Road worriers

By MICHAEL BRODEUR  |  September 4, 2008

First and foremost to Ryan is encouraging touring bands to remember what they are touring for: the entertainment of others. “Some bands are very naive about just how appealing their music is. If you can’t even draw a room full of people at home after a couple years, what are you doing playing Austin?” Put simply, if you’re not ready to perform — and perform well — you probably aren’t ready to tour.

“If you like to travel,” she adds, helpfully, “you can be a flight attendant and do pretty well.”

Shoulda had a V-6
Starring Ketman

While Mr. Geissler was Allen-wrenching his bike back together in Brussels, the trio of Ketman were making the drive in their nameless Chevy Astro (with a gallon-stretching V-6) to Bloomington, Indiana, to start what would be a very shitty 2934-mile tour of the Midwest and South, during which the cheapest gas went for a still-ghastly $3.59 per gallon. Ketman’s touring strategy (something along the lines of “Go! Go! Go!”) softens the wallet blow a bit: by keeping all of their tours in the two-week range, and reining in their drives to focus on one region at a time, they’re able to tour more frequently (they’ve done nine of these tours total). Thus what could cumulatively be a financial punch feels more like a pinch.

Singer/guitarist Eric Penna recalls a surplus of “very weird people” being drawn to the band on the multi-state tour, but “not enough of them coming to the shows” — well, at least in the ones that weren’t called off. After a disheartening cancellation in Nashville and a sparsely attended Monday gig at Athens, Georgia’s Caledonia Lounge, a real disaster awaited the band in Greenville, South Carolina.

“Mora [Precarious, Ketman’s drummer] had to fly home suddenly for a work-related crisis,” Penna recounts, a glint of the day’s panic still registering in his eye. “So we recruited a friend of ours down there to play drums. After our show that night [with Mora], we rehearsed from two to eight in the morning, taught him all the songs, drove eight hours to Greensboro, North Carolina — and there was a note on the door.” Canceled.

This particularly demoralizing cancellation might have done in a lesser band, but Ketman’s a little different. After brief deliberations, the band opted to show up at the promoter’s house (his idea), set up their equipment, and play (their idea). This prompted a party, as well as the intoxication of dozens of Carolinians caught unawares. There’s a small lesson in here about making the best of a god-awful situation, but the bigger lesson is this: the successful tour is the one you force to succeed.

Then they spent $142 to drive the 724 miles home.

If this all sounds defeating, you wouldn’t know it by Ketman’s tenacity. A cache of musical equipment rests in storage in Los Angeles (including a drum kit, partially melted from an outdoor show), allowing them to fly west and bump out a week in that city alone: Silver Lake, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice, Long Beach, and San Pedro (a sort of spiritual home for Penna) can all be visited on one tank of gas, and can all be scheduled without booking restrictions. The band came home last time with a cool $1200 — though the airfare, Penna admits, was out of pocket.

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