bandtastic

Warhol-based punning aside, Bandtastic have been making waves in Mexico since the middle of last year. They are a company moving in the right direction at a time when there seems to be a lot of negative energy surrounding the concept of anyone ever making a living out of music again without selling out, not that that even seems to be an option for many bands, labels or shops. Essentially they act as a go-between for fans curious to see bands in their hometown in what can be (and has been) called a ‘modified crowdfunding model’. This currently applies to Mexico City but with the aim of spreading further afield in the future starting with Guadalajara as the idea is quickly taking off for other companies in the U.S.A. and also Brazil.

It is a fairly simple process for music fans. The fan contacts Bandtastic through their website to request that an artist they would like to see comes to their hometown. Bandtastic then collect likes through their Facebook page for the idea of seeing the concert. Once enough interest is shown they then go straight to selling tickets on a pledge basis much like charities use the internet to raise money. If a set target is reached then they go ahead with putting on the gig. If there is not enough demand then refunds are given without question. Whilst most events attempted so far have gone ahead, the visit of Real Estate did not which allowed the team to demonstrate just how easily and reliably the refunds could be handled. Also, Real Estate did not make a long journey to Mexico for little or no return. There is a 10% cut for the company which mostly goes into development of the business which ultimately leads to more satisfied fans and bands.  Ticketmaster do not get their 30% cut for printing a generic ticket and instead fans who want to see a band get to give money to that band rather than the band getting a cut on takings from a promoter, ticket seller or the owners of the venue.

It seems a pretty great idea to get behind. Fans get to request what they want. Bands win in two ways as 1) they don’t slog around a country in a van playing to mostly empty venues and 2) their cut is likely to be higher and thus more profit made. I guess it’s also probable that many bands always need to raise their own money prior to touring through friends and family, well that’s going to be considerably easier to do if 100s of tickets have already been sold.

Further details are found in their manifesto which can be muddled through with the help of Google translate. It states that music is for the fans and that those fans would rather support their favourite bands than the industry. They also link themselves, or more accurately the participating fans to the power of the masses to demand change. It was this latter ethos that led to their promotion of the June event in the zocalo (the main square slap bang in the centre of Mexico City)  for YoSoy132, a popular movement against the candidacy of the new Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, which attracted 80,000 people. They also feel that technology should be used to simplify our lives and that buying tickets and having music promoted through traditional channels is a waste of precious time for the average Chilango hipster when getting tickets for a concert should be as easy as ordering a pizza. Another nice touch is that they are a paperless organisation. Tickets are sent through a Facebook app and can be checked at the door on a variety of devices.

When I was young, I did not have the good fortune to have live music within a few miles of my home with either Wolverhampton or Liverpool being the closest options for most bands being a good 45 miles away. However, somehow  The Stone Roses played at Park Lane nightclub in Shrewsbury on May 25th, 1989 – the same month that their debut album appeared and quickly became iconic. Birdland, Bob, The Blue Aeroplanes and also The House of Love came to Shrewsbury, the latter with Alan McGee in attendance – I spotted him and muttered that he should sign The Telescopes but he mumbled something involving the word ‘shite’ – of course he did later sign The Telescopes though he may have proved that he was right in his first judgement as they really were shite. All of this happened due to a couple of guys working towards making something happen in their hometown and the idea that there really might be an audience for these bands and he was proved right. Even Chester managed to attract bands like Mudhoney and My Bloody Valentine back in the late 80s. It might be a bigger place than Shrewsbury but its proximity to Liverpool would suggest that there might not have been any demand and yet the attendance at those gigs suggested otherwise.

Thursday January 17th saw We Have Band visit Mexico as a result of Bandtastic’s efforts. Initially the band themselves tweeted that they would like to play in Mexico. This was seen by a follower in Mexico who then got things started with Bandtastic. Interest seems to have been surprisingly high with over 200 tickets sold for a band who might struggle to get a similar audience in parts of the UK. Now, this is where the potential for expansion comes in. Bandtastic would have very little to do in London as everyone plays there. The same can be said of many other cities either due to size or an established student union venue ruling out Manchester, Glasgow or even Leeds, Bristol and Newcastle among others. However, there are still many places with a decent sized population that could support appearances by up and coming bands much like The Stone Roses in Shrewsbury back in ’89. Plymouth springs to mind, or Aberdeen. Correct me if I’m wrong, but even somewhere like Birmingham can be unpredictable in terms of the profitability of live alternative music, or at least that’s the impression I get from a British city of over a million that has nowhere to buy CDs in the city centre now that HMV has closed down. The where is not important, if enough people pledged enough money into a scheme like this then the gig would happen with no risk of any bands disappearing into rural Britain never to be seen again. It remains a truly disturbing fact that The Bay City Rollers did once play Llanymynech Village Hall. I know this because apparently my dad was on the door!

Returning to the present, or at least the recent, We Have Band played at the little El Imperial venue on the border between Roma and Condesa in Mexico City. This was the first of 3 gigs in Mexico, with Cholula and Guadalajara to follow. It was a cold night though a long queue could be avoided for a while by heading into the bar next door which had a DJ and a large amount of Vespas parked outside – some even had additional rear view mirrors. Yes, it seems that New Mod has reached Mexico. The venue itself feels more like a little improv theatre and features inconvenient pillars as well as an astonishing chandelier dangling above the bar that give it a comfortable and strangely homely feel.

Photo from www.lifeboxset.com and taken by Feli Gutierres

Photo from http://www.lifeboxset.com and taken by Feli Gutierres

We Have Band arrived on stage around 11.15, maybe a little later. Hard to say as I’d had a tequila or two by then. Originally it said 10. You’d think that would be…well, this is Mexico so you just don’t assume anything unless you crave disappointment (That’s not a criticism, you have to embrace it and get off on the frustration – it makes you less frustrated yourself). The tiny venue with a giant chandelier suited a post-punk-funk bass heavy sound. Darren Bancroft handled most communication issues by talking enthusiastically in English – always seems to work. The band locked into a groove with consummate ease considering that they were working with a stand-in drummer due to illness and a lively crowd attempted to dance in increasingly restricted space. The sound almost feels like it needs a little light to add to the shade, maybe some guitar would give a more rounded sound but may also perhaps sound a little too similar to other acts such as Django Django. Instead, We Have Band seek out a groove and stick to it. The tiny stage worked well for a three-piece and the sound was good considering the potential for problems in a venue of that size. The organisers seem to have got the right amount of people into the venue without it getting uncomfortably full and a number of influential people on the Mexican alternative music scene were in evidence. It was a happy night for all which was followed by an indie disco mixed with classic Bowie.

As more attention and success is gained by small events like these, increasing amounts of sponsorship can be brought in. Movistar helped to fund this event and thus keep prices down for punters. Obviously, independence would need to be carefully maintained but if a leading Mexican mobile phone company is willing to throw some cash in their direction after just a clutch of events in the past year or so then obviously there is far more still to achieve. The organisation is handling the ticketing for the upcoming Grizzly Bear concert at a much bigger venue. This may then lead to further reach for the project. Last year, they brought over Motorama from Russia who sold out each show and thoroughly enjoyed themselves despite limited mutual vocabulary.

Look them up at bandtastic.me