Tuesday, February 26, 2008

So your simple ass wants to tour this summer?

For most of us touring was a right of passage, a coming of age thing and something that was never as casual as its become. I think often of the silly emails from this younger generation of bands and kids that I get. Everything from their MANAGER (read-girlfriend) to them asking for me to throw them a guarantee for them and 4 more bands that I also never heard of. I will start answering all myspace messages and emails like this.."Ok so you're lily white ass got into hardcore and now want to be the big shot tour booker guy in the band? Sure I'll give you and 4 bands that suck exponentially worse then your band does a $800 guarantee....but then you will honestly have to give me about a week's worth hard labor around my house to break even with the show."
Haha they are just wrong because this culture is fading. This work hard,do right by the people, for the people shit is gone.Its take,take,take,suck,suck,suck that gets you onto the fat shows into the fat cash and away from the drudgery of having to learn the ropes. Most kids reading this are wondering what rope I am referring to.. then again someone stopped collecting dues a few years back because lately its been all hype machines, no substance bullshit that takes the cake in the popularity contest that hardcore has become these days.
I started doing shows by physically looking at the liner notes of tapes and records and later CDs and handwriting the bands letters and mailing them using the united states postal service. I spell this out because even the best have resorted to getting on myspace or a message board and been like- "Yo my band needs a show on this date,someone make it happen". I know later in life we've resorted to that for something insanely last minute but that was the exception not the rule and we never received a show out of it. Yet there are bands that exist solely by booking via myspace or the boards. Its sickening. I didn't even have the tour science down for a few years. It was kickin it with Mike Hood at his house almost 10 years ago that I got the tour booking 101. I never really think about it but the Hoods were a touring machine. Years before other motherfuckers got on the tour wagons and had people booking for them this lil dude had his band out east all the time and everywhere in between. My man had contacts in Wyoming. You gotta have scoured the earth putting in work to get that hook up going. My man Keith from Wyoming is in one of the hardest sickest metal bands DeadSpeak from cheyenne,wy / ft.collins,co and I never would have met such a stand up sick fucker if it wasn't for Mike Hood.
Anyway, back to what I was getting at.From writing letters in the middle of the 90s to some of the greats to being on a US tour less then a week after 19 was a blessing that has absolutely changed me forever. That wanderlust, the desire to conquer and achieve was finally fulfilled. Sure promoting at home was fun but man touring and booking tours that was the next level for me. Sincerely gave me a direction when my feet were unsure and my life was headed down the road to hell. I got through the 101 class of tour booking that Mike gave me and I was on my way. On top of Mike helping me out, the time spent on that summer tour with Dysphoria really got me in the seat to do it.
Chris Spear is one of the great unsung heroes of my life. Dude seriously is probably one of the most giving dudes I've ever encountered. I think he has gone out of his way for me and others more then most. Aside from being a maniac drummer, insane workhorse, master navigator/driver he was one of the most organized and connected dudes for being in a realitively unknown band.He truly booked his way through everything. Got contacts from everyone, taught me the idea of asking other bands and later looking on the internet for tours and where people play. He had his finger on the networking skills and setup and some of the ideals to make touring a possibility before the internet was widely used and before it was so common to have someone book a tour for a band. Until the internet, alot of bands did their own work, got all their own shows and it wasn't until 98/99/2000 dudes outside of bigger near metal acts and the older NYHC bands had tour agents. These upper layer bands been in the game long enough to get all the ducks in a row and have enough years of experience, fans and people behind them to not make the same mistakes of the last decade.
I am derailing again but it bums me out to work some metal show at the church with 5 piece of shit metal bands posing as metalcore when they have sponsors, paid for vans/trailers with their parents money and label support and they are 19 and never did anything on their own so they respect nothing. The same shit rubs me wrong when I hear about these bands that are always on the move to suck this bands dick or that bands dick just to get "hooked up" at certain shows or areas. Fuck that. If your band is good it don't matter, or rather it shouldn't matter if a bunch of herbs in a band think you dudes are cool. Alas things have fallen away from better days.
So from the get go I had two close friends who were able to school me into a booking machine. Our first tour was booked for less then 6 months after we played our first show, which unlike today was a much harder feat. Unlike today where there would be droves of kids just based on internet dickeating we were going into these scenes blind and brand new except for where we knew 5 or so people, then we would have at least that there watching. Our first tour was done in a stolen van (gotta love the statute of limitations!) Shady paperwork, bullet holes in the body that had to be filled with that nasty sticky foam that never gets off your hands and graffiti we removed with paint thinner. Some new tires and we were out and on the way to California. We all chipped in X amount of $ to get us to whatever tour we did. We would start that as band fund,gas fund/the holy shit fund. We made it to Cali in 2 days or so. Gas was about $20 bucks for a whole tank and we didn't have a trailer so it was very cool. Stole gas alot actually in those days, later on following tours we would tally the tanks stolen with marker on the roof of the van so we knew who was in the lead.
