When you’re a small band with dreams of going on tour, booking shows is an exercise in networking and persistence, with a sprinkle of charm and a dash of desperation. Fans in San Diego and Salem aren’t begging us to come and play. During our last tour, we learned that it’s about meeting up with old friends in other cities, playing some music together, and crashing on a friend’s couch. We learned that shows with high expectations can disappoint, and shows with low expectations can be surprisingly invigorating.
Act I: Hope
San Francisco is my Candyland. Since college graduation, I have visited once a year. My best friend Caty and my brother have taken me to underwater puppet shows, burlesque circuses, the western lesbian saloon, and the white tablecloth vegan restaurant. SF is perfection.
Last time we went on tour, my favorite show was in Oakland. We walked through the purple fur lined doorway and played for an audience of 8 people. A bicycle hung over our heads. We took band photos in old mirrors. Martin passed the hat and we made $200. We played with my brother’s band, McPuzo and Trotsky, a retro 1921 band whose debut songs were Suffrage is for Suckers and Warren G Harding is a Horse’s Ass. In a regular world (like Seattle), we would never play a show with McPuzo and Trotsky. But San Francisco is not the regular world.
Act II: Obstacles
I had fantasies about another fabulous yet low key show. When I was booking this year’s tour, I landed shows in San Diego, LA, Irvine, and Olympia relatively easily. But in the city that I worship, the city that have such a strong connection to, it was nearly impossible. I hit up my contacts, used Indie Booker, wrote to recommended venues, and tried to add us to existing bills. My contacts in San Francisco have kids (boring! ;)) and are less connected to “the scene.” All my contacts bemoaned the “creative drought” in San Francisco. It’s been overrun by TwitFaceGoog, and tech bros drove away all the rainbows and unicorns.
Act III: Desperation
One week before we left for our tour I said, “It’s time to stop booking and time to start promoting.” I booked two nights at a cabin in Mt. Shasta, precluding us from doing a show on a Tuesday night. “We’ll just chill out for two nights and do some songwriting,” I said to myself. But my fingers kept reaching for the keyboard. I looked up feminist radio shows and organizations. I researched rentals in shared spaces, like yoga studios and yachts.
I finally posted a request on Facebook. Duh. Ask people in Seattle for a show in SF.
Act IV: Renewed Hope
I wish I could find the post on Facebook, but man oh man, we got about 5 leads. The one that worked was Judith Blair’s ex-boyfriend’s friend who started up a community space ever since SF outlawed Airbnb. It is called Mango Dome, where our new-best-friend Victoria runs the show.
Victoria and I booked the show as we were rolling away from Seattle in our 20-wheeler touring van. Victoria wanted to try out music in her community center, so she gave us a shot. We were Mango Dome’s guinea pigs! After I got off the phone with her, I shouted at the band, “Hey everybody! We have a show in San Francisco, and the contact person is really cool!”
“Cool,” said my band.
Act V: The Show
We rolled into the Mango Dome on Tuesday at 4pm, listening to ourselves on BFF radio show. Victoria climbed out of her cupboard under the stairs and helped us unload.
After setup, Victoria handed me the key and left to run an errand while I welcomed my brother and his bandmate. She trusted me with that key.
McPuzo and Trotsky played their set. They serenaded Mango Dome, AKA Man-Go Do-Me, dedicating each song to Mango Dome’s workshops, such as How to Lick Pussy Like a Champ and Butt Stuff 101: Intro to Anal. I sat on a couch, and Victoria reassured me that the blanket hadn’t witnessed last night’s Kinky Tea Time.
We played our set for my sister-in-law, two homeless guys, my friend Sarah from college, and 12 of Cheerful’s friends from Guam. Then I went home and cuddled with my nephews while Cheerful, Jeanne, and Natalie slept in a cookie factory.
Fun Lessons from Tour:
- Cheerful has 20 friends from Guam in every city. She can invite them 3 hours before showtime and they will all show up.
- Always play a house show in Portland. Especially with Sparkle Princess Forever and Heart On.
- Even if the show is unsuccessful, take some nice photos and tell people it was awesome.
- Always book a radio interview with DJ #3 at KUCI