This crazy story from the road was written by Danny Dunlap, of the power pop band, Gentlemen Rogues. You can check out the band’s story, after the break.
My initial response when asked to submit a “crazy tour story” was one of serious self-doubt. My mind immediately began a desperate attempt to conjure a wild and crazy night that resembled the plot from Adventures in Babysitting. After giving it a long, hard think, I reached the conclusion that we simply had no such adventures to speak of. This made me feel very boring until I remembered that touring, in itself, is pretty boring. Sorry, touring it’s not me, it’s you. The whole “hurry up and wait” idea is definitely a reality, and anything even remotely interesting or funny probably would have required your attendance. So our “crazy tour story” is more of a pre-tour story, rather than being about a specific event or night whilst out on the road.
Last May, we were given the opportunity to travel to the UK to play the Liverpool Sound City Festival. Liverpool Sound City Festival, which is a really cool music festival, much like SXSW, but in Liverpool, rather than our hometown of Austin, TX. As excited as we were to be invited to play a UK music festival, it wasn’t exactly feasible for us to fly all of the way “across the pond” to play a single, 35-minute set.
This is where things appeared to fall into place about as perfectly as they possibly could. Our bassist, Brandon, had a friend whose Scotland-based band (who will go unnamed) was conveniently going on a two-week tour during the same time frame we would be heading over there. They invited Gentlemen Rogues to go out on the road, supporting them, for the duration of their tour. Here was the agreement: Via the band, their booking agent agreed to add us as opening support, and book all of the shows including us on the bill. The band also invited us to travel with them in their van and use their gear, to avoid us having to spend loads of money on van and gear rentals. In exchange, Shifting Sound, our label at the time, would release a split 7-inch with us on one side and our Scottish tour mates on the other. Serendipity? It sure seemed like it at the time, and we were totally jazzed.
As the months passed and the tour grew closer, we started to get pretty uneasy, as we knew our departure date for Liverpool Sound City Festival, had purchased our plane tickets and work visas, but weren’t getting any details on the rest of the tour dates. When we would contact the band, we would be referred to their booking agent, as he “had all of the info we needed.” When contacting the booking agent, we would get very short, vague responses, things like, “Still working on it,” and “Let me get back to you in a day or two.” I might mention that it would take a week or two to get these useless responses from both parties.
Now, fast-forward to four or five weeks before we were to fly out, and we still know next to nothing about this tour, but not for a lack of trying. Out of the blue, I get an email from the head honcho of the booking agency, requesting us to Skype one another “as soon as possible!” Emails and text messages can be easily misread or misinterpreted, but I could sense the urgency. During our conversation, I learned that his company did not represent the band we were to be touring with, but rather had “helped them with a few pickup shows,” and the booking agent I was constantly being referred to was not only not booking the tour, but never was. In short, there was no tour, and we were right back where we had started three months prior — flying to the UK to play a single 35-minute set, but now with non-refundable plane tickets.
Questions quickly arose. Were we incredibly gullible? Possibly. Had we placed our trust in someone completely delusional? It sure looked that way. Why didn’t the booking agent reply, saying something like, ”What are you blokes talking about?” or “Sorry, mate, but I’m not booking a tour with you guys. Best of luck!” How did things get this far? Totally stumped as to why none of this was ever communicated to us by either party involved perplexes me to this day. It was a passing of the buck, back and forth, for months. Did I mention we were to fly out in roughly four weeks? So what was a band, in our predicament, to do? We couldn’t not go. We had non-refundable plane tickets, worthless work visas, and a newly approved vinyl test pressing of a split 7”, with a band who had completely screwed us.
Here’s what we did. We contacted the pressing plant, requested they put the vinyl pressing on hold and submitted a Buffalo Tom cover we had recorded “Mountains Of Your Head,” to be included as the B-side. We pressed on (pun intended) with the record being a stand-alone Gentlemen Rogues single, removing the Scottish band from the record altogether. We frantically emailed UK venues and took full advantage of our short list of UK friends, and UK friends of friends, to help us out with setting up more shows. As if some sort of Christmas miracle had occurred, we ended up getting a total of eight UK shows booked in a four -eek period of time, including four Liverpool Sound City shows, as well as shows in Sunderland, Newcastle, Glasgow, and London. We flew over for 10 days and had an incredible time in just about every way imaginable. We had good turnouts at all of the gigs and borderline-rabid responses from the audiences. We also got to see some friends, made several new ones, and had a few crazy nights that none of us can remember.
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