In this Crazy Tour Stories segment, Marcus Retterath of the indie rock band, BamBoo, talks about some of their crazy moments from touring. You can check out the feature, after the break.
While recording our first full-length, ‘Chances’, I came across a post on Facebook by a dude who we had played a few shows for. He was looking for bands interested in booking tours for the fall so I contacted him and we got the ball rolling. I stressed to him that we were new to going out of town and that we wouldn’t have a big draw outside Toronto, so we absolutely needed to be playing with local bands to make sure the tour was a success.
The album release in Toronto and the following night in Guelph were great shows with guarantees that saw good draws. The next day we drove to Windsor. Have you ever seen Spinal Tap? The scene where they go to play SeaWorld and the marquis reads “Puppet Show feat. Spinal Tap”? Upon loading in we discovered how our night was labeled by the bar: “Trivia Night and Special Guests BamBoo”. We were the only band on the bill and we spent our guarantee getting drunk while we waited for Trivia to end. Upon starting the set we were informed it was “too loud” by the middle-aged crowd, and they promptly left. We played half a set, had a small fight and left empty handed.
Up next was Barrie to play another show that saw BamBoo as the only band on the bill… at a Hot Dog-themed restaurant with a stage. We had zero draw, so we set up our banner outside the venue and started handing out stickers and pestering anyone who crossed our paths to come check out our now “free” show to try to avoid another empty house Windsor situation.
Our gig in Montreal was during Pop! Montreal, but it wasn’t downtown, it wasn’t advertised and it wasn’t what we were expecting. We showed up to a shitty bar with slot machines, a ripped pool table and a stage featuring a single outlet, that upon further investigation, led to a two-prong plug buried under old drum hardware. Before taking the stage the owner approached me and said, “Now don’t play too loud, we don’t want to get shut down by the cops again.”. If we had cranked up our amps and had the cops show at least we would have played to someone. Attendance was poor and we made no money. My amp also fried onstage. The only saving grace was a beautiful bartender that gave us lots of free booze to dull the pain.
Our last gig was what we had hoped the whole tour would be. It was in Ottawa at Live on Elgin. A great bar with a good backline, a real sound tech, and young enthusiastic staff. We played with two other groups who had small draws and we opted to change up our set and use primarily the backline provided by the venue. We got paid, got some free drinks and got to check off at least one of out town date since Guelph that didn’t suck.
We returned home and realized that there wasn’t a single thing that our booker had done for us that we couldn’t have done ourselves. We realized that his fee (10% of revenue or $20, whatever is higher) should have been a massive red flag. We put our music and our tour in someone else’s hands who we barely knew, it was foolish to think that he cared about the outcome as much as we did. All-in-all this small, shitty tour wasn’t the best in terms of money (we didn’t make any…), morale (losing trivia night blows…), or mileage (u-haul trailers are brutal for gas…) – but we kept our heads up and had fun, and if we do it again at least we know what not to do this time around!