I Wrote This: Side With Her

There has been so much drama with the story over the course of today alone that I’m tempted not to post this. But it is the biggest thing I’ve ever written, so I should have an account of the correct version that was supposed to appear in print somewhere. Like Leslie (whom you’ll meet in a second) said, the print copy will end up in the recycling. It’s the online version that sticks around.

Long story short, an old draft of the story got submitted to production, before the final paragraph was added and where my editor mistakenly referred to my subject, Leslie Hampton, as Lisa. Since her first name was only mentioned once, every reference in the headline, captions, etc. says Lisa.

This is how it was supposed to look both online and in print.

FOR a town where bands are relegated to playing in bowling alleys, arcades and church rec rooms, Leslie Hampton’s one-woman operation, Side With Us Records, is fantastically sophisticated.

Hampton uses Side With Us as a test kitchen for new ideas. New ideas like not taking starving guitarists for all they’re worth. She’s less interested in turning a profit than she is in helping out local bands.

“A label is all kind of relative,” she says. “Some people will tell me, ‘You know, you could be getting more money out of them.’ I could, but …” she says, scrunching up her nose a little. “To me, this label is a way to say, ‘I’m here and I believe in what you’re doing.'”

The bands she represents agree. “She’s great,” says Evan Jewett, guitarist in Worker Bee. “Being on Side With Us is not like being on a label. First of all, we never had to sign anything,” he says with a laugh. “It’s like having a friend.” Before Worker Bee embarked on a tour last year, Hampton asked for a list of the cities they’d be stopping in, so she could contact all the local record stores about carrying their CD. She has also managed to set up a small U.K. distribution for them.

Hampton has an overwhelming presenceóshe talks fast and moves fast, and channels her kinetic energy into Side With Us. The label only officially launched in November 2009, but thanks to her tireless work, it’s gaining impressive momentum.

“She’s so helpful,” says Jesse from the Record Winter, a San Jose band on Side With Us that’s heating up fast. “She does a lot. She advertises a lot for us, really puts herself out there.”

Hampton also has an eye for design. When she pulls her business card out of her wallet, she’s quick to point out a printing error on the logo. “See, they cut it off wrong. It should have been here.”

She originally lent that skill to longtime San Jose promoter Eric Fanali, once she returned home to Los Gatos after studying design in England for six years. She made promotional posters for Fanali and worked the door at his shows when she could. After a while, she started playing around with the idea of starting a label, and asked Fanali to start one with her. He wasn’t interested, but he had a vast network of contacts he was willing to share to help her get it off the ground.

This is not an idea she dreamed up overnight. In college, she gave dissertations on the business of major and indie labels. Having played in bands for years, and currently playing in two on the Side With Us roster, Hampton was more than familiar with the inner workings of labels, big and small. “Running a label and being in a band is like owning a place and being a renter at the same time.”

Hampton’s latest project is PostCode, an online catalog of Side With Us music that a friend built for her. Hampton sells posters for bands on her roster, stamped on the back with a URL and a unique code that users can enter into a form to receive a zip file of a band’s album. Mike Park of Cupertino’s venerable Asian Man Records has already put his catalog on the PostCode system, and Streetlight will be carrying PostCode posters for Hampton’s band, Tourister, later this month.

“It taps into something a lot of people complain aboutówith downloads, you don’t get the art that might come with a CD or a record.” She designed the Tourister poster herself.

Though she’s got what most people would consider a full plate, she still works with Fanali. “I still make posters for him, and I think I worked the door at almost every show last year. He jokingly calls me Miss Moneypenny,” she says with a laugh and a wide grin that bares most of her teeth.

Hampton is looking to expand the label, but, unlike everything else about her, she’s not in a huge hurry. “I’m looking to have as much of a cohesive sound as possible,” she says, on the hunt for bands with what she calls “a bunch of noise and reverb”. “There are so many good bands here that not enough people know about. Eventually, I just want to collect all the bands in the area that I really, really like.”

Some Small Things

Hey there hi there ho there,

I’ve got a whole bunch of stuff in this week’s Metro that I think you should read.

