Backstage Wizard

Rock 'n' roll image guru Miles Hurwitz helps turn young local bands into something that sells.

The young people lined up outside Slim’s in San Francisco don’t know they’re under scrutiny. It’s around 7 p.m. on an unseasonably warm Friday in mid-March, and the kids, to the average person, all appear to wear the same uniform of disaffected youth: black hooded sweatshirts, dyed black hair, strategically smudged eyeliner. This is, after all, a tour sponsored by megamall-punk emporium Hot Topic featuring bands on the SoCal indie label Epitaph.

But 53-year-old Miles Hurwitz isn’t the average person. He’s the manager of the Matches, the Oakland band headlining this sold-out show. His mission of the moment is to gauge how many fans are there to see his band versus the others. He determines this based on each band’s style: Escape the Fate resembles 1980s glam rockers Motley Crüe, I Am Ghost leans goth, and the Higher plays R&B-flavored rock. “In some ways it’s good,” Hurwitz says of the genre mix. “We’re not preaching to the converted.”

A trim six foot four, with graying, close-cropped hair and a receding hairline, Hurwitz draws stares as he walks swiftly past the dozens of kids, some with adult chaperones, lined up down the block. As he reaches the line’s end, he concludes that 80 percent are Matches fans.

Hurwitz, himself dressed in black Levi’s and a gray flannel button-down shirt, two small silver hoops protruding from a single ear piercing, is highly conscious of a band’s image, namely the interplay among an artist’s persona, sound, and audience. Actually, when it comes to packaging and marketing bands, Hurwitz thinks about a lot of things.

For years the Rockridge resident, whose background combines music journalism and ad sales, has been coaching fledgling Bay Area musicians. Though few would recognize his name, Hurwitz has advised or managed some of the East Bay’s most successful up-and-coming rock acts — including the Matches, Street to Nowhere, Audrye Sessions, and Maldroid — bands who’ve gained mainstream attention, attracted major labels and big management firms, garnered radio spins, toured nationally, and won contests. The first three of these bands were picked to play Live 105’s BFD concert on June 9.

His methods are not common. While most managers seek bands that have already proved their commercial potential, Hurwitz works almost exclusively with young, relatively unknown acts. And whereas most managers deal primarily with the business end of things, Hurwitz requires creative involvement. He helps his bands write songs and lyrics. He coproduces their CDs and videos. He proffers advice on how to rehearse, perform, dress, create logos — in essence, how to create a complete, marketable package.

Such tactics are most often affiliated with manufactured pop bands like the Backstreet Boys; in today’s rock ‘n’ roll, where street cred is compulsory, they carry the whiff of taboo. Regardless of what fans may think, Hurwitz manages to conjure both the ire and admiration of his peers. In interviews with more than a dozen musicians, former colleagues, and industry professionals, he was described as a “fucking idiot,” “brilliant,” “man-child,” “fifth Beatle,” “passionate,” “cocky,” “overbearing,” “totally crazy,” and “smarty-pants.”

“He’s definitely a unique breed among the level of band managers I work with,” says Aaron Axelsen, music director and assistant program director at Live 105. “He understands the process so delicately. He’ll build a story, he’ll develop the band. … He has a lot of integrity, a lot of passion. He’s not like that used-car salesman type.”

Actually, Hurwitz has played the salesman role, pulling stints as an ad rep for such publications as Mondo 2000 and The Nose, and as a consultant for Might magazine. He was a partner in the company that launched the regional computer mag MicroTimes, and collected a windfall when the magazine was sold in the late ’90s. Until fairly recently, he acted as a consultant for struggling businesses. But his main gig now is nurturing bands with musicians half his age.

His motivations aren’t entirely clear. Hurwitz claims he hasn’t yet pocketed a dime for what is, essentially, a full-time job. One explanation is that he’s genuinely passionate about creating and perfecting pop music. He’s also a big kid, gleaning vicarious pleasure from his dashing young musicians. Most of all, he’s a clever businessman who analyzes his landscape down to a level of detail that’s dizzying, even headache-inducing.