Everything to this day but gas is really still up for grabs when it comes to touring. I saw Pride Kills rip a meter out of the ground and I know the last Punishment tour we were baffled after all the hard work the fellas had done in the Bay Area that they came up with a whopping $3 bucks for their efforts. Its the kind of senseless theft that no one is hurt by it. Do we really need 5 gallons of that blue shit for the windows.. no but it was cool to throw out into the highway while driving? To this day touring with Shattered Realm I am getting older and still amused about the gas stations where dudes will walk in and out of the place with cases of beer, ice for the beer and then more beer or something else ridiculous. We stole a cheese sandwich grill that plugs into the lighter only to find out it fucking sucks. But it was a worthy adventure for sure. Haha.
Gotta love the beauty of tour economics. Sure you get $10 a day to get your food and such but really who needs $10 when the hustle game is always in full effect. I've been lucky to be with both masters of the art and complete dummies who don't know how to talk when caught. Its a win/lose situation but fun nonetheless.....
Back to it. We get to California and gas is like 2 something and our minds are blown. I was used to paying in silver change to get around the city most days and maybe dropping a twenty when I made some loot and being cool for a minute. This shit was insane. I laugh now thinking about that because this is the year where everyone is going to get fucked on the gas prices. No more $75 a show for the first time touring band. Whats that really get you? 2 tanks or less if you're running AC like a dumb ass and full to the brim with a trailer and shit.. These newer bands are going to have to get real and get their asses moving in piece meal. Work harder to get their name out, make sure that their merch is on point and that they've got more then what we always toured with to make any kind of money to sustain a tour. Granted these aren't the throwaway kids from the blocks no one is proud to be from, but I think even most parents won't fund a whole tour.. will they? If so send me an email so you can arrange adoption procedures for 4 of us from SR and we will make this happen all day. I think we toured the best with a decent van, good merch for us (more then 1 shirt and actually having our Cds) and the tour ended with the van on fire, us dropping off the rest of the Ringworm tour and EVR still wanting $1,300 for merch and owing Thorp like $800 for CDs.
I reminisce and then compare to today and I can't see these kids doing what we did. I got venue names and figured things out. I got venue addresses and then drove around til we found the places if we didn't get lucky having directions or the kids number for the show. A tour or two later I was all juiced up on the hotmail address and logged crazy time in at the local library getting tour shit together, getting directions from mapquest and trying to do as much of the pretour work as possible. God bless Chris Spear again for building me my first comp in 02 or I would probably still be at the library doing this shit right now!!!!
I could summarize this and say that there is going to be alot of bands with sore egos and empty pockets in this year to come. The hardcore gang bang is coming to a close, your band won't always be able to get on tours because you blew 3 dudes from that band when they came to your town. Touring without a legit name or at least an interest is going to go away. This pond is filling up too fast and this summer you will see a thousand bands out on tour that no one has ever heard of trying to make their way. You'll see places like Kansas having shows with 8 bands 7 of them touring and even though its a packed house the bands that are used to getting 250 will have to suck it up and deal with 80 beans because their contemporaries are out on the prowl too. I wouldn't be surprised by if This Is Hardcore all this "we love each other", "every band is amazing", "we love all of our "bros" who are rocking out on tour" is over. The reality that the market will be flooded, this easy cash in get your name out on myspace generation is going to have to learn hard work all over again.It might be a good thing as it will weed out the less industrious but could be terrible to the bands who are just broke dudes trying to get things moving. Then again its always been the broke niggas that are never remembered, while the bands around them with the pockets lined with cash get to the next level and eat off this shit.
This day and age the upper crust of the core is full of bands that have been on top for ages and are in no danger of falling the way that the surge of bands like V.O.D, Earth Crisis did in the end of the 90's when they got too big and tried to leave the core for the world of metal which just spit them right back into our hands a few years later.
