West Coast travelogue: Night of Joy, Lust-Cats of the Gutters and Sara Century check in
I realized when we started planning this tour that, from talking with my friends (both band and non-band people) about the endeavor, there was a little bit of mystery as to how this level of touring works. The level at which my band, Night of Joy, operates -- I guess I would call it DIY -- is pretty normal for groups of our style, though I wouldn't generalize our experience as across-the-board by any means (each band's tour experience is different).
Lydo Le Night of Joy, Tempe, Arizona
When I say style, I don't mean genre; we work more from the perspective of ethos, and as a band we try to play and promote all-ages shows where all people are welcome. We also receive no funding for tours from anyone but ourselves; we make all of our own merchandise, and we promote our shows with the help of friends and other bands. This two-part travelogue is just that: Our experience (and our tour mates Lust-Cats of the Gutters and Sara Century's experience) on the road.
That being said, we left for our two-week tour Friday, April 22, in a van the bands collectively rented. A vehicle tends to be the most expensive part of a tour outing, but we found a relatively good deal for van that could fit seven people, plus gear. Our first show was at a punk house in Flagstaff, Arizona, called the Cottage. Not having played in the city before, we had no idea what to expect. Were people going to come out? Would they be stoked to see our bands? What was the vibe going to be like? But, armed with a key lime blessed with a protective spell made specifically for us by our friend Piper Rose, we had the best intentions out there in the universe.
Yes, we are that kind of band.
The show was booked through a connection at Stay Punk, a DIY-booker out of Flagstaff. Night of Joy had also made friends with Custody Battles, a band out of Flagstaff, last year when we all played Total Fest 2010 in Montana. I would say that this is the majority of how Do-It-Yourself tours are booked: connections. No managers, no middlemen, no bullshit. These connections come through support, first and foremost - like going to shows in your own city, meeting and talking to bands who come through on tour, being hospitable and housing touring bands, collaborating with other bands and smaller labels outside of your town on music and artwork, etc. It is these connections that will help you when booking outside of your own area.
We got into Flagstaff pretty late, but when we pulled up to the spot, it was like a scene from a movie: The house was teeming with crust punks, bicycles and beer cans, spilling out from the Cottage's white picket fence. Welcomed to a place we had never been before with open arms, we arrived just in time for the opener, a dude with a guitar named D.H, who played some cool songs about girls and Easter.
Somehow, we loaded our gear into the tiny basement show space through a hatch in the floor. It was murky and dank, and we would soon learn that anything that touched the floor would get covered in some kind of unknown toxic sludge. Lust-Cats tore it up first, and everyone that could possibly fit into the small room did for the rowdy set, appropriate for such a swampy joint.
Next, we set up the rest of Fez's drums (to save space in the van, Sara Century and Alex from Lust-Cats use a stripped-down version of his kit) and tried to figure out the best way to position our two guitar necks so we wouldn't end up hitting each other in the face with our headstocks. This was not ultimately accomplished. But the acoustics in the small room were amazing -- the mix was perfect and the kids were going crazy!
(Apparently, some dude tried to crowd surf in the lowered-ceiling room while we were playing - no bigger compliment to a band, for sure.) Sara Century played next, and her usual fifteen-minute No Wave-ish folk assault was the perfect ending to what couldn't have been a better first night.
Upon ascending from the stinky lower level, my brother Evan, the ever-stoic merch dude, informed us that we had all sold a ton of tapes and shirts. To top it off, donations from party-goers made it a more lucrative night that we had ever had at any show in Denver, for sure. This coming from an audience that didn't know us really at all. It felt great.
Something else about touring on this level that I don't think is common knowledge is unless you know someone in the state you're visiting: You have to find a place to sleep. It can be both a hard and easy endeavor, but in Flagstaff, it was truly a blessing. Our friend Travis from Custody Battles offered up his place, and it was just a few blocks from the house show. We wandered over his way around 3 a.m., sleepy and happy and ready to roll out our sleeping bags. Five of us slept in the house, and two slept in the van with the gear -- a precaution we take to make sure nothing gets stolen.