White Eagle Hall Spotlight Series Interview with Heath Miller
ABOUT WHITE EAGLE HALL
"White Eagle Hall is a newly restored and renovated historic theater located in the thriving nightlife scene of Downtown Jersey City, New Jersey. White Eagle Hall presents live music, theatre, comedy, dance, film, family shows as well as other performances while serving food and drinks. In addition, White Eagle Hall is a warm and intimate event space perfect for weddings, receptions, private parties, fundraisers, corporate meetings and other functions." Read More: www.whiteeaglehalljc.com/about/
Spotlight Series Interview With Heath Miller
Heath Miller of Excess dB Entertainment is the exclusive Talent Buyer for White Eagle Hall.
"Over the past two decades, Miller has become one of the leading talent buyers and live event promoters in New Jersey and New York City, specializing in shows at small to mid-size venues. In addition to music talent buying for White Eagle Hall, Miller books Webster Hall, Mexicali Live in Teaneck, NJ and non-exclusively at NYC venues Stage 48, Highline Ballroom and Le Poisson Rouge." - WEH Press Release
Kuz from The Latest Noise met Heath at the beautiful White Eagle Hall and chatted about the opening of the historic venue with modern updates, the unique opportunity Jersey City represents and how he and the rest of White Eagle Hall are looking to include local artists and the community in upcoming events.
Kuz: Hey Heath! Thanks for taking time to chat about White Eagle Hall, what are you most excited about as White Eagle Hall opens?
Heath: Specific to a show it's always a hard thing to say, we have a good mix of things coming up, I'm excited for Mitski (10/1), excited for Drive-By Truckers (10/5), excited for Bouncing Souls (12/9) which we just announced (Note: tickets on-sale this Friday 9/29). I've only booked Bouncing Souls once or twice before, I'm personally excited for that, they are very much a Jersey band.
Kuz: Outside of booking, what excites you?
Heath: Jersey City has a venue now! I used to live in Jersey City and if I ever wanted to go see a show, it was not in Jersey City or if it was, it was a rarity to see something local. Like the one time there was that big festival that was a debacle, All Points West, it took me an hour to get there and I live in Jersey City! Why is this taking me an hour to get there! (laughs) And then I had to swim through mud! (Just in case you forgot: Nj.com: All Points West: Friday's rain problem becomes Saturday's mud problem)
And now, you can live in Jersey City and walk here, take an Uber here, bike here, crawl here, crawl home from here...please crawl home from here! If you live in Jersey City or Hoboken or the surrounding towns you don't have to go into the city if you don't want to. We are trying to put this on the touring circuit as well as being supportive of the local bands, which I'd like to get us to be more. I was meeting with a local label today and it's tricky because of the size here, I was like trust me, your bands don't want to play here to 100 people, it will feel empty. We need to get your bands bigger, play places like Monty Hall, Porta, Pet Shop and pack out those places that you get to a point that you have enough fans that you can't play there any more because it's too small. Luckily, none of us are the same size, we aren't competing with each other at all.
I want this to be like 'White Eagle has a show tonight' and before the show I want every restaurant on the way here to be packed and after the show I want every bar to be packed. White Eagle anchors this part of the city as a new location and destination. The two restaurants that are below us Cellar 335 and Madame Claude Bis are very busy in general and crazy busy before a show. It's also great for me, I don't have to run down the street to have a quick bite, I can have a real meal and it's great...'cause I like food!
Kuz: Have you faced any challenges with White Eagle, it not being in the city or it being off the beaten path?
Heath: People aren't used to thinking "oh, I'm going to play Jersey City". So it's a little tricky if you are playing Manhattan on which shows can support playing both. If you are playing Brooklyn and not playing Manhattan then you should be playing Jersey City, whether here or Monty Hall or one of the smaller places, you should be playing here. If you are playing Manhattan and your show is going to sell out, you should consider playing here instead of or in addition to playing Brooklyn.
Kuz: How has the response been to that suggestion, is it something people are understanding right away?
Heath: Agents are getting it, West Coast agents need a little more education. One agent called me after looking at pictures and goes "this is beautiful, this isn't Jersey City" and I was like "yes it is!". Sometimes people are really busy and it takes a little while to realize, sometimes people are to numb to advertising messages as well as people are numb to what you tell them because they are so busy.
Kuz: White Eagle Hall as a venue has a lot of history and new updates with the sound system, floating floors and great sound isolation and so on, what can you tell us about that?
Heath: Yea, I mean the room sounds great, looks great, everyone comes in here and the immediate response is "woah, ok, I get why you are excited about this". It's really nice! And the guy who owns the place is really nice! He's letting us book bands that people want to see and also underground bands that people wouldn't recognize if they are not a music fan. Like Roky Erickson is not a household name but there was a ton of people that were really excited to see him and get to see him without having to take a hike to Brooklyn.