The middle layer that takes up the meat of the pie is the Bridge 9,DeathWish brand name bands and their counterparts. They're the ones that are actively pushing this thing we love so much and we've gotta give them their due as some of these bands are really hauling ass, creating thoughtful music again and pushing the boundaries for their generation. Of course for every Blacklisted/Have Heart/Ceremony is the hordes of copy cat bands that are truly mucking the system up. I believe in a fine system of bands going from demos to eps to Lps to trying to be a band that tours consistently. I also agree a band is entitled to anything that they can get if they're working hard for it. Seems that a few years ago after we wrenched hardcore's corpse away from the labels like Victory,TrustKill and Rev and back into the kids hands there is always the band wagon instant internet sensation that immediately becomes known, the popular then played out in less then 2 years. In fact most bands at this level follow along this cycle. Its what is really killing the core I think. Dudes aren't sticking around in bands long enough to make the vital changes to the game, dudes aren't even stayin in the bands that are supposed to drive this machine more then 2 years. Guns Up, Righteous Jams all blew up and then blew up if you know what I mean. From everyones favorite heros to booom dead. It sucks and it leaves a void where a half dozen bands with less going on but the ability and want to keep moving will get them in the game just a little longer. We have so many scrap bands, so many weak ass bands that are just filling a void. They aren't saying anything and we pay them mind because they are there. Its going to end this summer though for this group of bands as the game is getting too tight. The bands working to the top are still going to work but there is going to be a pinch in the finances because of gas prices and the over saturation of the smaller bands, the unprofessionalism of the new promoters to just book whatever comes through instead of filtering out the bands that are going to draw from the bands that should have waited til they went on tour for the first time with just a $5 shirt and a 7". I will get to those bands in a sec. Last year there was a phenomena of bands merging across the country from the end of June to the end of July for Sound And Fury. It was rad to see everyone race to California for such an awesome fest like something out of Cannonball Run but the way back things were getting hairy as the bands who needed to get back east were running into every package that was also doing that and the bands that didn't make either fest and are just heading to the west then. It created "mini fests" all over the country. Not bad for the small town scenes who get lucky in the summer with shows but starved in the winter but economically unsound for the band that gets paid about $200-300 a night to play for $125 or so because there is 8 bands on a bill instead of four. The days of driving long are still there because hardcore hasn't been able to get as big as metal yet to be 4 to 6 hours between shows. Alot of US touring is still 8 to 12 hours and those extra hundreds of miles are going to effect the bands that are busting their balls to hit both fests the hardest. Remember that a good small town show may do 100 to 200 at the very most. 200x10 is only 2000. Rent is sometimes cheaper in the small towns but not always and sound still costs too. So does promotion and water. Right now we're looking at a hypothetical $2000 to split between 8 touring bands in the middle of a smaller state not always known for hardcore as well as the cost of the show to put on. $500 or so to the show for the costs just to put it on leaves $1500 or just under 200 per band. Remember thats the very best scenario and often bands were getting more like $100 to headline an 8 band bill with 95 kids. That's the hypothetical end, but the realistic end is the bands that would have made $300 playing could have sold $800 or so will only do $200 or $300 in merch because of the merch competion... 2008 Merch Wars... haha. It sucks but its truth. Then we will see these circlejerking ass kissing bands fight tooth and nail for $100 extra a night and destroy the vibe they've been fronting on the past few years.
Thankfully there is an awesome underground amongst the underground these days of bands in basements bringin some of the best ideals of what made hardcore for me so fucking cool. I can say with ease all the bands I been in and toured with were way more metal then hardcore sounding but we tried our best to balance it with "sound" ethics and good D.I.Y principles. Anyways...These bands get mentioned but never in the same way as the middle or meat of the pie do. Their labels are small, the ideas are smaller and more simple and they really have made the bottom end of the core enjoyable because everything is aligned somewhat perfectly. Their bands are dirtier, they steal more often, hate the cops with a passion,they are either a drunk mess or hard as nails straight edge and their shows are in some of the smallest places known to man. Its a smaller piece and such but there is a beauty to it that if only things were perfect or "back like before" as an old retard like myself would say we could really have something great on our hands.
The scope of this rant is obviously not complete. Its 230am or more and I am back from my 2nd European tour, working on This Is Hardcore bands and I really can't tell you how many bands just really aren't worth the time and frustration. Drama online, gay "images", stupid uncool attitudes towards other bands really just make me want to put dunce caps on alot of these newer bands and show them how to handle shit properly. I really wish things were easier for some bands and I also think more bands should have more to do with the goings on of their tours because if it all falls down how are they ever going to stay afloat on their own? I haven't toured the states since 05. Longest US tour draught in my life. I caused to much havoc and nearly going to jail every night was something I can laugh at now but really be thankful for then. Can my band tour again? We shall see. Its something we are pondering. Do we try and run with the young bulls and show them lil niggas how the big boys do it? Man style, peeing standin up and all that... I want to see the country again, look at the different scenes see if they've changed. Almost 10 years of touring and being in a diffrent town every night makes me think of how much has changed for the better, for the worse. How many friends are out of the core already,how many friends are in jail or dead and won't be needing that guest list spot when we come through their town. It sucks and its real and a part of sitting in something long enough to live,love and breath it. I wish everyone getting their tour season hats on the best of luck. Come see me in September when it's over and I feel like Nostradamus of hardcore and we will talk 09 touring logistics..
take care.