Jonathan Nasrallah, 25, books shows (for fun) in downtown Troy, where he lives. He also has a solo electronic music project called Casual Decay.
We ran into Nasrallah at a recent back patio show he booked at Superior Merchandise Co. and asked if he’d be up for an interview. He enthusiastically agreed, and we spoke a few days later by phone. Below are excerpts from our conversation, edited and condensed.
To start, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I live in downtown Troy, and I generally try to book things in Troy instead of Albany. I mean, I love Albany, but I know people who book over there and they generally have better promotional scope and stuff like that than I do. When I book I try to keep it actually in Troy because I think there’s a bit more of a hole that needs to be filled there.
I love Superior—that’s like my favorite place to book in the area. But it’s only open for half the year because they do the shows outside. [Editor’s note: SMCo. occasionally hosts indoor shows in the winter.] When they’re not doing shows outside, I book at River Street Pub sometimes.
There are events called Super Dark Thursdays and Super Dark Mondays. The Thursdays are in Troy and the Mondays are in Saratoga. I’m not officially affiliated with that, but those guys are my close friends. Oftentimes I’m forwarding them bands that are good fits or I’m over there playing and DJing myself.
You’re on your lunch break at your day job. Is booking shows a hobby, a job—something you do for money, for fun?
For me, booking shows is totally fun. I’ve never made any money off of any of the shows that I’ve booked because I always just want to give all of the money to the bands. It’s totally just a hobby.
Ideally, I book around one to two shows a month, when I can. Sometimes more than that—which gets a little bit stressful and starts to interfere with the rest of my life. And sometimes I’ll have a break. I’ve got my show that I’m playing and I also booked, which is on June 15 [at SMCo], and then after that I don’t actually have a lot on my schedule.
Have we covered Casual Decay in The Alt at all?
Dan Paoletti—he’s in a band called Apostrophe S—and he, like, mentioned my name, but there wasn’t a hyperlink or anything. It was just like one text mention. I was excited about that, though.
For people who don’t know, can you explain the process of booking shows?
The first and the hardest part of booking a show—at least this has been my experience in Albany and Troy over the past couple of years—is location. There’s bands constantly who are touring through the area who are, like, pretty constantly asking me for shows. A lot of times it’s a band that I really like and have to turn it down because I just know that the three venues that I actually like are all booked up or otherwise occupied. That’s kind of the biggest scarcity right now for shows at the kind of scale I do—venue.
Generally the order of things that would happen is, a touring band will reach out to me and say, “We’ve got this date or range of dates that we want to be in New York, do you think that will work?” If they send me their music and it’s something I like, or it’s a band that I already know and I know I like them, the next thing I do is usually to reach out to people who run venues.
Sometimes those venues are just people’s basements. That’s a pretty popular thing in Albany. It’s a little less popular during the summer because it’s usually college kids who are willing to do that, and they’re not always around during the summers. But sometimes it’s as easy as Facebook messaging a friend who has a big basement and saying, “Hey, can we have some live bands in your basement?”
I’ve lived in Troy for three years now, and I wasn’t really booking anything through the whole first year I was here just because I had to foster those relationships with venues. I didn’t really want to be cold emailing the person who runs River Street Pub or, over in Albany, the person who runs The Low Beat. I would rather have already known them in person and then it’s a lot easier to say, “Hey, is this date open?”
Sometimes you have to cold email a venue if you’re trying to set something up, and you don’t have that connection. But, generally, the best way to be able to book shows is to be going to shows at venues that you like. Eventually you’re gonna meet the people who run it and then that’s gonna make them much more likely to be interested in helping you out.
Do venues trust you now?
I would say so [laughs].
What would they say about you if I asked them?
I think Superior likes what I do because they definitely are interested in bringing in things that don’t really fit anywhere else. Things that might be a little bit smaller—really cool, but aren’t necessarily gonna draw more than 50 people. If we can get 50 people at Superior it feels packed.
The guy who runs River Street Pub is just so down for anything. I have booked the craziest, weirdest bands there. I thought he was never going to let me book there again after Machine Girl, but he was so into it. He’s a weirdo, too, and he likes really weird things. I do weirder and harsher things at River Street Pub.
You mentioned there’s this void in Troy in terms of music venues. What would you like to see created here?
I think Troy could really use a year-round venue that’s in the heart of downtown—somewhere that’s walkable from downtown and parts of South Troy. Somewhere that can stay open till probably 2 AM, but ideally not a place that’s 21-up, since there are so many RPI students that are interested in going to concerts.
If it were just an empty room with a sound system and sound guy, I think that would be enough to get people to come out. Some people in Troy might say, “Oh, I wouldn’t go to a venue if it didn’t have a bar.” But I think a lot of people would.
You’ve been in Troy for three years. Has the scene—whatever that word means to you—changed in that time at all?
One really cool thing that’s happened is the Super Dark Thursday shows at River Street Pub. That’s probably been the most significant thing. The owner has been reaching out to people that he knows book shows in town and basically saying, “I’ve got this big stage. It’s an empty room. Just come and play.”
We’ve had some really cool shows there. And now Super Dark Thursday is a free show every single Thursday at River Street Pub. And even though it’s free, they’re able to pay touring bands that come through and sometimes it’s all locals.
Troy does still feel a lot like a little brother to Albany. A lot of the shows that I’m going to are over in Albany and a lot of the people that I know who play in bands—a lot of the times it’s half Albany people and half Troy people.
Is Troy growing up or is it staying the little brother forever?
I’m hoping that this summer we’ll start to see a change. I love Albany, but I think it will be cool for Troy people to have a little bit more ownership over what’s going on in Troy. And I think it’s trending that way with Superior and Super Dark Collective.
Photo provided by interviewee.
Nasrallah’s summer show picks
Generally exciting shows
June 15 – Casual Decay, ER Yan, Blood Blood Blood – Superior Merchandise Co.
June 16 – GobbinJr, Longneck, Hate Club, Haley Moley — Oakwood Community Center
June 30 – Babefest 2! — Albany Social Justice Center
July 12 – Big Brave — The Low Beat
July 30 – Sylvan Esso – Upstate Concert Hall
Five Kill shows
June 22 – Rechorduroys album release — River Street Pub
June 23 – Full Body, Dan LaFave, Closet Goth — Chateau
July 7 – Onlyness release show with Blue Ranger, Another Michael, Pony in the Pancake — Chateau
Hudson Valley Shows
June 20 – Half Waif, Fraternal Twin – BSP (Kingston)
July 14 – Blackout Dance Party w/ SVB – The Half Moon (Hudson)
July 15 – Japanese Breakfast, Long Beard – BSP
August 30 – Godspeed! You Black Emperor – Basilica (Hudson)