Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The indie rock troubadour (or, “Dudes who spend a lot of time alone”)

The theme of this post is related to the one I wrote last week about some of my friends who post music on their myspace – but don’t play shows, have bands, or release records. At least not yet. I called them closet autuers, which I realize now is a pretty horrible name.

The point of writing about this is to spark a conversation about the different ways musicians can do the DIY thing and make it work, both financially and artistically. It is painful to watch a band work their ass off, produce good music, and then just slide into debt. It is also painful to watch all those bands that have so much talent fall into the trap of writing in a style because they feel they have to hit a home run with every album because their financial machine now employs all their friends as sound people, press people, or tour managers. That's a lot of responsibility for a band in the fickle music making business.

One of the most effective DIY concepts I’ve see, which a few of my friends employ these days, is “going solo”. This basic approach to music harkens (is harken really a word? mys spellcheck says no, I say yes) back to the singer-songwriter movement of the 70’s that spawned acts like Kris Kristofferson and Townes Van Zandt, some people are just cutting the band loose and focusing on writing great songs and covering lots of ground on tours. We'll call them indie rock troubadours, and I’m loosely defining the DIY indie rock troubadour as someone who has no home, or travels more often than they are home, often doing the gig solo and the traveling solo as well.

One of the reasons I think this method would be super effective financially is because you’re not having to compensate for a ton of band members who would normally be cutting out of work to come on the road with you. You can rent a small car or use your own and not spend a fortune on gas or van rental. You can play a variety of venues, some of which might not be an option for a full band : you can squeeze into a coffee shop, a living room, or even play out on the street. The recipe is simple and time tested : just get a guitar (or ukelele) and go.

A second criteria would be that the kids that fall into this category as DIY folk are not on a label and book their own shows. For example, I know that Dave Dondero did stuff like this for years – but now he has support from his record label, in terms of getting his records out there, and from a talented booking agency (Ground Control – who are the same folks who do Bright Eyes and Sonic Youth, among others…). I think it is really important to know HOW to book your own shows even if you’re lucky enough to not have to do it very often. And starting in this vein, as a solo guy/girl, affords you the opportunity to play a lot of strange places.

For example, last April Dondero played in an alley in Fresno. I’m proud to say I booked that show.

But this isn’t about Dave. I actually wanted to share some tour dates and some MP3s from two of my favorite songwriters – Paleo and Peter and the Wolf, who currently exemplify this ideal for me.


I met Paleo here in Fresno (or on the internet, depending how you look at it) and his real name is David Andrew Strackany. He was working on a songwriting project where he went on a national tour and wrote a song a day for 365 days. Which is a feat that he not only accomplished, but that he religiously documented on his website. This effort resulted in a ton of press and Paleo's creation of the longest album EVER. The record, called simply the "Song Diary", features 17 hours of music available as MP3s that are burned onto a DVD. Crazy.

Since completing that ambitious project, Paleo has begun touring a little less and doing a good job of booking his tours in a more paced manner. He actually has a pretty novel way of doing it : he spends several weeks on the road and then parks his car at an airport and catches a cheap flight home to rest up for a week, then flies back out and continues traveling. This gives him some downtime, and allows him to take a break from the road even if he is on the other side of the country.


Mar 4 2008 Baltimore, Maryland - The Frisby House
Mar 11 2008 Brooklyn, New York - Glasslands
Mar 20 2008 New York, New York - Knitting Factory (Old Office)
Apr 3 2008 Brooklyn, New York - Galapagos
Apr 16 2008 New York, New York - Piano’s (Upstairs)
May 10 2008 Seattle, Washington - Dearborn on Woodland
May 15 2008 Fort Collins, Colorado - Bean Cycle
May 18 2008 Williston, North Dakota - TBD
May 20 2008 Madison, Wisconsin - The Project Lodge

DOWNLOAD : Paleo - Heatseeking Heart (written in Fresno,CA)
DOWNLOAD : Paleo - Thinking Outside of the Box Office (written in LA, CA)

Peter and The Wolf

Peter and the Wolf is a singer-songwriter named Red Hunter. I am not sure that that is his real name. I met him for the first time in Fresno and I thought he was a horrible douche -- I had arranged a show for him here because he had a day off between SF and LA. Somewhere along the line I had ran across some of his songs, probably Aquarium Drunkard, because almost all the good music I hear these days is coming from that site. Anyways, the guy's songs are absolutely gorgeous, but when he showed up for the gig he came off really arrogant, conceited and lame. Until he played...

Red has a great voice, a great talent for arrangement and he can hold a crowd's attention with very little bravado. He just has a very natural and comfortable vibe that immediately engaged me and totally turned around all the preconceived notions I had about his character.

Peter and the Wolf
also has an interesting method putting together a tour. Rather than, uhm, for lack of a better word, "plan" a tour, it seems to me that he hits the road and asks questions later. As you can see, he has a number of TBAs on the books, but I don't think that is a bad thing when it comes to this type of gig. The TBAs could end up being concert halls or bedrooms. Who knows. But since the overhead, assuming your tastes don't run to expensive, is minimal, chances are you'll still come out on top if you run into a few generous and excited listeners.

Feb 26 2008 Cincinnati, Ohio - TBA
Feb 27 2008 St. Louis, Missouri - TBA
Feb 28 2008 Columbia, Missouri - True/False fest
Mar 1 2008 Columbia, Missouri - True/False fest
Mar 2 2008 Columbia, Missouri - True/False fest
Mar 3 2008 Lawrence, Kansas - Rock House
Mar 4 2008 Springdale, Arkansas - Pontiac
Mar 5 2008 Dallas, Texas - DFW
Mar 12 2008 Austin, Texas - NPR/Soundcheck Live from Austin
Mar 12 2008 Austin, Texas - SXSW Showcase at Central Presbyterian
Mar 23 2008 Nashville, Tennessee - The 5 Spot
Mar 30 2008 London, London and South East - Black Cab session, UK
Mar 31 2008 London, London and South East - Channel 4 London
Apr 1 2008 London, London and South East - TBA
Apr 2 2008 Brighton, London and South East - TBA
Apr 3 2008 Leeds, Northeast - TBA
Apr 4 2008 Manchester, Northwest - TBA
Apr 5 2008 Sheffield, Midlands - TBA
Apr 6 2008 Edinburgh, Scotland - TBA
Apr 7 2008 Dublin, Northern Ireland - TBA
Apr 11 2008 Paris/tba - TBA
Apr 12 2008 Berlin/Hamburg/etc. - TBA
Apr 13 2008 Berlin/Hamburg/etc.
Apr 14 2008 Berlin/Hamburg/etc.

DOWNLOAD : Peter and the Wolf - Strange Machines


erin said...

some of my favorite dudes are basically solo acts with friends helping them play live occasionally.
check out:

Malcolm Sosa said...

I hadn't heard the BIG SEARCH yet. I am pretty much down with all "Black Metal / Bluegrass" bands. Voice / tone reminds me of the Arcade Fire guy.