BACKSTAGE PASS: Seth Yacovones Italian Adventure
Last month, from October 8-28, the Seth Yacovone Band completed a 13 show tour of Italy. When I heard about the tour from the band’s manager, Lee Diamond, my immediate reaction was one of jealously. After all, I want to tour with one of my bands in Europe. Once I filtered through my non-productive negative thoughts (which only lasted briefly), I started wondering how Diamond landed the tour for the band. It was particularly interesting to me because SYB has not toured extensively off of the East Coast and essentially went international before they cracked the entire U.S. As it turns out, the way in which the tour came about is pretty interesting and I am happy to use this forum to share the story.
Before getting into that though, I think some background is in order. I don’t know how many of you are completely familiar with Seth Yacovone and his band so let’s start there. Seth Yacovone is currently 22 years old and is from Wolcott, VT. Simply put, he is a blues guitar prodigy. He has led the SYB since he was 15 years old. The line-up of the band has fluctuated with ten different members over the past seven years. The current line-up is Seth on guitar, Steve Hadeka playing drums and Tom Coggio on bass.
No article about Seth Yacovone would be complete without the requisite mention of Seth’s appearance with Phish at the Worcester Centrum in November of 1998. Then a teenager, Yacovone got to perform one of his originals, “All The Pain Through the Years,” and the blues classic “Layla” in front of 14,000 strong. Besides Phish, SYB has performed with such legendary artists as Ray Charles, B.B. King, Original P, Gov’t Mule and Johnny Winter.
Alongside with many other bands in the jamband community, the Seth Yacovone Band is also a member of the Homegrown Music Network. Homegrown regularly distributes CDs overseas and submitted SYB’s music to several magazines as well, including Buscadero Magazine in Italy. SYB’s second release, Yessir!, was the album submitted and the cover photograph caught the eye of the owner of the magazine. The cover of Yessir! is a photograph of a good friend and fan of the band named Roy. As fate would have it, Roy happens to look very much like a famous Italian comedian who Buscadero’s owner recognized. Because of the coincidence, the owner of Buscadero listened to the CD and fell in love with it. Yessir! received a favorable review in the September 2000 issue of the publication.
After the September 2000 article, Buscadero immediately requested more music from Yacovone. The band then sent their third release Dannemora which was reviewed in the November 2000 issue and was given 3 stars. After the second album review, the publication decided to follow that two months later with a four page interview exclusive with Yacovone. The interview was conducted through email and the story eventually ran right before an article about Bob Weir. Buscadero had found its new favorite American artist in Seth Yacovone.
With that, the magazine spoke with an independent promoter and worked towards bringing the Seth Yacovone Band to Italy. The idea was brought up in January of 2001 and negotiations were finalized for October rather quickly. The tour began in Ponderano for the first show on Oct. 11 and ended in Cantu on Oct. 27. Along the way, the band performed in Chiari, Ferrara, Rome, Milan and several other Italian cities. The venues ranged from 100 350 seats and were almost all near capacity for every show.
The traveling party for the tour was the three musicians (Yacovone, Hadeka and Coggio) and their manager, Diamond. When asked about the hospitality over in Europe, Diamond told me they were all “treated like royalty.” For the most part, the musicians traveled alone except when the promoter came along to help in the major cities where it would be very easy to get lost. In terms of equipment, the band was able to travel with very little gear as most of the backline was provided by the promoter. So, the band only had to fly with two of Seth’s guitars, a stripped down pedal board, Coggio’s bass guitar and Hadeka’s snare and cymbals. The spare time was filled with the obvious: sightseeing, getting from one place to another, sleeping and eating.
In talking about the experience, Diamond mentioned more than once the difference between European and American audiences. The audiences were almost always sitting down and very focused on listening to the music. In Italy, according to Diamond, there is a lack of mass media so there is not an over-saturation of music like in the United States. Music retains its reverential quality and is appreciated in a different way. The band welcomed the warm reception openly and was happy to sell approximately 250 CDs over the short tour. In fact, the band is already in talks to return to Italy for another three week tour in July of 2002.
What I found so interesting about this story is how things can happen through sheer coincidence and luck. What if Buscadero’s owner did not notice the cover of the Yessir! CD? He may never have listened and realized the musical mastery that the CD contained. It also is nice to know that groups like Homegrown are taking active steps to expose the jamband community to the international market. The Internet especially has opened that door with numerous different web radio stations and sites that feature diverse music. This story should also serve as a reminder as to how large the potential audience for any band can be. Legions of fans are waiting all across the globe, not just in the United States. Now it’s up to us to find those fans and expose them to good music.
Lee Seelig really hasn’t gotten over his initial jealousy.