Friday, January 23, 2009

The big show.

God, so there used to be this place called the Gateway theater out west on Lawrence Avenue and they would have these shows with fifteen bands for ten bucks or something ridiculous. (the gateway is actually still there, but I haven’t been there in like fifteen years. It’s just past the Admiral, which is the fully nude strip club that doesn’t serve alcohol. Talk about a classy clientele).
So, I don’t remember any of the details, but I do know that when I was a junior, Gladhand got a show at the gateway. We were so fucking excited we pretty much went crazy. This was a real show at a real club! We were going places. I think we’d submitted the same demo that we submitted to get the homecoming dance show…whatever, not important. The promoter was a guy named Matt Nelson, and he was a typical Chicago punk rock dude from the late 80’s: Flat top, leather jacket, dubious ties to skinheads, coke habit, sketchy fucker. SO, Matt gave us a hundred tickets to sell at ten bucks a piece, and gave us the following deal:

Sell all hundred, you get three bucks a ticket.
Sell seventy five, you get two bucks a ticket.
Sell fifty you get a buck a ticket.

Okay, now, these tickets, again, cost ten bucks. Right? Let me just spell this out for anyone who’s not hip to this scheme…This is a screw job. This was my first show, so I didn’t know it at the time, but it’s not the band’s job to sell tickets. That’s the job of the promoter. It’s in every way the equivalent of showing up with no gear and expecting the promoter to play your show for you…It’s fucked. BUT whatever, the entertainment industry is full to the brim with shady practices and this is hardly the shadiest. There are, as we speak, people getting literally fucked up the ass and in the mouth for some sort of paltry bit part in some crappy, direct-to-lifetime movie (yes ladies, even lifetime has it’s predators…they should do a movie about it. Woah, but what do you have to do to get a part in said movie, eh? It’s like a Charlie Kaufman script).
Well, we sold and sold and sold. My mom bought some tickets and gave them to her friends. I think all our moms did that, actually. We sold them around the park we hung out in and in our schools, especially to the younger kids who probably wouldn’t be allowed to go to the show out west on Lawrence anyway. Heh. You know, it’s all steps of finding your way as a young adult. We were playing at having a real show in a real club (which, by the way I now recognize as such a complete insult to real shows and real clubs everywhere) and these young middleschoolers were playing at being the kinds of people who could actually go do the things that they bought tickets to do. Well, in the words of David Spade, Not so fast, Billy Ray.
The night before the show, we, the wonderfully diverse pastiche of boys who comprised Gladhand met in Chris’s mom’s basement (which is where we practiced). We realized that we’d sold ninety tickets. A little quick math revealed to us that if we bought the last ten tickets ourselves, we’d get three bucks a ticket instead of two, and so even though we’d have to put a hundred bucks down, we’d still walk with more money. Genius.
The day of the show came and we were all so fucking geeked out excited we didn’t know what to do. Chris and I went to the same highschool by this point, and I just remember being in the diner across the street (we could leave the school for lunch) and banging the table and throwing a spoon across the room for some reason, just because I was so excited to be the SINGER in a BAND that was playing a SHOW at a CLUB. The whole day we were all nerves. I don’t honestly remember much besides that. Oh, I was wearing my favorite shirt with the Cheerios logo on it. This was back before ironic branding had become the international language of pseudo hipster suburban box store fashion, mind you. Not trying to be a snotty dick or anything (although: snotty dick! what an image! eew) just saying, the Cheerios shirt in 93, not exactly the same thing as the Cheerios shirt in 09. In fairness though, I had hair down to my nipples and was probably wearing more than just a few medallions and rings…So, I wasn’t exactly winning any ‘gateway theater best dressed’ awards that night.
We got to the show and we handed Matt Nelson a thousand dollars.
Just go ahead and read that sentence again, because by the end of this story, it’s that sentence right there that really stings. Here it is again:
We got to the show and we handed Matt Nelson a thousand dollars.
I remember a hardcore band called fifteen month pregnancy played and they had a song about a local convenience store called “White Hen” and then this band called Slugbug played. They, I recall were really together, with big amps and they sounded awesome, even though they were only our age. They also had these sweet demo tapes that were totally pro, as in, the tapes were screened, they had sleeves. Wow. I bought one. It had a fucking thank you list inside! This shit, in my mind, was so unbelievably professional. It was like, other level type stuff.
Well, we played and I’d been getting myself psyched up for so long, and I was so nervous, that my voice was completely shot before we even went on stage. It was a bad and embarrassing show, but it was a REAL show, and we were pretty stoked on that part.
After we played, Matt Nelson approached me and said, “hey, that was really great. I want to do a smaller show at this bar I do in Aurora, called Malo’s and I want you guys to play. It will be you guys, Slugbug and….” Fuck. I can’t remember the name of the other band….Hopefully it’ll come to me by tomorrow…Violent something…it was three words…Violent Youth Assembly!!!!!! YES!!!!!!!
Okay, so the show was gonna be Gladhand, Slugbug and Violent Youth Assembly. We were unbelievably stoked. We’d just played our first show in our hometown and now we were gonna play another show fifty miles away? This shit is all happening so fast!
Well, I came to realize, at the Malo’s show that the reason that Matt put us and Slugbug on the bill is because we were the only two bands that sold all one hundred tickets. VYA wasn’t even at this show, but I’m sure they’d pulled something similar at one of Matt Nelson’s other ‘screw-the-bands-a-thons’. Whatever, don’t piss on my cloud, man. This was a big moment. We had a real show under our belts, we had another booked and Gladhand was fucking going places.
Matt Nelson handed me a hundred bucks. “here dude. Thanks for playing. I’ll call you about the Malo’s show.” I was so young, intimidated, excited, nervous, confused etc. that I didn’t even say anything. I gave him a confused look, but he was already gone. Hey! After buying those last ten tickets, at least we broke even! Fuck man. He would eventually call me and mail me tickets to the Malo’s show too, which unfortunately, I couldn’t even sell to my parents. SO the night was one of highs and lows, especially when I found out that I’d locked myself out of my car. I called and woke up my parents…it was about midnight or 1, and Chris and our friend Cary and I had to sit there in the Chicago winter for an hour, farting on each other for warmth, waiting for my very disgruntled parents to wake up, shake the dust off and drive back to the Gateway to give me the spare keys.
Rock n’ Roll, man.