Some local musicians say his grooming has vastly improved their songwriting and helped bring them mainstream attention. They also say his meticulous calculations and strong creative opinions can be unnerving. As for the fans, they’re seeking that intangible quality, that certain something that makes a band truly special. And that’s where Miles Hurwitz works his magic.

On a Tuesday night in April, Hurwitz is holed up in Oakland’s Skyline Studios with local singer-songwriters Brad Wolfe and Megan Slankard, plus two of Wolfe’s band members, guitarist Gawain Matthews and percussionist James Greenfield.

Wolfe, an earnest-looking young man, sits on a black leather sofa, while Slankard sits nearby. The two songwriters, both armed with acoustic guitars, recently decided to collaborate. Wolfe had met Hurwitz at a recent film festival and, duly impressed, asked if he could give them some feedback.

Hurwitz starts with an ice-breaker. “When you get advice from anybody in the music business, there are two things to keep in mind,” he says. “The first is: The person you’re talking to is just one more asshole in the music business. And that’s me. I am just another asshole in the music business.” He goes on to explain that, compared with other managers, he is more interested in the creative process.

Wolfe and Slankard play him a new song called “America.” It’s a heartfelt number, with the message of “Don’t try to save the world, be yourself,” Slankard explains. The chorus goes It’s America, you’re just a girl/It’s America, can’t save the world/It’s America, it’s bigger than you and me.

Wolfe sings with his eyes closed and taps his foot. His voice shivers. Hurwitz sits back in his chair. “Cool, very good,” he says as the song comes to an end.

“I love that song. It’s sooo good,” guitarist Matthews chimes in, smiling.

Hurwitz proceeds to quiz the songwriters about their musical tastes, favorite songs, and career goals. He gives a quick lecture on the importance of a bridge in a song, and encourages them to write outside of their comfort zone. “Lyric hooks,” he says: “There’s three kinds in the Miles world.”

Hurwitz pauses, realizing his mistake. “Boy, I hate having said that! Let me retract that,” he says.

“That’s in there, baby! The Miles world,” Wolfe says, to everyone’s laughter.

“Oh God!” Hurwitz says, turning to me. “Actually, for another reason, I might ask you to not write about this.”

“This is secret sauce right here; can’t give away the recipe,” Wolfe translates.

Hurwitz then asks me to turn off my tape recorder.

He doesn’t get to the critique until later. And that’s when things get a bit rough. He describes the song’s structure as “flabby,” and isn’t sure where the chorus is. He also challenges Wolfe’s decision to write about “comfortable, heartfelt, positive themes” that lack any sense of doubt.

Slankard jumps to the defense. “People eat that song for some reason,” she says.

“How the audience responds to what you do live may not be how the industry responds,” Hurwitz counters. “How often has someone written about America the country? … It was done by Simon and Garfunkel. Unless you’re saying something much better than that, my God, that’s a risky, risky topic to approach. You better be fucking brilliant when you say it.”

The meeting ends after four hours. Hurwitz assigns the songwriters homework — to come up with a list of popular songs they wish they’d written, and they agree to keep in touch. In the end, Wolfe wasn’t so sure he’d follow Hurwitz’ advice. “My writing is very personal,” he said over the phone the next day. “I’m not necessarily willing to give that up — commercial success or not. That’s what music is for me. He said my music is ‘subtly pedantic.’ And maybe it is. That’s why I like to write songs.”

To call Miles Hurwitz savvy would be an understatement. He’s the consummate image architect: Everything he does seems completely thought out, starting with why he agreed to be the subject of this article.

When first contacted, he quickly got on board, saying, “I’ve got an ego just like every other asshole.” Later, during one of several lengthy interviews, he reasoned aloud that a profile about him — especially one with some element of tension or controversy — would ultimately help publicize his bands. The experience, he said, also would give him a better idea of how to coach his bands to deal with the press. And hearing other people’s critiques would help him fine-tune his techniques.

