Touring The Prairies in January
for Fun & Profit
(Or How to Lose Your Mind in Two Easy Weeks)
copyright 1997 by Monte Nordstrom
from issue # 38 - Cosmic Debris Musicians Magazine - March '97
Setting Up Your Own Tour:
As any record company Gollum will tell you, touring
is the most important means of expanding your
audience. That and having a video.
Both of these expenses will eventually come out of the artists' pockets by the
way. This is known as "Recupable expense". It
then makes sense that an independent artist
putting out their own CD will incure extra
expenses promoting that release. In business this
is referred to as a "loss leader".
Step #1 is to get gigs in places that you have
never been, from people that you have never
met, for money you may not make. It is wise to
combine club gigs for "scale" on a "concert" tour
so you have certain guarantees of income. You
can't count on making money off the door in a
new market situation and eating plastic will leave
an unpleasant afterta$te.
Also, don't count on selling a lot of product.
The economy is pretty tight all over & the folks
you meet out on the town (supporting the indie
music circuit) are generally on a tight budget. A
few mugs & cab fare seems to be the rule.
People are cautious about what they purchase if
they have never heard the artist before. Do not
fear. The CD is an important promotional tool. A
sort of digital audio business card. You are laying
the groundwork for your next tour, after all.
An unknown artist performing in a new market
area will have to do a thorough job of publicity to
inform the potential fan of an imminent show in
their area & hopefully attract an audience. You
will need a database of potential venues & media
contacts. This will require research: Yellow Pages
for the target areas are very helpful for
developing a city-by-city plan. Lists of radio
stations, newspapers, clubs, agents & hotels can
all be compiled by visiting your local library.
Contacting the press by phone is the next
step. Find out the entertainment editor's name (&
how to spell it). Getting their extension #, fax #,
Postal code and Email address will put you in
position to set up your pubicity juggernaut. Now
do this for each of the appropriate publications
and you're on your way to having a dirty great
phone bill and a data base. Hint: Send a
professional promo picture with your bio & CD.
You'll have a better chance of getting something
in print. Also look at getting this information to the
media with enough, but not too much lead-off
time. Follow ups are important. Remember to be
prepared, polite & professional.
If all this sounds foreign or exhausting to you,
get an agent, hire a publicist and concentrate on
your travel & hotel arrangements. This will be
complicated enough, if you don't leave yourself
room for alternatives (always remember Murphy's
"Into the Jaws of Deepest Canada"
On January 7th my nephew Kelly Nordstrom
and I performed our duo act at Barthomew's in
Victoria. The next morning we left for Saskatoon
on a two-week promo tour which would also
include dates in Regina, Winnipeg, Edmonton &
High Level. It could have been an omen that it
took six hours just to get to Vancouver
International. We arrived in the brisk & beautiful
city of S'toon by 10pm Central. The next day Air
BC went on strike and plan "B" went into effect.
Thank God for Greyhound & the down parka!
Anyway, we cabbed into the city from the
airport and checked in to the Senator. Kelly opted
to retire early but I smelled NEON so I caught a
hack up to Broadway and swung by our first
venue, "Lydia's". It's a funky alterno/
worldbeat/original club with friendly folks, so I
was excited about our show there the next night.
I introduced myself to Guy the barman and to Bob
the owner and set up a time for a sound check
the next day. Less than a block away was the
famous "Bud's on Broadway". I buttoned up, put
on my gloves and went off to peruse the blues.
I walked into to the steaming, purple hazey,
voodoo chitlin' sounds of strat-slinger, Mike Shau
& "Highway 61" (Dan McLean on bass & Tim
Williams on drums). They were crankin' out the
Jimi/Stevie Ray thang. I was pleased to hear
positive response from the rowdy crowd to some
original tunage off of Mike's new CD "Don't Lose
Sight". Imagine my surprise when I eventually
spoke to Mike on a break, to find that he's from
New Westminster and knew of me from reading
the Debris. Small planet, eh?
It was reassuring to see a fellow West Coaster
braving the elements to propagate his music. For
more info on Mike visit the Fiasco Bros
Recording Studio's World Wide Website. Also
keep your eyes open for the CD which features
Mike's gritty vocals & stinging Fender tones.
Smart rhythm & horn section work, funky piano
and a big Hammond sound round out the album.
The next night we did our show at Lydia's to a
half full house which wasn't bad for a Thursday
night with -40 temperature. The first night of a
cold snap always weeds out the wannabes.
