Guest Blog from David Barnes, Band Lead of Parkside Drive
1. How long has Parkside Drive been playing together?
Our group began in 2008, as we were all graduating from the Humber College applied music program. We were all excited to get out and perform for as many audiences as possible, and above all wanted to create an experience that would get as many people on the dance floor as possible.
2. What do you feel clients need to consider when booking live entertainment / bands?
Repertoire is a big one. Many bands specialize in one style of music. One style or genre can be perfect for certain functions, but at other times can be too limited to achieve the desired result. If the goal is to get everyone to dance, an instrumental jazz trio may not be the best bet.
3. What would you say your band’s competitive advantage is alongside other Toronto based bands?
There are two reasons why Parkside is in such demand. They are repertoire (again) and the sheer excitement of our live shows. We play just about every genre, which means we can be a one stop shop for jazz music during cocktails, modern dance music, Motown, soul, rock and roll, big band, and the list goes on. When our clients book Parkside, they know that all of the guests are going to hear something they love, and the dance floor is going to feel that energy. Second, and this is really key, is that we are really exciting to watch. At a Parkside Drive show, you can expect to see the musicians dancing with you, and having a great time doing it. It’s not “us and them” it’s “all of us are here to have a great time together!”
4. What type of functions do you enjoy most performing at?
That’s a tough one, they’re all really great for different reasons. I will say that the two biggest thrills for us are a) seeing a sea of people having a blast out on the dance floor, and b) seeing a group of people who wouldn’t normally get out there just let loose (it happens often). It’s instant validation for us, and lets us know we are doing exactly what we were hired to do.
5. What are your top 10 requested songs?
I don’t think there is a top 10. Once people have seen us live, I typically ask “are there any special requests?” and the resounding answer is “NO! Please, just play like you did it the last time we saw you!!”
6. What is your greatest challenge performing with corporate clients?
We want to make them see and feel how natural it is to enjoy music. I guess the challenge would be expressing, non-verbally, that your boss hosted this party because he wants you to have a good time. Nine times out of 10, the CEO/president is the first one on the dance floor, because he or she is trying to express the same thing: “don’t be shy, this isn’t work time so have a ball!”
7. How do you adapt your music to the demographics attending an event?
From start to finish I look into the audience and ask myself “what do these folks really want to hear, what is going to take this to the next level” I learned early on in the business that what you might guess as obvious, can often be wrong. Young people love classic music, and the older generation loves the new stuff. That’s why you have to have it all.
8. What is the most unique venue Parkside Drive has performed at?
This summer we will be atop two floating barges that are being shipped in for a Muskoka wedding. As far as unique, I guess I have a soft spot for all the great Toronto venues. I love this city so much. The Historic Royal York or King Edward, Palais Royale on the waterfront, The view from the top of Canoe or the Arcadian Court, The great vibe at Steam Whistle. I always feel humbled to stand in the greatness of Toronto, playing music for all the great people who live and work here.
9. How do you market Parkside Drive to secure business?
Our biggest feature has always been the live shows. Word of mouth is pretty key in this business as well. I’ve talked to so many bands starting out and they think, “Ok. Give me a year and I will be as big as you guys” But it never works like that, Google will help a little, great websites, great videos, all contribute. In the end, people want someone to say “Oh my god, I have seen them…they’re amazing, you have to book them!”
10. How often do you practice, how do you guys manage full time jobs and the demand for your services?
I practice daily, my love of the guitar precedes just about everything else in my life. I think if I ever lost that, I wouldn’t want to play music anymore. Sitting down every day and getting one millionth of a percent better than the day before is the most exciting and rewarding part of what I do. As Ray Charles said “I never wanted to be famous, I only wanted to be great” The band feels the same way, and as such we rehearse every week, since we began. Typically we’re adding new tunes, tweaking or re-arranging things we already know, and always fine tuning. Parkside Drive is my full time job, but all the musicians in the band are professionals, so they teach, work on solo projects, and practice as well.