Over the course of several months of interactions, Hurwitz crafted a picture of himself using carefully chosen words and lively anecdotes. On occasions, he would implore me to leave this or that slight misstep out of the story. Even as he recapped events, he often analyzed their significance. Knowing a reporter would seek others to comment on him, he helpfully supplied a list of about thirty people, including descriptions of who they were and what, specifically, they could talk about.

Asked whether he had ever harbored dreams of being onstage himself, he sensed a narrative. “There’s a possible angle for your story that would be, you know, in some way I am some frustrated nonperformer, and sort of a stage parent to all these bands” Hurwitz says, between bites of a turkey focaccia sandwich at Berkeley’s Café Roma. “Fuck, yeah! I’m not embarrassed or going to deny that even a little. It’s not my life, though. And could I have been those people? No, boy. Sometimes it’s just a certain amount of genetic package that you have to start with.”

Hurwitz may have lacked the rockstar package, but he compensated in other areas. He describes his younger self as a confident geek. “I was tall, skinny, unathletic,” he recalls. “Awkward-looking. Glasses. Big nose. Still managed to have a pretty rich and robust social life.”

As a single dad, Hurwitz tried to spare his only son any such awkwardness. Boomer Hurwitz, twenty, describes his father with admiration, as the quintessential “cool dad.” When Boomer was about thirteen, his father taught him “how to take off a girl’s bra when it’s appropriate.” As a high-school freshman, Boomer says, he took a senior to her prom. At about 2 a.m., he called his dad to say she’d be coming over to spend the night. “He asked me, ‘Is your room clean?'” Boomer recalls. It wasn’t. So Papa Hurwitz got up and cleaned his kid’s room before the lovebirds arrived.

Hurwitz’ own childhood was far less adventurous. He grew up the youngest of three children in the Cleveland suburbs. His interest in music was kindled by his older brother, who collected records, and played guitar and French horn. Hurwitz started drumming in the fourth grade, then picked up guitar around seventh, teaching himself to play with the songbooks of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and Peter, Paul and Mary.

Hurwitz’ dad was a salesman. His mother worked her way up from secretary to geriatrics researcher, all without a college degree. He describes his family as “struggling middle-class.” To buy himself a drum set, Miles worked two paper routes in ninth grade.

In college at Northwestern he met Patrick Goldstein, a music writer for the Chicago Reader whose Gonzo-style journalism Hurwitz admired. He and Goldstein, now a film critic for The Los Angeles Times, played together in a band that did covers of Dr. John, Boz Scaggs, and the Byrds. They were called Marshall Sea and the Smegma Sisters.

But Hurwitz’ real talent was in business. When the band played fraternity parties, he would draw up the contract. They would play from 9 p.m. to midnight for $150. At midnight, however, the party would invariably be at its peak. The frat boys would beg the band to continue. Hurwitz would remind them of the contract clause that ensured the band another $50 per half hour. By the end of the night, the musicians typically had doubled their pay.

With Goldstein’s help, Hurwitz began writing music articles. At the time, though, he was set on getting an engineering degree and an MBA. “I knew I’d be going to the management side of things,” he recalls. “I was always trying to take charge of crap.”

By his senior year, he knew engineering wasn’t his life’s calling. He scored an internship at Rolling Stone in San Francisco, but upon arrival decided he would rather work for smaller publications, and ended up at the five-month-old music magazine BAM. “He was smart and he had kind of a vision of how the world ran,” remembers Dennis Erokan, BAM‘s former publisher and editor-in-chief. “I was 24, he must have been 21. So it’s not like either of us were geniuses. But we each kind of saw that the other guy knew a little bit more about things than the other one did. And he was full of energy.”