Engine blocks can freeze up after 2 hours of
being unplugged. My, we're spoiled out here. The
following day Kelly & I hung out, went for the odd
brisk stroll and caught a regular season match-up
between the Saskatoon Blades & the Swift
Current Broncos. We ended up back on
Broadway. Saskatoon is a beautiful city and I look
forward to returning sometime between the snow
and the mosquitos. Gee, that narrows it down,
Saturday, we caught a late morning bus down
to Regina and I kept getting the impression that
I was travelling into the set of the movie "Fargo".
Blowing snow & flat land with die straight roads
stretched out ahead. After four hours, bleak
became the adjective. We arrived and were met
by Gord Fisch, our contact at the Saskatchewan
Cultural Exchange Society. It had dipped to -45
and the wind had picked up to about 30K. We
were pleased with the contacts made in Regina
including Scott Wilson, who gave me some info
for a future T.O. safari. The hospitality was great
but not surprisingly, the turnout at our concert at
"the Club" was small. This was unfortunate since
we were playing for the door and the next night
we had to be in Winnipeg. The Air BC strike was
about to become a major factor in the feduciary
outcome of the trip. Enter PLA$TIC.
The ability to sleep - sitting up - is a great
advantage when one buses from Regina to
Winnipeg. We grabbed a room at the Travelodge
upon our butt-weary arrival and got ready for our
Sunday night show at the "Bluenote", a cool &
funky venue at 875 Portage Ave.
The staff were gawking at the tube when we
got there. CBC's two-parter about the ill-fated
Avro Arrow was on and the main character in the
Winnipeg-produced feature was Dan Akroyd.
Dan & crew took to hanging at the Bluenote
during the show's production (which was the
biggest thing to happen in the 'Peg in some time).
The windy city is a sad place without the jets
and according to the clubowner, Curtis, the
population is dropping like a barometer in
We did our first set as a duo to a receptive
audience. This included a group of young local
musicians known as "Les Mouches Noires" (the
Blackflies), who were there to video a set for a
YTV spot. We were joined by their drummer,
Christian Dugas for our second show and had a
howl of the paint-peeling variety. It was good to
burn off some energy after the long ride and
Christian proved to be a great feel player
considering he'd not heard the material before,
and the fact that he's 15 years old!
"Les Mouches Noires" ended off the Sunday
night show with a quirky good time set of original
tunes sung en francais. Denis Prieur handled
the lead vocals & played mandolin, Ben Morier
skanked along on a Teisco del Rey electric with
Christian Beaudry on the squeeze box &
harmonies. Bassist, Danny Bisson & drummer,
Christian Dugas layed down the rhythm
underpinning the young band's clever
arrangements. My favorite tune was "Pourquoi?"
which is about the "crazy people in their St.
Boniface neighbourhood who always seem to be
out cleaning the streets". I look forward to hearing
more from "Les Mouches Noires". Hopefully they
will record soon.
The next day I decided that it would be wise to
attend a meeting that had been set up for us with
a promoter in Calgary. Kelly & I caught the bus at
noon and settled in for the long haul. I picked up
a copy of Hunter S. Thompson's "Generation of
Swine" during a rest stop in Brandon. This, more
than anything, saved my sanity over the next
On a midnight stop in Moose Jaw I took a fast
spin around the block in my shirtsleeves. Brrr. I
was looking for Capone's Pool Hall. Scarface
funneled a lot of hooch through the Jaw back in
the days of Prohibition and his legacy is still
celebrated on fields of green felt here in this
The side winds were vicious, sheering out of
the south. They never seem to stop and the bus
driver was hanging tight to the wheel all the way
across Saskatchewan. I awoke in Strathmore,
Alberta and watched the land open up before me,
stretching all the way to the foothills of the
Rockies. The sun rose behind us as we lumbered
into Cow Town.
We had seven hours to kill before our meeting
so we hung out at the depot for a while before
taking the LRT downtown. It was a relief just to
walk around after criss-crossing three provinces
by bus. The temperature was near zero and the
sun was shining as we went for our meet & greet
with the promoter. We bounced some things
around and left the meeting wondering if it was
worth the bother. In this business you never know
when something will go your way so its best to
keep an open mind. We poured ourselves into
the Unicorn, tortured some Big Rock & Appleton's
and caught the next bus to Edmonton. Hey, when
you're on a roll, why stop?
