Prom From Hell; Postscript, The Past, And The Future.
Prom From Hell 2017 was a full-tilt boogie. And we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the players that came on board last-minute to bring it back to life.
Soul Storm, who started the night, I don't think can be satisfied being the best band nobody knows about anymore. They killed it from their first note. Such a great group of talented musicians who, despite being masters, worked tirelessly to put on a great kickoff show for Prom 2017! They haven't been together very long, and it's cool to see a group that has everything ahead of them. I appreciate them bringing their energy, spirit, and 'Soul' to the gig.
Dirt Road Rockers. Damn. I knew they were good. What I totally didn't know was how versatile they were. From CDB and Johnny Cash to Bon Jovi and Journey--they didn't let up until every person was dancing and bopping right along down their road! Michaels joined them for 'Livin' After Midnight' with DRR's drummer Wes singing the Rob Halford lyrics. It was so freaking good Michaels was literally covered with blood by the end of it!
And the Midnight Special, Electric Shock? Well, they just did what they do--which is own the room with strait-forward bombast. 'Dirty Deeds' is my new favorite of theirs. Judging by the dancing lighted horns in the crowd, I was not alone. The crowd was clearly "Ready to get shocked," before Michaels brought the band onstage, and it was the perfect T.N.T to end the night. Mike Ritchie Sound Co. from Muscatine had the room percolating and the chandeliers rattling just so. He showed up by noon, and had all the bands sound checked by 4. I didn't really get it, but with so many bands, and so many different sounds, he wanted them to all be perfect. Damn, did THAT pay off. I'm pretty sure I even spied Rodger Imming at the light board. Ritchie must have some naked photos of him somewhere--but the light show was a hit!
So many other friends of the D&M show pitched in to make this Prom our best ever. Bent River Brewing Co. made us our own beer, 'Everyone Gets Lei'd Lager' to the delight of everyone in the house. It's getting where they treat us so good, I'm starting to think everyone ALWAYS gets their own personal beer for everything (If only that were true!) They also had Uncommon Stout, and their Island Ale behind the bar. Along with Budweiser, our prom goers did not go thirsty, my friends!
Alyssa sweet-talked the Parrotheads in the QCA into letting us use their awesome palm trees (But damn they're heavy!) Shooting Sports is always ready to help us out with an event, and the D.A.V. kept everything "retro" selling tickets and apparel for the big night.
Rarely have I returned home from Prom From Hell so late, and so completely exhausted, as I did Sunday Morning from our 21st Annual Dwyer and Michaels Prom From Hell. Even more rare was being able to say that Prom From Hell had sold out. It was a good feeling.
Whenever you try anything new, there's a certain amount of anticipation, hope, and fear that combine to give you many sleepless nights. It's quadrupled when you ask people to buy tickets to an event, and and ask them to trust where you want to take it. That was the story with this year's Prom. We added 3 new bands where previously one had worked just fine. And we brought back some things that had sorta vanished over time, like the take-home photo souvenir, the Prom glass and even a theme, which we had either been too busy to be bothered with recently, or maybe we felt like they had all been played out.
But we underestimated all those things, and the importance they held for our attendees, who come to Prom for as many different reasons as there are attendees. We kinda fell for an idea that Prom From Hell, which started out as a reason to have a party for no reason, could be somehow monetized, and if we just did all the right things, our radio station could make a lot of money doing it. And slowly, this awesome party we had with and for our audience, became like one of those home shopping parties where your goal is to try and profit from your party guests.
Well, we got a wake-up call last year, when we hit the lowest number of attendees since we started PFH in 1996. Less than 200 paid through the door. What had happened to our party, where we could at one time sell 500 tickets in minutes? Was this the end of Prom From Hell? No. It was just time for a change. First, and foremost, our attitude towards the evening. We were asking people to give 25.00 a ticket, and we had lost sight of what we were giving them in return. The things that made Prom magical for our audience were being squeezed out, for convenience, or for profit, or whatever. But Michaels and I started to lose our influence over the night--somehow other things became more important (Not to us, but the energy to defend a night out that didn't meet profit expectations is a weary war you can't fight forever.)
I can remember the first time it happened--like it was yesterday. Our concept of a night out for our listeners was first challenged as not "worth it" buy a cranky bean-counter who told us that unless every dollar we spent to host the party was returned "3 to 1" we should scrap the idea altogether. She couldn't understand why Billy and I insisted on free "pictures for everyone." "How are we going to make money on that?" She inquired. I was young enough at the time to brush off her accusation/question in defense of our audience having the best time. I would hold true to the idea that "Prom From Hell" was fine as it stood. My justifications was that if it sells out, we must be doing something right. I couldn't have been more mistaken from the financial side of things. They thought me naive, and laughed at me behind my back. Sure enough, one day they would kill it if they could...and they almost did. They almost got us to forget why our "Prom" is so damned much fun. It's a love-fest. And you can't profit on love. Woodstock tried and look what happened. You can, however, break even on love. And everyone can have a good time--and if enough people buy in, maybe Meatballs on the buffet. But you guys and this party come first.
We had to make some changes this year. Some were hard, because we had to look at ourselves, and say, "Are we doing everything we can to make this "Bigger and Better" -- our goal." We didn't like everything we saw. Billy and I had lost our own passion for the gig for any number of reasons, some spelled out here. People can sense that, so we had to open our own role in not kicking ass in the name of Prom. We had let ourselves down. Once we could see our own issues, we we decided to look at everything, and change what we could where we could. Some were going to be big changes, some small. Some now, some in the future. Prom From Hell is our baby. And most important, it belongs to the faithful attendees each year. We appreciate that you could do a lot of things on a Saturday night, and if you're choosing to hang out with us, we don't want to screw it up. So, bigger and better. That's our goal. Thanks for coming--hope to see you next year at Prom From Hell 2018!