Hurwitz quickly made himself valuable. He worked for free for the summer, churning out copy, and finding the magazine an accountant and an attorney. When it came time for him to return to Chicago, Erokan convinced him to stay. A year later, Hurwitz negotiated to become a partner and assistant editor. He later became managing editor and business manager. It was Hurwitz who laid the groundwork for the Bammie Awards.

At BAM, where Hurwitz ultimately spent fifteen years, he earned a rep for advising unsigned bands, a job he discovered he was particularly good at. He recognized what made an artist stand out. “The ones that were successful were passionate and analytical,” he says. “They did what they loved, but they were aware of how they fit into the market, the history of music, the trends.”

After his partnership with Erokan dissolved in the early ’90s, Hurwitz pursued management more aggressively. One of his first clients was a nineteen-year-old aspiring hip-hop producer named Dan Nakamura, aka Dan the Automator. That relationship lasted about a year — Hurwitz concluded that hip-hop wasn’t his forte.

He started to help shape songs while managing San Jose band Ballyhoo. He produced its demo tape, perked the interest of labels, and got a “parade of A&R guys” to see it. Then the band fell apart. Not long after, he hooked up with a skate-punk outfit called Stunt Monkey, who had a minor hit on Live 105 with the song “Your Mom’s Hot.”

But everything changed when Hurwitz met a group of enthusiastic Oakland high school kids called the Locals, later known as the Matches. They were young, clever, eager. In other words, perfect.

WHatever their potential, the Matches wouldn’t be where they are now were it not for Hurwitz’ other most tangible contribution to the local music scene, a series of all-ages shows called “L3: Loud, Live and Local.” In 2001, iMusicast owner Bryan Matheson asked Hurwitz for advice to help his struggling venue. Hurwitz suggested an all-ages niche, which the young performers would be asked to promote. The idea worked, and L3 became Hurwitz’ primary vehicle to promote the Matches.

L3 was also where Hurwitz met many other musicians he worked with. One was Anton Patzner. Now 26, Patzner is a touring musician with Bright Eyes and is half of the metal-string duo Judgement Day. At the time he met Hurwitz, he played violin and keyboards in Audrye Sessions, an Oakland band. “Right off the bat, he goes into this story about his original plan for iMusicast and the Matches, how the Matches would make iMusicast into this venue, and how it would be this symbiotic relationship,” Patzner recalls of their first encounter. “He had all these ideas that totally made sense that I would never have thought of on my own.”

His Audrye Sessions bandmates were skeptical, but Patzner eventually set up a band meeting with Hurwitz. The five musicians met him for breakfast one morning after a show. “He laid into us and had great criticism,” Patzner recalls. “Miles had a way of giving the most brutal criticisms and making them seem inspiring.”

Hurwitz gave each band member things to work on. He told Patzner to add more effects to his violin. (He did.) He advised guitarist Michael Knox to be a “tone junkie” and create a different sound for each song. (“He’s totally gone that way and is a much better guitarist because of it,” Patzner says.) Bassist Alicia Campbell was inexperienced, so he told her to practice. (She began taking lessons.)

His songwriting suggestions created some tensions, however. Hurwitz said they should sing their choruses to a friend who wasn’t a singer, then have the person sing it back. “If they can’t, it’s not good enough,” Patzner remembers him saying.

“I don’t believe that every chorus should be so simple that someone with no ear can sing it,” the musician says. “But a singable chorus in a pop song is a good thing. He’s very pop-oriented. He’s trying to teach people to make pop music, not art music of any kind.”

The band remained protective of its creative process, especially after Hurwitz told them he’d written lyrics for the Matches. “It was something that made us not want him to be our manager because we didn’t want him writing songs for us,” Patzner recalls. “He wants to write … like a catchphrase that will be taken into the pop culture language and eventually go into the Webster’s dictionary. Like, that’s one of his goals.” Audrye Sessions ended up signing with a big Los Angeles management firm, which turned out to be a “disaster,” says Patzner, who quit the band back in January. He couldn’t say whether signing with Hurwitz would have made any difference, but believes his advice made a lasting impression. “He encouraged us to shoot high and try to go as far as we could go.”