It was a relief to see a familiar face when we
reached Edmonchuk. We were picked up by my
old friend, Jeremy Sagar who wisely suggested
a preliminary visit to the "Sidetrack". It was a
"Swingin' Tuesday" and a jazz band was on the
stand featuring Kennedy Jenson on vocals &
Harley Symington on guitar. Martinis & cigars
were de riguer as we settled in and caught up on
events of the recent past. Sax monster Dave
Babcock stopped by for a chat & I managed a
hello with violinist, Shannon Johnson before
Jeremy took us off to his place for a few nights of
On Wednesday evening Jeremy's wife Renske
took us to an openstage at "Sariena's Cafe". This
was hosted by Brian Gregg attended by many
members of the "Full Moon Folk Club", and I got
to hear a few songs by Michael Sadeva, a friend
from my old neighbourhood of Riverdale. Kelly &
I played three tunes to the warm crowd, plugged
our Friday night show at the City Media Club and
made some new old friends.
I swapped CDs with host Brian Gregg, and
was impressed with the small print on his album,
"Electronic Busker": "Not for sale or any
commercial use. For public broadcast or personal
use only. Any commercial broadcast strictly
prohibited. Any person may tape or record this
music. Donations please:" It's a great concept
and an interesting, well-produced work featuring
the cream of Edmonton's players. Available from
Brian Gregg, c/o General Delivery, Edmonton,
Alberta T5J 2GA. By donation. DO IT!
The next day I spent on the phone & the
computer. I awoke to a phone interview by Roger
Lesvesque of the Edmonton Journal. After coffee
I sketched out a rough script & proposal on a
Videofact application for the folks at the New
Picture Crew. The rest of the day was spent
calling CBC, CKUA & the Edmonton Folk
Festival. Knocking on doors...
I also reserved tickets home to Victoria with
Westjet (since Air BC was still on strike) for after
our next leg to High Level... and back. Oh my.
Friday arrived and our show came off without
a hitch. We had Mike Saborin on drums & a
great soundman & P.A. The Edmonton Journal
gave us a great article & placement and CKUA
played the new CD and "Buffalo Taxi" from the
'94 disc (Cam Haydn of the Co-op radio station
spins "Taxi" on a regular basis). Even with all of
this preparation & a relatively mild night we didn't
get the crowd we were hoping for. We still had a
great time playing for the small but mighty crew
that were assembled there that evening. Better
luck next time. Posters, entertainment section
ads & give aways will help.
We headed back to Jeremy's and sampled
some of his fine wine collection down in the
cellar. Before long it was time to cab to the bus
depot to catch the Hound to Grande Prairie.
There we were met by Kelly's friend Ferdie, the
promoter for our show in High Level (another 5
hours to the north). The miles blended into a blur
as we sped through the cold grey north jammed
into Ferdie's girlfriend's car with all our guitars &
We arrived in time to set up & play. The
MacKenzie Music Society had rented a P.A. of
somewhat dubious quality and it had the
annoying habit of cutting out every now & then.
But we had made it there, played our show, and
after the dust had settled, made our guarantee.
Kelly went off to visit with Ferdie & Celeste and I
checked into the hotel and headed for the
cabaret. Somebody's got to do the research!
I was surprised to see a full service rock room
seating about 300 with high production onstage.
Fog, strobes, huge in-house P.A. and a kick-ass
rock unit called KIDD COUNTRY. With a band
name like that I expected tunes from his
Garthness and the like, but was amused to hear
them cranking out "Enter Sandman" from
Metallica and a note perfect version of Pink
Floyd's "Just Another Brick in the Wall". Fatigue
was setting in as I returned to my room to nap
prior to backtracking the steps of what was
rapidly becoming yesterday. Ferdie & Kelly
arrived before daybreak with a late model
Explorer and after breakfast we drove south to
catch the everlovin' Hound back to Edmonton.
We got in at 8:pm and were met by my stalwart
We spent a relaxing evening with the Sagar
family and retired early in preparation for a
7:30am flight from Edmonton International. The
cab arrived at 5:30 and soon Kelly & I were flying
into Victoria. We were met at the airport by my
wife MaryAnn. Kelly collected his car and left that
day for his place in Nelson. MaryAnn & I got a
room near the airport and the next morning I
dropped her off back at the airport where she
caught a flight to Mexico. I went home, collected
my daughter & the family pooch and settled in to
analyze events of the past two weeks. Why do we
Note: Monte Nordstrom has produced over 75 demos and has recorded 8 albums to
date (Nov '99). He performs regularly at numerous venues on Canada's West Coast.
Email Monte at:
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