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Queen City Independent thinks locally, books globally

Lots of folks have made connections through Creative Loafing. Some folks get dates from the date pages, others have met here and married. Still others have had lovely, one-time encounters replete with latex and extra-virgin olive oil.

Brian McKinney made a connection -- a musical connection -- not long after he sent a letter to CL concerning the health of the local music scene. A reader named Brice Griffin saw the letter, contacted McKinney and the two traded exploratory e-mails that led to the creation of the booking agency Queen City Independent ( As McKinney puts it, "We decided that we'd try to book our own shows, since we were sick of driving to Chapel Hill all the time, and we knew other people were, too."

Over the past three months, McKinney and Griffin have paired local acts with such nationally recognized names as Travis Morrison (ex-Dismemberment Plan), the Wrens, Smog and Of Montreal. Queen City Indie also mounted a Sub Pop showcase featuring Rogue Wave, Fruit Bats and Chad Van Gaalen. The duo is promoting these upcoming shows: a Suicide Girls burlesque revue (Oct. 7, Amos' SouthEnd), a local music showcase (Oct. 8, Neighborhood Theatre), and the Pharcyde's Fat Lip (Oct. 14, Tremont Music Hall).

Quite a start, by anyone's standards. But McKinney and Griffin both know their journey has just begun. If everything works out according to their hopes, Chapel Hill will no longer be a necessary destination for local fans of good indie music.

"The biggest headache so far has been getting people to know what we're doing," says McKinney. "The bands we book are quality bands and have tons of fans around town, yet we're drawing 50 kids on a weeknight for bands like Smog and Rogue Wave and the Fruit Bats. We should be tripling that on a weeknight.

"I just think people don't expect these kinds of shows to happen around here, and so they don't routinely check venue Web sites," he adds. "I think once they see one of our shows -- and know that it is one of our shows -- then they can use our Web site to find out about upcoming QCI shows."

He says dealing directly with bands and musicians has been the easy part, because the two have been going to shows and meeting musicians all their lives. The hard part is figuring out the business protocol -- or, as McKinney says, "not to come off as an idiot with the booking agents. We've definitely made some blunders on the way.... We started booking from square one, and there are things that we've had to learn the hard way, like not to go around the agents straight to the bands.

"Every show it gets a little easier," he adds. "We've also developed close relationships with the venues and if we need advice, they're more than willing to tell us what they'd do in the same situation."

Of course, as any club owner well knows, all the great advice in the world's not going to amount to much if people choose to stay home or go to a bar or movie instead of a live show. McKinney thinks the city's geography is partly to blame, as is something he describes as "music scene conditioning."

"I hate to say it, but Charlotte has some serious problems," he says. "If I knew exactly what they were, then I'd be rich by now. I think that mistakes were made in the past and never repaired, and Charlotte's been in limbo ever since. There isn't a single live music venue within walking distance of the city center. In every city that I've ever lived in, you could walk down the street and hear a band playing and pay $8 to see an awesome band. People in Charlotte don't have that. They have to drive all over the place for shows.... Let's not even mention that the biggest university around is a 20-30 minute drive from the popular clubs. That's a huge untapped resource."

McKinney and Griffin may be idealistic, but they know it. "We're well aware that we're not the first to try this, but we hope we'll be able to say we're the last," says McKinney. "Charlotte has a lot of really great bands, and we don't mean to imply otherwise. We just want to pair them up with some really great national acts and get some attention for all of us."

Queen City Independent presents the Suicide Girls at Amos' SouthEnd on Oct. 7, with Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re. 18 and older due to adult content. Tickets are $14, available at For more info on other upcoming QCI shows, go to

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