Lending bands a helping hand
After 15 years booking music at T.T. the Bear’s, Randi Millman moves on to a new adventure
When Randi Millman signed on to book acts at T.T. the Bear’s Place, she was just going to help out for a little while.
That was in 1996. Millman recently announced that she was leaving the Cambridge nightclub to pursue other ventures, including comanaging the Boston band Township and managing the solo career of its leader, Marc Pinansky, and booking for Dan Baker & the Breakdown.
It was the latter part of the announcement, Millman says over a recent lunch in the Back Bay, that makes her hopeful for starting the second - or third or fourth - phase of a career that has included stints as a DJ and jobs at Ticketmaster and the Don Law Company.
“This is a birth announcement, not an obituary,’’ she says.
Indeed, Millman is excited about the next step, but a week removed from her long service to T.T.’s, she is happy to reflect on the stamp she put on the 300-capacity venue in Central Square. Millman was known for booking both local and national acts over a wide spectrum of genres. Everyone from Arcade Fire and the Strokes to the Dresden Dolls and Passion Pit has graced the stage at T.T.’s.
“It was a struggle,’’ she says of the decision to resign. “I just think it’s time. I love T.T.’s. And I think it’s a little scary feeling like, ‘Is my identity so tied into T.T.’s that I’m not going to be able to move into this other part of my life?’ ’’
“But I think what made my time at T.T.’s so awesome is that I really forged relationships with agents. Yes, they liked the club and the club was certainly there long before I was but I think I took what relationships were starting to form there and really made them more solid. There were agents that were still putting their band at T.T.’s even though they could’ve moved on.’’
She is particularly proud of catching several groups on their way up to bigger stages, “that high of when you’re getting a band at the exact right time.’’ (See sidebar for a list of some of Millman’s favorite bookings.)
As a fan, Millman geeked out over Carbon/Silicon, featuring Mick Jones of the Clash. “One of my top five shows ever,’’ she says, still beaming about the 2008 booking. “I didn’t want to be a dork, but I’m sure I was.’’
And then there are the groups she dubs “family bands’’ - those near and dear to her heart who played the club repeatedly, including Buffalo Tom, the Shods, and the Sheila Divine.
“It’s hard to really quantify exactly what it is they lose,’’ Tom Johnston, who manages Buffalo Tom, says of Millman’s departure. “It definitely marks the end of an era. There’s a lot of well-intentioned people in rock, but I think she really had the skill set that agents could really trust her. With all the competition, she really got an inordinate amount of great shows because she is really well-liked.’’ (Plus, Johnston has his own laundry list of T.T.’s shows he loved, from A.A. Bondy to Cass McCombs.)
As of press time, T.T.’s general manager, Kevin Patey, who will oversee booking in the interim, said a replacement would be announced shortly.
Aside from the staff, Millman says she will most miss the nights where everything was firing on all cylinders.
“God knows there were a lot of nights where I walked in there thinking it was going to be great and you could’ve swung 18 bags of cats and there was some great band onstage with three people watching them and one person in the bathroom,’’ she says with a chuckle. “But on the nights where everything’s clicking and just walking around and people not knowing who I am and overhearing them talk while watching the band and saying, ‘I can’t believe they’re playing here, it’s so small.’ I’ll miss that because it’s almost like those times I really wanted people to know ‘this is because of me.’ ’’
Millman now hopes to pour that fire into Township and Baker - who, like Millman, are Chelsea residents - and whatever other opportunities come her way. “I’m not really saying no to anything,’’ she says.
When asked if she’s got a lifetime free pass to T.T.’s, Millman says she hopes so.
“I guess I haven’t tested it out,’’ she says. “I’m sure I’m going to have to pay for a drink if I choose to have one, but I’m going to be happy to do that.’’
Sarah Rodman can be reached at email@example.com.