Pop
11:45 am
Mon November 3, 2003

The Clarks

Richard's favorite new band is a well-kept secret no longer.

Wilmington NC – [Click the LISTEN button to hear Richard's commentary.]

This past summer we made our way to one of the downtown nightclubs to catch a band that I knew of through a relative who actually serves as their road manager but had never actually listened to. After watching patrons of the half-filled club mostly ignore the opening act -this wasn't who we came to see was it?--suddenly through the front doors and out of the woodwork materialized a near capacity crowd the object of whose affection was clearly the next band of the night.

The crowd was a mix of twenties, thirties and forties, they were here to see The Clarks, and they were passionate about it. We were stunned to see Clarks t-shirts and ball caps throughout the club - this, for a band from Pittsburgh, PA whose songs have never played on any radio station in Wilmington. Formed in the mid-Eighties, the Clarks face the ironic challenge of being veterans in a young man's -and women's--industry while still maintaining an up-and-coming, just-about-to-break attitude.

The Clarks produce -we have since discovered--hook-heavy songs too-well-constructed to be called pop and yet too lyrically savvy for most straight-ahead rock. They have released five studio albums and, we are told, draw crowds in the ten thousand-plus range the closer they play to western Pennsylvania. Their name, by the way, has no specific origins or meaning: There are no Clarks in the Clarks.

If The Clarks' music is not as ubiquitous as, say, the next flavor your supposed to purchase and support with all of the disposable income you can muster, it's not for lack of trying. The band's marketing and promotion efforts -largely home grown--are well-oiled and obviously effective. They do what any band has to do today to fill cubs and sell albums: they make the most of the two things they can control, their fan base and the Internet. Through the band's web site --- www.clarksonline.com --fans can access everything from band info and product to downloadable promotional posters customized for every venue the band will be playing in upcoming months. As in, print this poster out, make copies and post it around town before we get there.

The Clark's e-mail newsletter, called the Cig Dig Fan List, distributes touring schedules and other updated information directly to your computer so you can read it and perhaps forward it to anyone you think should be in the know. Discussion forums abound on the band's official web site but I also counted no less than five major fan-created web sites dedicated solely to the glory and minutiae of the Clarks.

This is the kind of passion that makes fans support their favorite bands like sports teams and is what propelled Hootie and the Blowfish and the Dave Mathews Band to stardom. The Clark's music is so strong, with such repeatable playability, that you hope they'll find the kind of success that keeps them around and in the game. Either way, they seem to have made peace with themselves.