nancy said...

So how do I fight love handles without giving up the foods I adore? Monday's blog?

Michael said...

Sadly, dickhead promoters are everywhere. It's courtesy of shit like that that we don't even have shows in Tucson anymore essentially.

Mike said...

BK! Longtime reader/listener, first time commenter here.

My first ever show was with a band called Holzfutter (a word we got by using the babelfish German translator on small forest animals until Woodchuck yielded the most metal band name). The band consisted of me on guitar, my friend "singing," my brother on drums, and a kid I had never met before, who got us the show, on guitar.

He got the show when he was approached by a woman in front of the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC; they asked him if he had a band, he said yes, they wrote down his name and email address. That was it. Those were the requirements.

We sold, like, 2/3 of our tickets and made 1/3 of the money back. The show was just fucking awful; we played our hits and covered our friends'/rival band's song, because we knew they were in the crowd judging us. At the end of the show, I quit the band.

Heh. Fucking Holzfutter.

Matt Wehren said...

It is shit like this that made me quit playing music. Pay-to-play shows ruined the CA music scene. This is why my friends who still play won't even play in California anymore.

Blake said...
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Blake said...


About,8 or 9 years ago, my first band (don't worry about the medallions and long hair- a rap/metal band) played our first show for a battle-of-the-bands at ST. ANDREWS IN DETROIT!! So exciting for us! It required the same bullshit with the tickets. We weren't offered any money in return, but I'm pretty sure that decided the winner. The band collectively sold about 50 tickets for ten bucks a pop also, and we pocketed about half.

The highlight was seeing a white trash father of two of our bandmates giving one of our fat, perverted, smelly friends a bloody nose in the first mosh pit we've ever created.

Oh yeah, the drummer of that very band got me into this blog!

Anthony said...


Jack said...

We have a couple of guys here in Detroit who have been pulling that same scam on bands for years, although i don't even know if the bands get paid out of it. They just get to play at a real venue (The Shelter, Magic Stick or whatever) and the more tickets they sell the better their time slot

Jack said...

And now that I read through the other comments, I'm willing to bet the same guy i was talking about booked the show Blake is talking about.

Jersey Beat said...

Selling tickets to play shows in a "real" club is still very much a right-of-passage here in NJ. There are a couple of promoters who control the few all-ages venues left, and extort these clueless high-school kids into selling tickets to their friends and families. Even the Ergs did it. Then once you meet a few people and get a clue, you graduate to the basement show scene. And then if you stick around and people start coming to shows, you get to play clubs again but get paid for it. Circle of life, man, circle of life.

cornicula said...

I really want to see pictures of you and Chris from the Gladhand days. They sound like they would be glorious.

tonedeff said...

Nuts Nuts Nuts!

kylewagoner said...

I think we've played like 3 shows ever where we were paid at all and I think the max was $25. But we still keep playin', for some reason! Fuck yeah!

Buddy said...

the first show I went to at the infamous Gateway Theater was in 1995, which featured a young, shitty, and then unknown Disturbed-the show my band played at the Gateway in 1996 had Mest.

The pr0m0ter, J0ey DeMarc0, was also a c0mplete fucking d0uchebag, tool guid0 jerk0ff muthafucka- just like your promoter!!- wh0 in a similar fashion als0 booked my band for a show in Aur0ra- Riley's Rc0ck House. He also later t0ld us that we w0uld never play in his city (Chicag0)again, because in his words "we really fucked him." I don't know, maybe you had a similar experience with Joey D..

Sean said...
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Sean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sean said...


man, I can DEFINITELY relate to this post!!

One of my favorite's by FAR!

Last year, my band (Hollywood Guillotine, but who cares, right? ha) got invited to play this event at the Congress Theatre in Chicago called "The Next Big Thing!"

Well, the four of us, being high school seniors, were pretty fucking stoked, you know?

