially when you talk about gerrymandering, and the fact that the districts that determine the layout of the political demographic locally—those districts are redrawn after the census every 20 years. I don’t know if a lot of people know this. People complain about gerrymandering as a problem, but every 10 years, the state houses get to redraw their districts based on the information that came in from the census. And the next time that’s going to happen is in 2020, and who’s drawing that, and who’s in control of drawing those lines, is going to be determined by the outcome of the vote, one way or the other. Whoever comes out and votes will have their voice be the voice of the government for decades to come. You can’t say it any clearer than that.

Right, and that’s why HeadCount is so important. Getting people out there—it’s up for grabs, for sure.

We’re trying. We’ve registered almost half a million voters, but it’s an uphill battle—always—to get the next generation of people engaged, so that’s why we’re there.

Let’s talk about the Fox Theater fan appreciation show. It was a super interesting and creative way for you guys to engage fans: No tickets sold, selecting Fillmore ticket holders to get to see this extra show. Why did you guys decide to do it, and do you have anything special planned for that show?

Well, I haven’t started thinking about the actual show yet, because I have a couple runs to get to before I’m there. But Jon had this idea that we could go and play the Fox and that it would be a free show, and somehow tie it to the Fillmore. It’s as simple as that. It’s tough to just play two shows over the course of one weekend—we like to play a third show if we have a two-night run gig. And I feel like, in the case of Colorado we’ve played 20 shows at the Fox, and have a deep and storied history there where there are legendary shows from all of the different time periods we’ve been playing as a band, back from the Sammy era all the way through Allen’s era.

There’s something special and magical about the stage at the Fox; the sound is really, really clean and clear. A lot of bands going around the country are dealing with varying degrees of decent to bad to sometimes great sound over the course of the week. When you get to your Saturday night show at the Fox Theater, it’s crystal clear. That was something that was very special about Wetlands. The sound onstage was so amazing at Wetlands back in the day. And the sound in the crowd was so amazing. The old Meyers rig in Wetlands, and the EV monitors. They had these beautiful, 15” gigantic, old, workhorse EV monitors that sounded incredible. And that was one of the things that made it such a special room. It’s an essential factor to have your room be a legendary rock venue—like the Fox Theater or Wetlands was. We just feel like the Fox Theater has a very special place in the history of the band. The best way that we can pay tribute to that is to do this for the fans. It’s funny because everyone wants to charge—I’m not trying to throw anyone under the bus, but when you start saying you want to play a free show, there’s resistance. You meet resistance from other people in the business, who are like, “Well that’s crazy! Why would you do that?”

How has the fan reaction been?

Everyone gets that not everyone will get to go to the show, but people are super stoked that we’re doing this for the fans. And the way that we’re doing it has everyone on their toes, because it’s not a fan nepotism situation where we’re letting it be the 500 kids that we know the most, you know? Literally, you buy your tickets through the Fillmore, your name goes into one of the 21 pools, and every couple of days—like a couple of goofballs—we go on Facebook and spin this wheel and randomly choose the names. I only know like three people so far that have been picked, and we’ve given away 84 tickets. I don’t even really know the people—I’ve never met them in person—I just know them from Facebook.

So far, I have a lot of my friends who normally don’t buy tickets to shows who are saying, “Just bought tickets to the Fillmore. Hope my name comes up in the pool!” It’s exciting; it’s fun; it’s different. It ended up being what we were intending, which was something to give back to the fans. Jim Carrey’s “none of this matters” notwithstanding—it matters to me. For us, what we do and the relationship with the fans—it is a big deal; it really matters to us. We really care about these people. We care about the fact that they’ve dedicated so much energy, time and money traveling around to be with us so we can have these celebrations every five or six weeks. I feel like I’ve lied—after this we have Halloween, and then the Fillmore and the Fox, and then Dominican Holidaze right after that, which will lead right into New Years after that. So there are a lot of shows coming up.

Do you have anything locked down for New Year’s yet?

Marc: Maybe so, maybe not.

I know Magner confirmed in another interview that there’s going to be a run. We don’t know where yet…

He did?! Woohoo!

He confirmed there was a run but he didn’t say where.

Magner! I’m so psyched! Why didn’t he tell me?! There will be a run, but I can’t say where it is. I’m not even sure if we know.

But it’s in the works?

Yes, definitely. We have that and other fun things for after that in the works.

Cool. You were talking about your love for your fans and I think one of the biggest monuments to that is Camp Bisco, which is kind of a big family reunion for you guys. This year was the fifteenth anniversary, so I was curious how this Camp Bisco felt compared to your others?

They all feel amazing, they really do. Anytime that you’re able to see the vision through of curating a huge event of that proportion, and have it end up being a successful event—it really is a dream come true. You can’t take it for granted. It feels really good to have that thing still be going. To have a home for it, where it’s been growing and where we’ve found a way to make it work. We don’t overrun the town. We’re in a region where they’re looking for events to come into the town and it seems like it’s a really good fit. We’re enjoying ourselves there.

So next year is the 20th anniversary of Uncivilized Area, your studio breakthrough. Do you have any plans to reissue that or do a special show?

Yes, we do have some plans for that. Plans are in the works and we’re hoping to give the fans something really awesome, with regards to that album, as well as other albums that haven’t been seen on digital platforms. We’re hoping to rectify all of that.

In regards to City Bisco, the last time you played City Bisco, you debuted “The Champion,” the first new pure Biscuits original in a few years. Are any of the guys working on new material for the Biscuits?

Yes. We debuted “Miracles” a couple months ago. [The song was debuted on June 1 at the Ogden Theater Denver, Colo.] That’s another one that I wrote and we’ve been playing for about a year with Electron, and Tommy [Hamilton] helped me bring that to life a little. “Champions” was a different situation, but with “Miracles,” I like bringing stuff to life with Electron to see how it will go before I bring it out and try to play it on a huge stage.

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