by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
I’ve been writing about The Show Is the Rainbow (TSITR) and other Darren Keen projects for almost a decade. So when I received an email yesterday announcing the permanent moth-balling of TSITR, written by an obviously frustrated Keen, it was more than a bit of a downer.
In addition to being a creative force, a musical talent and a hard-working mofo, Keen is one of the most polarizing figures in the local music scene. People either enjoy his pulse-rising electronic music and over-the-top performances, or discard him as a Har Mar Superstar rip-off or a no-talent attention getter. There is no in-between.
I’m not going to recap Keen’s entire career — you can read about it yourself by doing a search on “Darren Keen” in the search box on the right of the screen (or just click here). Suffice to say, Keen’s made a lot of music, released a lot of material and played a lot of shows all over the world. He’s been grinding it out for nearly a decade, but judging by the email, he’s had enough.
Keen said he’s always wanted to be famous, but on his own terms. “At the end of the big tour I did last year supporting my new record Tickled Pink, I knew it just wasn’t going to happen,” Keen wrote. “TSITR had become the kind of band that people ‘LOVED,’ but also were kind of done supporting. They had paid the cover the past few times I had come to town, and the novelty was just gone. The records sold less and less, each year, and crowds just dwindled. I had come full circle, from House Shows to Small Bars to Big Clubs to BIG support tours, to Clubs, Bars, and finally House Shows with lots of days off.”
Keen counted the change in his pockets after his last 45-day tour and discovered that he generated a grand total of $1,500. He said he’s at a point in TSITR where “people just stopped showing up, and stopped buying my records.” Tickled Pink digital sales generated less than $70 as a pay-what-you-want record, while the vinyl version sold about 120 copies, “not even close to enough to pay off the pressing costs.
“I don’t blame people for being ‘over’ TSITR, over my bullshit rockstar attitude, over my shit talking on stage, over my disregard for the ‘touch barrier,’ over buying records that aren’t as good as the live shows, over paying to see live shows that were shocking years ago, and now just feel boring, I really don’t. I used to be able to grab a mic and say ‘I’m the best, coolest motherfucker in this room.’ I said stuff like that, because I meant it, but I just don’t feel that way anymore. I’ve lost my edge, and I don’t know how to get it back. I love you all, and I will still be making music. I never thought I’d break up TSITR, but I suppose, the hardest lesson for a musician to learn is, just because you CAN make a song, doesn’t mean you have to.”
You can read Keen’s entire letter posted at Hear Nebraska.
So the reality of the situation is this: Darren Keen isn’t going to stop making music altogether; he’s just going to stop performing as TSITR and releasing new TSITR material. He’ll continue performing as Bad Speler and Touch People. But as a one-man act, there’s nothing stopping Keen from pulling out TSITR again, right?
“I think I am going to do one more (final) TSITR show,” Keen replied. “I know nothing would stop me from bringing it back in the future, but it’s just not very likely. Touch People and Bad Speler are both finding a stride, and they also sort of have a yin-yang relationship IMO, that TSITR just doesn’t seem to fit into anymore for me…”
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Tonight at The Waiting Room it’s Cincinnati glam-rock band Foxy Shazam with Stars in Stereo. $12, note early 8 p.m. start time.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.