So we had to do the exact same thing!

Sell 100 tickets, $12 a piece, and if we sold all of them we would get to choose our spot (out of about 50 bands (it was an all day festival type thing)) and we would get "a percentage" of the total cash. Also, we could play the "MAIN STAGE, BRO," instead of this "Second Stage" which was hardly worthy for even the likes of... ohhh... i dunno.... Ultraviolet Hippopotamus...

So, being the 4 high-schoolers we were, we had never even DREAMED of getting to play the MAIN STAGE AT THE CONGRESS THEATRE!!! I mean, we had all seen so many fucking bands there... and to even set foot on the same stage just seemed awe-inspiring... Needless to say, we sold our souls to get rid of these damn tickets... parents, parents of parents, parents of friends, friends, younger kids (which I can relate to you... I knew they wouldn't be able to go... I feel a bit guilty about...). So eventually we had to buy the last 14 or so with all of our money "band fund" that was going to go towards recording a new CD... So yea, we end up walking in to the place with $1200 cash in an envelope, who we hand to the promoter (some bright-white-Nike's-wearing douche bag with a brand new matching Nike hat to match his new fucking shoes and outfit)

Regardless to say, we handed in the money and found out that we could play "RIGHT BEFORE THE OPENNER, BRO!"

So we were pissing ourselves with excitement...

The time to play draws nearer and we realize that this soulless Bag-of-Dicks-of-a-promoter decided to move the headliner up and have THEM play the main stage AT THE SAME TIME as me and my friends... us getting bumped to the shittily-assembled, sad-excuse-for-even-a-picnic-table that was considered to be the "Second Stage."

That was one hell of a swift kick to the nuts...

So while our friends who had actually traveled downtown to see us play stood around confused we put on a 15 minute set, I shit you not.

On top of that, all we got was a lousy fucking $50 Guitar Centre gift card...

Now call me crazy, but I think "a percentage" is not the same as a lousy gift card!
(not to mention getting raped in the ass in terms of when to play and how much this bullshit cost for our friends/family/fans. Ugh, but I digress....)

Ahh, I'm rambling... but still... this post hit a soft spot, so-to-speak...

So we packed up our shit and left that place that was about as tolerable as Satan's asshole... but not before one of our friend's drunkenly whipped it out and pissed in the middle of the lobby... Right on a cardboard sign saying "The Next Big Thing: Giving Small Bands a Loud Chance!"

Fuck... I'm done. If you read all that, I'm sorry to have wasted so much time.

Take care, you're fucking #1 dude.

-Sean (HG)

[ps. Don't know if you remember, prolly not, since i'm sure you meet so many people here and there... but my friend Alison talked to you/did some shots with you last time you played this acoustic set at Reggies... ha, she used a Fake to get in and I just thought it was pretty funny that she managed to sneak in and do some shots with you... something along the lines of you showing her some pictures of your kid and saying "man, I don't want this guy to end up like me.... shit!" and stumbling away... ha, just thought I'd throw that in there... Sorry this shit was so long...XoXo]

dan6385 said...

These guys ruined your song.

Matt Ramone said...

I would love to see those pictures of you with long hair.

Nico said...

There is a picture of the long hair in the Apathy & Exhaustion sleeve, I believe.

(Haha the word verification is "fleping". Sounds like something to be done in the bedroom).

Saulio SBJ 123 said...

Okay, THIS is for sale on amazon:

Get your book published. I am not even sure if that is a book. My brain has exploded since clicking on that "author".

Ryan said...

yeah its the guided tour of chicago sleeve.looks hilarious! chuck ragan looks like a funny duckling with long hair.

Nina said...

what am I supposed to read on mornings when you refuse to update

John Brown Style said...

I think the Broadways "big city" 7" has Brendan with long hair on the label.

tonedeff said...

dearest bk,

I don't need any advice, but I love hearing you give it. So lets have a post (after you continue this series), with some advice in it.

Some poor sucker (probably me...) has got to need some words of wisdom.


Mikey Cigars said...

That's exactly how Peabody's in Cleveland works. My first show was a battle of the bands there, and not only did we get screwed on the money, but they judged the winner by which band the crowd made the most noise for. Which, obviously, is whoever sold the most tickets. It just happened to be us the first time, so we got to "move on to the finals", where we came in 2nd. Anyway, every blog you post is genius. You are my hero.

Andrew said...

i just thought selling tickets for shows was the way it had to be. fuck my friend's bands in st louis do that shit all the time. not so much anymore but definately a couple of years ago that's the way it was all the time. who knew.

Jack said...

a lot of big promoters use local bands to sell tickets too, so its not all just sketchy dudes ripping off the bands. it cuts down on promotion costs if you can get a local to sell 50-100 tickets in order to open for a national. just throwing that out there

John Brown Style said...

In my neck of the woods, they would throw these big shows. If you didn't sell enough tickets to please them, they would boot you from the show, regardless of whether they could fill the spot. A lot of shit bands got too much attention because they were rich, and so were all their fans. Fucking Johnson County. Of course, one of those bands is now on Reprise. They are assholes though.