If a band books a tour without any significant online presence, based exclusively on the power of word-of-mouth, does the tour ever really happen? Sure it does – if the band puts on a damn good show.
While blog bands and MySpace phenoms get plenty of online hype these days, nothing beats the good old fashioned buzz that a great show can generate.
San Francisco duo Two Gallants can attest to that. Singer/guitarist Adam Stephens and drummer Tyson Vogel cut their teeth in the underground touring circuit, playing basements and warehouse shows around the country, and developing a grassroots fan base.
Their back story’s simple enough. As childhood friends, the two realized they shared one major interest – an absolute fascination with music.
"As soon as we started playing music, we pretty much had the same dedication to it," Stephens told Pollstar. "Even when we were really young we were kind of the only kids in our school who were really excited about playing and wanted to play with other people."
The duo soon developed a signature sound – a rough-hewn blend of blues, folk and even punk traditions – and natural timing that comes with the territory when two people know each other so well that words just aren’t always necessary.
When manager Dan Kasin first saw Stephens and Vogel playing in a San Francisco club nearly five years ago, he said he was blown away.
"There was no one there and they were playing like there were a thousand people there," he told Pollstar. "They just had everything I love about music. There was an edge to it, there was amazing songwriting. It was a great vocalist and a great drummer. I just knew I pretty much had to manage them."
When Kasin spoke to them, he was surprised to discover that Stephens and Vogel didn’t just have a local following. They’d been on two tours and already booked about eight weeks on the road on their own. They had fans across the nation and they hadn’t even released an album.
"They didn’t even have a Web site," he said. "It blew my mind, because I was trying to figure out how people even knew to go to the shows.
"The type of shows they were playing were all word-of-mouth … parties and house parties and basement shows that catered to traveling bands so even if 30 people came, it would be packed in some teeny little room and it would be fun."
But if Two Gallants wanted to grow, they’d need to put out a record. Kasin said after the 2004 release of The Throes, the band was able to get its music out to more people in the industry.
One of those people was Billions Corp. agent Adam Voith.
Voith told Pollstar he signed on with the duo after hearing the album and seeing the way they presented their music to an audience.
"I fell in love with the record first and then I went to see them play and it sort of exploded my concept of what the band was," he said. "The live show was so full of energy… It was a very believable, heartfelt performance."
He explained that because Two Gallants worked so hard to build a following without the typical industry push, their fans are particularly enthusiastic.
"They’ve got a very dedicated fan base of people that made a strong connection to them early on," Voith said. "They take part ownership in the band in terms of something that they can truly feel like they belong with and belong to," Voith said.
Stephens and Vogel echoed that sentiment, explaining that they’ve always enjoyed the atmosphere at smaller shows where it’s easier to connect with the crowd.
"Festivals are fun but … smaller venues are so much more comfortable," Vogel told Pollstar. "You have more time and you’re just more in control, especially with the audience. You can actually tell if they like [the show]."
Until this year, Two Gallants spent most of their time on the road headlining, so when they did their first supports for Les Claypool, and went out with Against Me! soon after, no one was certain how the shows would go, Voith said.
"It’s a lucky band that can pull that off, that can stand in front of these different types of music fans and communicate something that is meaningful for the listener," he said. "The band does a good job walking that line."
The duo will tour Europe through the end of the year before taking a "much deserved" break. Voith said plans are in the works to hit Australia and Japan, along with North America and Europe in 2008.
Despite their exhaustive touring schedules, Stephens and Vogel said they couldn’t imagine not being on the road and playing music.
"We have a dedication to what we do," they said. "Regardless of where we’re playing and how worn out we are, whatever we have at home that’s calling to us. … It’s the one thing we really love."