Published December 1, 2010
The Rockstarr Bentley Landing Party
Presented by Five Points Collective with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Suncoast Charities for Children, 7 p.m. Sun., Dec. 5, Payne Park Auditorium, 2100 E. Laurel St., Sarasota, rockstarrbentley.com, $10 advance, $15 at the door.
As I finish the last spoonful of my beef and vegetable soup, I look up to see two members of Rockstarr Bentley approaching my table from the other end of Word of Mouth’s patio — right on time for our interview. They are suited in full stage attire, guitarist Rocky Bentley in tight leather pants, sparkly shirt, furry top hat, and 4-inch KISS-style shit-kickers, trailed by DeeJay Imminent sporting a Legion of Doom get up with spray-painted shoulder pads, fake chains and a black boa. An older couple at the table next to us aren’t quite sure what to think.
“Greetings, Earthling,” they take turns saying in a campy ’80s sci-fi movie tone. I ask the obvious opener: “So what planet are you guys from?” They proceed to regale me with the back-story of their fictional extraterrestrial origin. Since crash landing their spaceship into a foreclosed house in north Sarasota, they have been trying to receive transmissions from their planet, which they cannot remember the name of due to ill effects resulting from their prolonged hyperbaric space travel. So, they’ve been studying human pop culture in order to adapt, all while rehearsing in a secret underground missile silo hidden underneath a large sculpture in Sarasota.
As our waitress returns with a few Heinekens, their narrative shifts from how they got here to what they’ve learned since arriving. “We decided pretty quickly that your planet only values fame and excessive wealth,” says Bentley, with only a slight degree of sarcasm. “So we decided that’s probably the best way to fit into your culture.” A few garbled transmissions they received through the AM/FM cassette deck of their ’89 Bentley Phantom inspired them to form an artists’ collective to help Earth’s creative culture become more successful and self-reliant. “We’ve been instructed to be a conduit that allows people to promote their own shows,” says Bentley, “to try and give the knowledge that we have to people.”
Rockstarr Bentley’s mission from the heavens is taking the form of Five Points Collective, a new project they’re launching aimed at uniting five entertainment aspects of the community — musicians, artists, teachers, promoters and businesses — to make it easier for all entities to plan, develop and pull off larger-scale events that feature a broader range of artistic offerings. They want to give local artists the tools to promote their creative products and, most important, make them profitable.
Five Points Collective will officially be unveiled at Rockstarr Bentley’s “Landing Party” this Sunday at Payne Park Auditorium. The band will perform their mix of Imminent’s mashed-up hip-hop, overlaid with live instrumentation courtesy of Bentley, bassist Michael Kiss and vocalist Lady J. And their space boots will be walking their collaborative talk, with a “Rockstarr Fashion Show” by JFlo Boutique & Salon, live screen-printing by Clothesline, a live mural painting by Cheetah Art, and the ladies of Black Diamond Burlesque in attendance, with local DJ Shock to the System warming up the landing pad.
I ask the duo why they feel they have something to offer local artists, prompting Bentley to inform me that he is now coming out of character (as if I could tell the difference.) “Jay and I have been doing sales and marketing our whole lives,” he explains. “It’s all about sales and enthusiasm. This is a product and we’re trying to show people that you have to market your product. You can’t just throw a flier on Facebook and expect people to show. And then get mad when they don’t.”
Despite the science fiction act, the two talk a lot about reality. They quickly shed their alien aliases in exchange for passionate discourse about the local music scene and its trouble retaining the very artists it helps to develop. “We have a great pool of talent here,” says Bentley. “The community attracts creative people and we need to try to keep them here. The only way to do it is to get them to make some money. The shame of what’s happening is people are reaching that crossroads where they have to play covers. Or, like I did for ten years, become an insurance investments person and not play music at all. And be miserable.”
Having lived in the same apartment complex for many years, Bentley and Imminent have discussed the Suncoast’s misguided and problematic entertainment structure for some time, splitting the blame between venues’ lack of support for original acts, and artists’ lack of drive or knowledge in promoting their musical product. They believe Five Points Collective can help guide the area out of its musically non-supportive funk.
“A lot of bands don’t realize that’s what it takes, they think you go rehearse your songs, get tight, get a cool hat, and go out to play,” explains Bentley. “They don’t have a concept of what marketing is. Nobody’s being an advocate saying, ‘Let’s try to show you how to make your product better. Stop staring at your shoes, look at the audience, tune your guitar and get professional.’ This is a business. That’s why it’s called show business. You’re putting on a show.”
In Rockstarr Bentley’s alien eyes, the key to decent pay for musical creativity involves changing musicians’ current business model to fit the Sarasota market. If people in this area are unwilling to pay a $5 cover for original bands, but are normally willing to pay $15 for a huge spectacle with dancers, live art and catering, then the scene must learn to provide entertainment products to fulfill the market demand. Especially if they want to be seen by people who have the means to forward their careers.
“I don’t want to generalize, but the people who support the music scene in this area are not necessarily the wealthy people in this area,” says Bentley. “The idea behind this group is we want to get the attention of people with the money and wherewithal to make these bands look like rock stars. We want anybody that does something creative to combine our forces. We’re not like Svengali, trying to lead people. We just know we’re stronger together than alone. We want to show people you don’t have to go play at some club for no money if you get on the phone, create something, put it out there, and get enthusiastic about it. People will respond.”
Bentley believes artists often try to take shortcuts instead of putting in the full work required to have a successful show. “That PT Barnum aspect with music has gone away in the local scene — they’re afraid,” he says. “We’re not scared. We’ll show up at Word of Mouth like this at six in the evening. This is how we promote.” Imminent continues: “We would like to see local artists come together as a group and say to these venues, ‘We’re not going to play for free because we can do our own show at our own place. We’ll find it, we’ll finance it, we’ll make it happen, and if you want to come set up and be a sponsor, that’s great.”
They might look a bit strange, but what Rockstarr Bentley and their Five Points Collective is attempting to build just may be the solution to our poorly compensated musical art problem. Imagine having a common forum where art, promotion and business entities from every corner of the Suncoast can comfortably collaborate in the production of multi-faceted creative spectacles held often and all over town. It sounds like something from out of this world.