Several other Bay Area musicians and industry folks spoke of Hurwitz’ career-altering influence. Dave Smallen, the 22-year-old lead singer and songwriter for Street to Nowhere, says Hurwitz has had a “huge impact” on his songwriting, and is a “huge part” of why the band, now signed to Capitol, is going places. Ryan Divine, 26, frontman for the Oakland band Maldroid, credits Hurwitz for improving the band’s songwriting. Mike Green, a Los Angeles producer who got his start recording the Matches, said Hurwitz has helped springboard his career — Green now works with labels including Universal, Atlantic, Capitol, Virgin, Epitaph, and Victory. And the list goes on. “I don’t think that the Bay Area scene in general would be where it is today if he wasn’t giving his advice and perspective to smaller bands in the Bay Area,” Smallen says.

It also wouldn’t be as stylish. One of the things Hurwitz coached Audrye Sessions on was their image. “He was telling us that … our look sucked,” Patzner says. Hurwitz suggested layers of clothing and accessories, and told Patzner to grow “mad scientist” hair. “He said, ‘When you walk into a club, if there’s a band member in the crowd, you should be able to tell them apart.'”

Hurwitz says he urged another singer to trade in sports jerseys for women’s velvet blazers onstage. Why? “Because men’s jackets are too long,” Hurwitz explains. Women’s jackets stretch the top half of the body, giving it a longer, leaner look. They also show off a sexy waist.

This may sound frivolous, but Hurwitz sees a direct link between a musician’s dress and sound. “That added element of visual differentiation will often add to the performer’s confidence,” he says, “make them more within themselves, make them in some ways more out of themselves — more aware of their role, in essence, as an actor.”

On a foggy Tuesday, deep within the San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking, the Matches are preparing to shoot a video for their song, “Salty Eyes” off their last album, Decomposer.

It’s unconventional video fodder: Clocking 2 minutes and 38 seconds, the song is a circus-like waltz with strings meant to perk the listener’s ear as much as to throw off the pop-punk tag that has followed the Matches since their debut CD, E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals.

This is the second video for Decomposer. The first, “Papercut Skin,” was a relatively big-budget video (about $30,000) paid for by Epitaph and aired on Fuse. Lacking label funds for additional videos, Hurwitz and the band decided to do it themselves.

The idea was all Hurwitz: a take on Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” in which Dylan holds up signs bearing select lyrics rather than singing them. But in a modern tweak, the Matches would hold TVs projecting the words via videotape. Band members would be handed each TV, or pick it up, and then drop it on the concrete floor.

The shoot begins around 9 a.m. Inside the sound stage, dozens of old televisions and orange extension cords are strewn about. Band members, friends, and volunteers — all of whom appear to be in their early twenties — adjust lighting, practice camera movements, and goof around. Hurwitz may be the oldest guy in the room, but you’d hardly know it. He’s just one of the boys, busily affixing VCRs to televisions using black gaffer tape.

Logistically, the shoot is a complicated, messy, and ambitious endeavor. A month prior, Hurwitz had his intern, Cooper Freeman, start scavenging up a collection of old televisions and VCRs. Forty were required, but they needed extras in case some didn’t work. In the end, they collected roughly one hundred.

Hurwitz is striving for the visually stunning. To enhance the destruction of the TVs, he brings baby powder and a blower to create the illusion of dust. “I keep waiting for someone to say we can’t do this,” he says, giddily. “Who’s in charge? I’m the guy in charge. … So I guess we are doing this.”

The band runs through its complex choreography, practicing with cardboard boxes instead of the televisions. The actual take doesn’t happen till 3 a.m., and by the time Hurwitz and his crew clean up, it’s dawn.

The end result is far from perfect, but still pretty compelling: Some of the TVs malfunction. Some aren’t picked up in time, or at all. Band members run into one another, trip, and fall, but in the end, it’s an entertaining feat of sloppiness.

