Taste Of Success

When veteran tour producer Kevin Lyman was putting together the Taste Of Chaos tour, he wasn’t banking on a hit. Lyman is a big picture kind of guy and he was thinking about the long-term – growing the tour, building the buzz, turning TOC into an annual event and making something kids would look forward to every winter.

The concept was basically the same as the Warped Tour, only indoors, with emo-core / screamo bands instead of punk groups. The Used, which had been doing exceptionally well on tour, landed the headlining slot. Instead of a pile of money up front, the band was made a partner in the tour. The reward, if there was one, would come on the back end.

The other bands joined TOC mainly for the exposure. My Chemical Romance, Killswitch Engage, Senses Fail, and A Static Lullaby signed on for all dates, while Underoath, Saosin, Bleed The Dream, Opiate for the Masses, and My American Heart did limited runs.

Lyman expected the tour would probably lose money but he was working hard to make sure it didn’t lose too much. Everyone involved – bands, venues, promoters – made sacrifices and took on some of the risk.

“When we were making the deals and getting everyone on board, we really had to say, ‘This is what we have to spend. If we give you what you’re asking, that means we’ll have to take something away from someone else.’ The artists gave up a lot. They didn’t get their usual guarantees,” Lyman told Pollstar.

Though he won’t say it himself, people were willing to pony up because they were dealing with Lyman and CAA‘s Darryl Eaton, guys with reputations for doing big things on a small budget.

“One cannot discount Kevin. I wouldn’t even think of questioning his vision,” Long Beach Arena Director of Theatres and Entertainment Dan Spellens told Pollstar. “This tour was like training wheels for young concert-goers.”

Even though TOC didn’t have big box office written all over it, the show was just what the arena was looking for.

“Our venue has been featuring these kind of cutting-edge shows. It’s part of an effort to reposition the building in this market while supporting new talent,” Spellens said.

“The opportunity to work with Kevin, Darryl – and, in our case, Goldenvoice – made making the commitment much easier.”

Goldenvoice bought two California TOC dates – Long Beach and Fresno. Company VP Elliott Lefko had faith. He had been involved in the first Warped Tour and remembered the experience well.

“When Warped started, the tour didn’t even have a name; it was just an idea,” Lefko said. “There was no marketing plan or Web site; people weren’t even on the Internet. I took a box to a punk show and collected names and addresses for a mailing list. I talked to kids about what we were going to do and could see there was real excitement there.”

Even though Lyman and Eaton could probably do Warped telepathically now, they still know how to excite a generally jaded industry.

“Kevin is an incubator of ideas,” Lefko said. “With Taste Of Chaos, he told us to go crazy and make it fun. The ticket price was low, so [Goldenvoice’s] job was to get the people in the building, and Kevin, Darryl and their amazing team would make it work.”

And that’s exactly what happened. Tickets were priced at around $25 and there were 29 sold-out shows on the 37-date itinerary.

“It was great,” Senses Fail manager Rich Egan said. “The success took everyone by surprise. The tour really filled a void; the kids were so stoked about this tour. Kevin and Darryl are really good at anticipating what will work, they are exceptionally current and they listen to the audience. That had a huge impact on the success of this tour. The bands may have made some financial sacrifices but they were more than compensated by the exposure.”

In the end, TOC actually made money and generated amazing reviews from all sides of the concert business. The risks were rewarded, the bands got a big boost and the word-of-mouth factor from happy fans will help ensure the tour’s future.

It’s the kind of thing that provides evidence that the industry and the people in it are anything but stagnant.

“The reason this worked was the greed factor was taken out,” Lyman said. “All of the artists, agents, vendors and partners took a step back to look at the big picture. Everyone cooperated to make the package affordable to promoters and buildings. As a result, they were willing to move the show to larger arenas.”

Taste Of Chaos was made to heat up the winter months, which means the tour will move to the Southern Hemisphere in a few months. October dates for Australia have been booked and more international dates are on the way.

— Elizabeth Breen