By Jef With One F
By Bob Ruggiero
By Corey Deiterman
By Marco Torres
By Angelica Leicht
By Angelica Leicht
By Charne Graham
Carter thinks that the best way for baby bands and mid-listers to build their followings is still through club dates.
He also has one idea about how they could continue to take place. "With all the bad press that gas companies get, you'd think that one of them would want to invest in some sort of publicity campaign where they could give touring artists gas cards to help them underwrite their tours. It would be such a drop in the bucket for them, and then you think about their bullshit commercials. When was the last time you decided to buy a brand of gas based on a Chevron commercial or Exxon commercial? You'd think they'd be able to give Indian Jewelry a couple of hundred dollars worth of gas cards, and that would make a real difference for bands like that."
Of course, there's the matter of taking money from the man. Would Indian Jewelry's Tex Kerschen take money from Exxon or BP, especially when those companies would likely insist that his band trumpet that fact somehow? Maybe given Tex Kerschen's politics, Indian Jewelry is a bad example, but it's easy to imagine a couple hundred other bands that would form-tackle their own grandmothers to get at Exxon's lucre.
Here are a couple more ideas: Pete Gordon from the Continental Club thinks that the old-school package tour is due a comeback. Put two, three or four bands out on the road together in one very crowded RV. This would not be the same ol', same ol' multi-band bill, but something more like the R&B revues of yore, in which singers and dancers and musicians would conspire to put together a cohesive show culminating in the appearance of the headliner. James Brown was trotting out a revue like this as late as 1999, when I saw him at the Verizon, and even at his advanced age, it was still one of the best shows I've ever seen.
Another idea is the reestablishment of the long-term residency for touring bands. Back in the pre-rock, pre-interstate travel days and beyond, it was not uncommon for touring acts to set up shop in town for a week or more. I know Texas-bred, L.A.-based T-Bone Walker did a three-month run in Chicago's Rhumboogie Club. I have an old copy of Space City News in my office somewhere that touts Cannonball Adderley's month at La Bastille on Market Square. Dale Soffar's introduction of Townes Van Zandt's Live at the Old Quarter reveals that the latter was nearing the end of a week-long engagement at that club. And the practice is not unknown today — Gordon says that Southern Culture on the Skids always plays two nights in Houston and five in Austin.
I think for a certain type of act, it could work again. First off, it would mainly work for older, more established acts. Second, it wouldn't work for hipster indie bands, no matter their age. Carter contends, and I agree, that clubs are booked too far in advance, and in today's Pitchfork-fueled instant gratification nation, today's No Age is yesterday's Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! or Tapes N' Tapes. A club or promoter would be insane to commit to a week of shows six months down the line from a blog band that is hot right now.
Where I think this would work better is outside Hipster Nation, at places like the Continental Club and the Mucky Duck, and with classic rock and other oldies acts.
Here's how it would work. The musicians and their gear would be flown into Houston, where they would rent a van or bus, and then play in a smaller room than the one they are currently accustomed to playing. But instead of playing one night, they would play two, three or more. Then, those bands could repeat that in Dallas and Austin. After a couple of weeks in Texas, they could fly home, and then repeat the process in California or the Midwest.
Instead of one long-ass, marriage-wrecking tour, bands could hop around throughout the year, a week or two at a time, interspersed with full months at home. The schedule would be less grueling, fans would be treated to more intimate shows, a wider cross-section of fans would have a chance to make one or more of the shows, word of mouth could get around, different local bands could open on different nights of each residency and, since the overhead is lower in smaller rooms, bands and clubs alike could make as much or more money. No more wasting multiple tanks of gas on the drive from Austin to Phoenix, or wherever the next stop is west on I-10.
Crazy talk? Maybe. But no crazier than predicting ten years ago that gas would be four bucks a gallon today.