Artists don't have to play here, they will choose to play here. We want artists to come in here and see that the place is nice, the staff is nice, no one yelled at me, belittled me or treated me like a child, security was even nice. One of our first shows, it was a little more aggressive show and I'm having a security meeting and it's a new venue and new people working. I said "there might be some moshing here tonight, has everyone seen a mosh pit before?" and one of the guys said "I was in the mosh pit at Slipknot" and I was like "cool, it's going to be nothing like that!" (laughs)
Kuz: What has been the reaction to bands that have performed so far?
Heath: Every band that has come here has been stoked! That's the best way to describe it. Frankie Iero (My Chemical Romance) after his show said 'I wish this was here when I was growing up!'
Kuz: Any strategy in getting more diverse acts and types of music here?
Heath: I've been talking to a couple Latin artists already, I do want to bring in South-East Asian and Indian artists here. I've been looking for some music people and promoters involved in that scene but haven't found the right person yet. Jersey City has a very diverse local community, and I know our initial program is more rock leaning, but we definitely are on track to expand that bring on some electronic stuff, I want it to be all over the place. I'd love to get to the point where there is something here every Friday and Saturday night that people can just show up here by default if they need something to do and it might not be something they like but they leave liking it. I think by the end of year one we will get to 100 shows by the end of year two we'll crack 150.
We are doing seated shows for smaller stuff, I would love to find a handful of Jersey City comedians to do a comedy night, not just from Jersey City. One of the challenges I've seen is some people in Jersey City don't support their local talent as much as they could because they think 'oh, they live in Jersey City and I'll see them again' and trying to move that from that mentality to 'oh, this is a big Jersey City night we should show up.'
I want to make sure that people realize we are trying to support, because I know initially people are not seeing enough Jersey City musicians here, and it's not from a lack of trying. It's just there are not ones that are big enough yet and again playing here to like 100 standing feels really bad.
Kuz: What would you say to a band or artist who is local as a way to approach getting booked here?
Heath: Get a couple friends bands that are musically overlapping with you but have different fans. If I can do a show here for 350 people it starts making sense. Anything smaller than that, for standing room at least, should really be playing Monty Hall, I don't look at Monty Hall as a competitor, I look at it like, please play Monty Hall and when you get too big, play here. It's important to the eco-system that bands are playing there too because it also getting more bands used to playing Jersey City. Grow your career, because no one leaves an empty show going, "man, that was amazing".
I need everyone doing their office parties here in December and I'll just book local Jersey City bands to open up all of them. Like Goldman Sachs has an office here, they have plenty of money! I've seen that movie! They should spend that money here and pay some Jersey City bands way more than they are worth!
Kuz: That sounds brilliant!
Heath: Goldman, where you at?
Kuz: What's the balance between getting a draw and booking music you like. What is your philosophy behind that?
Heath: As much as I would like to only book bands I personally like, I know I don't have that luxury. Cool is in the eye of beholder sometimes, cool is subjective. I know there are some bands that I'm not a huge fan of, but everyone that is going to come to that show is a fan of that band. Things that are more art and noise, weird things, that I book might have a different demographic. Music is such a very subjective thing. When you book a band like Cannibal Corpse and then you book a band like Marc Cohn in the same month and you are announcing them in the same e-mail list there's very little overlap between the two. And they both have had songs in movies, just very different subjects in those movies when their music is playing.
Kuz: Anything you'd like to say to The Latest Noise audience?
Heath: Please, come check out a show, whether it's a band you know and love or a band you don't know yet... take a listen on Spotify, Pandora, Soundcloud or your preferred listening platform or buy a record or CD as novel as that sounds and come support a band. We are lucky that you still can't download the live experience. Even when VR gets to that point, the social aspect of actually leaving your apartment or house and going to a room where you can feel the music, where you can meet people and drink a beer with people matters a lot and it matters so much now. Music is a healing thing, music is an escape for people, music is a community and I look forward to supporting the Jersey City and Hoboken musicians and fans. I look forward to seeing local bands getting really big and selling out this place and their friends opening up for them.
Kuz: Thank you, Heath.
White Eagle Hall Past + Present
White Eagle Hall has a very interesting history from the story of why and how it was built to the legendary Saint Anthony high school basketball team who practiced there from 1952-2000.
Watch the Showtime documentary 'Legacy: Bob Hurley' legendary coach of the Saint Anthony high school team.
Also, the Jersey City Theater Center (JCTC) will present theater, dance, performances and other events at White Eagle Hall, just as it does at Merseles Studios.
Sylvana Joyce (Sylvana Joyce & The Moment) was asked to be part of the Fear series at Merseles Studio and spoke highly of the opportunity, "I’m glad a venue like WEH exists in JC - we can finally have a place to bring in national and world renowned artists to our community. It’s the next step in establishing the JC/Hoboken area as an important music scene in this country. Not to mention, giving local bands the opportunity to open, something most venues have stopped doing in NYC as of late. As for JCTC, as an artist, this space combines two things I love - an intimate space to perform for a local audience, and the ability to combine different performance media into one showcase. Dance, poetry, music, improvisation - all of these art forms inform each other, and collaborating in a multimedia forum gives us a rare opportunity to highlight the human psyche in a multidimensional way"
Special thanks to Timothy Herrick (Publicity/Communications for WEH and JCTC) for setting up the interview and providing information for article.