And that’s really the point. “We’re concerned with what it says about the band,” Hurwitz says during a break. “‘Cluttered and interestingtroubled fits the video and mood of the band’s music. Not slick.” In April, the video won “Most Original Music Video” at the 3-Minute Independent Film Festival sponsored by Alice 97.3 FM. And recently, Epitaph, the band’s label, agreed to push it to MTV.

Hurwitz estimates he’s spent an average of thirty hours a week — sometimes as many as sixty if they’re recording — for the past six and a half years helping the Matches perfect their sound, image, and marketing strategy. And he says he hasn’t pocketed a dime of his cut — which is 20 percent, according to singer Shawn Harris. Instead, he puts the money back into developing the band. “I should seek therapy about this,” Hurwitz jokes.

The relationship began in 2000 after Boomer, then thirteen, gave his dad a tape of the Matches’ demo, which was circulating among his friends. A line in one song caught the father’s ear: This town’s so boring … when you’re not scoring. Hurwitz thought it was “a little inane,” but also recognized that it mocked teenage male virility. “I found that very endearing, and layered and mature in a way that was unusual for young writers.”

Hurwitz called the band, then known as the Locals, and arranged to watch them rehearse in a garage. “I then became that cliché of old-fart music-business guy sitting in a lawn chair with my arms folded watching a bunch of young rockers bounce around the garage,” he recalls.

And bounce they did. Impressed with their musicianship, energy, and especially Harris — his way of bending a note and the “twinkle in his eye” — Hurwitz agreed to advise them. But he didn’t offer to be their manager right away. They needed a lot of work.

First off, the ska thing had to go. Hurwitz felt the genre’s popularity was fading and the sound too limited. Harris, the band’s main songwriter, spent hours with Hurwitz rearranging and revising music and lyrics, coming up with ideas, tearing apart melodies and chord progressions, and changing keys, tempos, and beat structures. While Harris embraced the collaboration, not all his bandmates shared the sentiment.

“You can be taken aback when somebody is in essence ripping to shreds your music or your art,” Harris says. “Critique is sometimes hard to take. But pretty much from the beginning I was so thrilled that somebody knew what they were talking about and was honest and blunt to deliver us an opinion in our presence. … But it was hard for the band at times because we would change, say, one song over the course of a year ten times.”

Hurwitz also encouraged the band to update its look, which initially consisted of Hawaiian shirts or “California casual.” He and Harris brainstormed about how to stand out on a budget, and came up with the concept of cutting up clothes and sewing them together. It was a DIY look Harris ran with, often to a clownish extreme. T-shirts were spray-painted. Random pieces of grip tape accented his clothes, which were usually ripped. “It leaves an impression that fans who like music find endearing,” Hurwitz says.

He and Harris spent so much time together that they soon became friends — going to art shows or to see music shows. Although Hurwitz is old enough to be Harris’ father, he’s fully versed in youth culture. “He’s the oldest person I know that understands screamo better than I do, even,” Harris says.

Hurwitz’ youthfulness also lent itself to clever lyric-writing, an aspect of the band reviewers often mention, even if they don’t know to credit the band’s manager. In “Dog-Eared Page,” for instance, Hurwitz added the line, I’ve got friends in quotes and girls with asterisks. It’s a way of saying the singer has everything going in his life, but deep down his social connections aren’t really fulfilling, Hurwitz says.

The Matches were getting popular, however. The L3 series drew hundreds of high-school kids. To everyone’s surprise, after sending their CD to a bunch of A&R reps, a slew of major labels responded. But Hurwitz played it coy. He insisted that whoever would sign the actual contract had to come in person to watch the Matches play at iMusicast. “It was a bit of a cocky, power-flex thing, which, at the time, we were a bit worried about him doing,” Harris reflects. “We could really be stepping on some toes here. He wasn’t just saying, ‘Send a scout,’ but ‘If the head of the label doesn’t show up, we won’t take you seriously.'”

