Phish Phans and Deadheads Prove That Not All Hippies Are Interchangeable Day-Glo Widgets
My apologies for being a bit late with “Levels” this monthI’ve had a hell of a month juggling all the responsibilities for finally getting a band on the road. This has been seven years in the making, so I don’t feel too bad about my tardiness. My daily thoughts are consumed with getting this project to the next level and the only thing I can write about this month.
For those of you that have followed this column for awhile, you know that I’m the manager/etc. of Strange Pleasures from Omaha, NE. We’ve lurked around the scene for the past several years, building a fanbase only to have it dwindle, gaining speed then losing momentum, constantly losing members and retooling, and trying to find a lineup to get out on the road. Last year was almost the last year’ for the band, when w only the lead singer/rhythm guitar player Greg Beebe, a solid bassist that couldn’t tour, and myself were left after playing the Big Wu Family Reunion. In the space of 6 months, we had played 4 of the biggest shows we’d ever done in the area (opening for Galactic, the Big Wu, Deep Banana Blackout, and the BWFR), while losing our long-time lead guitar player, keyboardist, and our drummer du jour. What do you do? You press on and try to find the right people with talent that believe in the project. In May 2001, if you would have told me we’d be releasing a CD and going out on our first national tour by September 2002, I’d have told you you were expletive deleted crazy.
Last July, we found a lead guitarist that couldn’t have fit more perfectly. That was step one. We found a drummer that kinda worked (enough to keep playing and hit a few regional dates), picked up a regular gig at the best venue in Omaha (the Music Box), and began courting the rhythm section that was on the road touring with former RATT lead singer Stephen Pearcy. We hooked them on their tour breaks to play some shows and planted the seed to record our debut disc. January comes after struggling through boredom and some iffy shows, and we lose our drummer again. We find another drummer that’s even better to play the regular gigs, but we still can’t tour. Todd (Roberson) and Troy (Johnson) call on their way back from L.A. and ask us if we are still serious about recording. We are now. We spend the next three months recording, mixing, mastering and getting the CD done. The night we get the final copy done, we dub it “Waiting For Art” and begin thinking about the title and putting the pieces together. The first title, proving prophetic, would eventually stick. We schedule our CD release party for late in August, and I begin planning for booking a tour. With my work travel schedule, it becomes too much for me to handle by myself and a local promoter, Bill Shadden, agrees to help. Although his production company, www.acoosticsolutions.com, has been bringing a lot of good bands (including Merl Saunders, Bernie Worrell, Larry, Nucleus, etc.) into the area, he’s new at this part of the game. Thanks to the kindness of several bands we had worked with previously, (and several we hadn’t), the tour schedule begins to fill up for September and October.
We added a synth guitar to the lineup in April and began trying to solidify a group for touring. The bassist can’t go, the drummer can’t go. Todd comes back from tour and needs a place to live-we have our drummer. Troy, however, is still committed to his other projects (and too expensive for us right now) and we still have no bassist. We begin asking around and posting ads. Our regular sound engineer at the Box recommends a friend in Colorado that used to live in Omaha. He comes back to check us out and he’s hired before I ever meet him. Mike (Doran) quits his job as a civil engineer and moves back to Omaha to take a huge gamble on this project. Meanwhile, the synth guitar player bails, leaving us as a 4-piece band. Logistically and financially, the tour now gets easier with only four mouths to feed. Mike’s first show proves that talent has attracted talent and our new lineup is exceptionally strong-we debut 2 covers that night and the energy level is outstanding. Eveyone else quits their jobs and begins rehearsing in earnest-learning new covers and working on the original material.
Now it’s August 14th, just two weeks from the CD release party and the tour. Groovatron (www.groovatron.com) is in town for a gig at the Music Box. We still don’t have a trailer. They have one that fits our needs. Sold. We still don’t have artwork for the CD and now we’re passed having the CD’s pressed in time for the release party. We finally see a sketch of the cover the next day. Barry Kitson (www.barrykitson.com) puts aside his paying projects temporarily to get it finished. On August 21st, we complete the CD artwork and liner notes and drop them off at the media production company. We order 500 copies produced locally (burned CD’s, not pressed) to have enough for the party and first week of the tour. We still don’t have tour posters, the artwork from two sources begins to filter in and they will be ordered on Monday AM. We still don’t have our tour filled in Septemberthe dates keep trickling in. Now we have 11 states scheduled in 5 weeks.
Meanwhile, I’m leaving for two weeks for New Zealand/Australia for work beginning on the 29th-the same day the tour starts. The guys are basically on their own to get the final tour logistics worked out and make publicity contacts. I still have details like insurance, legal issues, merchandise, financial arrangements, radio airplay, CD distribution, and such to deal with when I get back, as well as continuing to send out promotional materials to venues for upcoming months. I’m swimming in it, but managing to connect the biggest dots. It’s not going perfectly, but we’re closer than ever to making this dream a reality. The pieces are falling into place for the first ever Strange Pleasures tourfinally.
P.S. Send in your articles, suggestions or interviews for Setting Levels next month!