The credo of the Revival Series at Mr. Small's Theatre — "Because in a perfect world: Shows are free, people show up, bands get paid and local music reigns supreme" — might sound like a pipe dream, but the system is pretty simple. Each of the four or five bands on a Revival bill is given personalized tickets to give out for free. For each ticket that comes back through the door on the night of the show, the band gets a dollar (provided by Mr. Small's and local nonprofit Creative.Life.Support), plus whatever money is accrued from a tip jar that is put out after each set. No one sells tickets, no one buys tickets.
"The original intent was just trying to find a way to encourage attendance at local bands' shows," explains Liz Berlin, who co-owns Mr. Small's and runs Creative.Life.Support with her husband, Mike Speranzo. "It's really all up to the bands to get as many people as they can to come. We've had bands walk out with $300 to $400, between the tickets and the tip jar."
For some, says Mr. Small's office manager Jorge Orsovay, it sounds too good to be true. "Bands always think there's a catch, but there's really no catch. We don't scale back; it's a normal Smalls show with a normal staff, with lights and sound. If anything, it's a chance to give people an experience that they might not have if they're used to playing for a much smaller room."
Berlin is best known as a member of Rusted Root, but another of her projects, Drowning Clowns, acts as an anchor for the series, playing every couple of months, with — ideally — lots of other Revival concerts filling the rest of the calendar. "We'd love to have this room hopping every night," Berlin says — though that is determined by interest and the availability of the space. But, she adds, "If five bands read this article and they think they can bring people in, email us, and we'll do it. We really want people to be here. So this is our way of removing the barriers."