The gamble worked. According to Hurwitz, famed producers Eric Valentine and Rick Rubin, and VPs from Epic, Capitol, Jive, Epitaph, and Nitro Records showed up. He claims that once the chips were in, the Matches had at least four major-label offers on the table, and thirteen from indies. They chose Epitaph, reasoning that a major wouldn’t be as invested in developing them.

Although Hurwitz’ tactics were paying off, the bandmembers still felt a little uncomfortable with the relationship. On E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals, which Epitaph rereleased, Hurwitz used the pseudonym “Mike Harwood” for song credits. “It became a story that we were really uneasy about relaying early on,” Harris says. “A year or two years ago we wouldn’t have been okay about doing an article about Miles’ input on the band.”

Hurwitz says the pseudonym was his idea. “I thought there was a risk that I was the co-producer and the manager,” he recalls. “It could be perceived by the other reviewers or doubters that the band was somehow controlled by some outside guy. And there’s stories of that in rock ‘n’ roll: bands put together by managers. So much not the case here.”

By the time they recorded Decomposer, however, the Matches had come to terms with Hurwitz’ involvement. All the songs list him as co-writer. And the band — without Hurwitz’ knowledge — even wrote him a dedication in the liner notes: “For taking us under his wing and fostering us from little maggots to the boundless mass of flesh we’ve become, this record is dedicated to the Wizard, Miles Hurwitz.”

So, why the change of heart? “I started to feel bad about Miles being so creatively involved, and we appreciate him so much, and to be kind of glossing over that,” Harris explains. “Not lying about it, but just keeping him completely behind the scenes seemed completely disingenuous.”

Maldroid singer Divine, a longtime friend of the Matches, calls the relationship “a double-edged sword. … I think even Shawn feels weird sometimes: ‘I’ve got this fifty-year-old man writing songs for me,’ but if he’s writing the best songs possible and it’s working for him, I don’t think they’re going to care what other people think.”

Hurwitz insists his input is purely collaborative, but he admits his advice to Harris tends to carry greater weight than even he’d like. “We joke about the fact that I can critique, criticize, or suggest something about a riff, a way of singing, a song sketch, beginning, and he will run off and change everything because he thinks my opinion has value,” the manager says. “It’s like, ‘Wait, wait, it doesn’t have that much value.'”

Outside Slim’s prior to the Matches show, Hurwitz stands watch while security guards search fans’ belongings. Two women walk up. They are Linda Fink, an old friend of Hurwitz’, and her friend Lynn Oliver. Hurwitz had scored a bunch of tickets to sell to fans and friends who got shut out, and Oliver needs one for her youngest son. She hands him a twenty for the $14 ticket. He doesn’t have change. “For six dollars, here’s my son’s CD,” she says, whipping out a CD-R from her brown leather purse.

As if on cue, her son Zach walks up with Oliver’s kid, Sam. Both are teenagers. Zach is taller with curly brown hair. Sam is shorter, with braces.

“So, tell me about your band,” Hurwitz asks Zach.

“Uh, we’re just a local band …” he says, sheepishly.

“No, we’re not just a local band,” Hurwitz interrupts. “Are you in high school? College?”

They’re high-school juniors.

“What’s the lineup?”

The boy stutters.

Hello! This is your thirty seconds!” Fink scolds Zach jokingly.

Bass. Guitar. Drums. The usual.

“What do you sound like?”

“It’s hard to describe us,” the teenager says, unsure.

“Okay, well what tour do you belong on?” Hurwitz coaxes.

“Like, Epitaph.”

Hurwitz promises to give the disc a spin, and the boys make for the club.

“Is that all right?” Fink asks.

“Of course!” Hurwitz says, giving a hearty thumbs-up. “You gotta do that.”

“Work it, Lynn! That was great!” Fink tells her pal, and then turns her attention to this reporter.

“He’s like the Pied Piper,” she says of Hurwitz. “He takes care of everyone.”


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