First, here are some calendar blurbs. These are probably the best I’ve done so far:

Goodbye Elliott, appearing Jan 22 at the Refuge in Cupertino:

So, big confession here: I love Degrassi: The Next Generation. I wasn’t even in the target audience when I started watching it, as a common guilty pleasure between some friends of mine in my later years of high school. Whereas the rest of them grew up and moved on some time ago, I haven’t. The entire original cast has timed out and graduated; replaced by a new generation of high schoolers with, somehow, an entirely new mess of trouble to get into. Goodbye Elliott is the kind of perpetually pleasant, endless-summer music that teen shows cue up to. And why shouldn’t these guys sound like an antidepressant haze? They’re young. They’re from Hawaii. Right now, life’s all about school being out, hanging with friends, and hoping to catch the eye of a certain girl (all paraphrased from actual lyrics). If the Beach Boys actually practiced what they preached, they’d be Goodbye Elliott.

…and Reason To Rebel, Jan 21 at the Caravan:

Be careful when Googling this band. One slip of the mouse and you’ll end up on Amazon.com, wondering how you got to the listing for a real bodice-ripper of a romance novel, entitled A Reason to Rebel. I’m not necessarily saying this happened to me. I’m just saying…be careful. I can’t imagine fans of one taking an interest in the other. Reason to Rebel is like a slightly less coherent version of System of a Down, all spastic and screaming and alluding to political and social injustices every now and then. Reason To Rebel are fond of weed, the female form, and, judging by the frequent use of Carlin’s Dirty Seven in their lyrics, the First Amendment. Having conquered Southern California, the band is wandering up north to the Caravan. Maybe they’ll sign a few copies of A Reason To Rebel afterwards. Wait, I’m logged into Amazon on this computer, aren’t I? Damn it, this is going to throw off my recommendations for months…

(I always forget that formatting goes out the window in the calendar due to space issues, so I apologize that all of these look like lunatic ramblings.)

And lastly, the big one, an interview with composer Paul Gordon, whose new musical, Daddy Long Legs, premieres at TheatreWorks in Mountain View this week. I’ve done a few interviews for the Metro so far, and this one was by far the best. Really nice guy; had a lot of really interesting information. I think it shows.

THIS WEEK, Palo Alto’s TheatreWorks presents the world premiere of Daddy Long Legs, a new musical based on the novel by Jean Webster. Daddy Long Legs had a long journey to realization, and composer Paul Gordon was there from the beginning. “I had worked with TheatreWorks before,” he says. “John Caird and I had just finished Jane Eyre, and we were looking for a new musical to start on.”

Caird’s wife suggested Daddy Long Legs, a story in the same vein as Emma and Jane Eyre, two novels that TheatreWorks had adapted for the stage in the past. “In the United States, most people are familiar with Daddy Long Legs through the Fred Astaire movie,” says Gordon. Cairns’ wife, who grew up in Japan, where the book is very popular, knew a different Daddy Long Legs.

Daddy Long Legs is the story of Jerusha Abbott, an orphan sent to college by a mysterious benefactor, whom she nicknames Daddy Long Legs. The American film, produced in 1955, was made near the end of Fred Astaire’s career. The film was made almost solely as a vehicle for Astaire, who was in his mid-50s at time of its release. His co-star, Leslie Caron, was 30 years younger and spoke with a French accent, clashing with her character’s American roots. “We’re extremely faithful to the book,” Gordon says. “We’ve brought it back down so that the age discrepancy isn’t nearly as great.”

Gordon has previously worked with TheatreWorks on similar projects, scoring the musicals Jane Eyre, based on the Brontë classic, and Emma, modeled after the Jane Austen work. “The music is different from what I wrote for Emma and Jane Eyre; I tried to make it a little more contemporary,” says Gordon. In Jane Eyre and Emma, he adds, “the songs sort of went along with the scenes.” Gordon says there are more “stand-alone” numbers in Daddy Long Legs. “It has a little more of my own personal influences in it. You can hear Sondheim, but you can also hear the Beatles.”

The TheatreWorks performances are the second stop in a co-premiere with theaters in Cincinnati and Ventura. Daddy Long Legs is being performed with a six-piece orchestra containing a violin, cello and piano alongside the drums, bass and a guitar. “I was trying to do more contemporary, pop songwriting,” says Gordon of his score. “But mostly I was just trying to write good songs.”