These tour stats are impressive, but they barely begin to scratch the surface of understanding what it takes to produce a DIY tour with fully independent artists. As he prepares to take his entourage on the fourth #ghostgunsummer road tour in a year, I asked Freddie Bunz to talk about his plans for this run and how he keeps track of all the moving parts.
The Necessity of Touring
The tour will consist of a caravan of three vehicles: one van carrying the nine-person #ghostgunsummer team (a hybrid of Heavy Gun and GhostTown Collective members & their road crew), another van occupied by nine members of Bored. and one car with a filmmaking group from Musical Family Tree. All in all, a grand total of 22 people.
Bunz, the organizer of the tour, didn’t get here over night, though. In fact, he credits Andy D for taking him under his road warrior wing .
“Andy D really did show me a lot. A large part of it is all about making real connections with the people you meet,” Bunz says reflecting on his first time performing on the road.
Building on that momentum, Bunz hit the road again a few months later (this time without Andy D’s guidance) and then again in more recent months. This time around, he’s nearly got it down to a science – right down to the hired driver who doubles as a roadside chef.
Bunz says he never saw himself playing this role (“I thought I was just gonna be like, Freddie Bunz – the artist.”) but one day realized that people won’t just stumble onto his music and become life-long devoted fans on their own.
So he started booking tours because, he says, “That’s what it takes is… leaving here.”
It’s all part of the bigger picture that focuses around building a network of venues and promoters across multiple states and cities. Local fame is great, but Bunz isn’t quick to settle into the idea of working in a bubble, either. And for him, it’s not enough to share Naptown talent with the rest of the country; he wants to bring new styles and sounds to The Circle City, too.
“I used to think, ‘Man! There’s just so much talent here,’ but the truth of it is –there’s dope stuff in every single city on this planet. There are really great, passionate artists of every stroke everywhere you go and I want to be able to feature as much of that as I can.”
Which speaks to the necessity of touring: He has to build that network of contacts that both trust him and who he can trust when it comes to quality, reliable artists so that they can trade dates and share audiences whenever new talent is ready to try their hand at touring.
The Art of Touring
Bunz says he learns something critical every time he and the #ghostgunsummer crew start another adventure on the road. The biggest lesson he learned on the last tour, he says, is timing. Arriving at the destination long before the show starts that night is a crucial part of keeping morale high and stress levels low.
Because of this, they often leave in the middle of the night (this is when having a hired driver comes in handy) and sleep in the van to make sure they comfortably (time wise) get where they need to be the next day. This approach ultimately buys them more chill time on travel days, allowing hour-long rest stops to stretch their legs and make a sandwich out of the cooler.
Which is another key learning Bunz has found only through trial and error: how to stay nourished for cheap while on tour. Fast food catches up quickly with both the wallet and the stomach, so it’s a luxury they reserve for days when they’re most pressed for time.
Instead, the hired driver doubles as a roadside chef and plans as many meals in advance that he possibly can. From smoked, cured meats to pre-boiled, vacuum-sealed pasta – these are all signs that suggest this ain’t these boys’ first rodeo.
But there’s so much more to gain than just how the logistics of moving and feeding bodies works. There are also valuable lessons to be learned about business, communication and networking.
In fact, it’s someone’s job on the #ghostgunsummer road crew to collect the contact information of everyone they meet at every stop on the tour. Then Bunz uses his downtime in the van to connect the very next day on all the appropriate platforms and start working on the next project, before the current one has even concluded.
“I don’t think that there’s ever a bad show,” Bunz says of the unique learning opportunity that is touring. “You might not get the turnout that you want, but something positive happens at every show – whether it’s another artist that you might want to collaborate with or him giving you a lead on another place to book a show. Something positive always comes out of it. It just happens.”
The Success of Touring
Bunz says one of the biggest keys to the success they’ve seen is by finding their niche within mid-level markets – the small-but-large cities that are often overlooked on major tours carrying mainstream acts with big record deals and deep pockets. Noting the willingness of independent artists and promoters to help each other, Bunz says he’s always amazed at how enthusiastic strangers can be when they connect on tour.
“It’s so righteous because people just care about what you’re trying to do. Most people that have pull (like promoters) see it like this: These guys are out here thousands of miles from Indiana doing something their passionate about, not even guaranteed that they’re gonna make fifty bucks. And then they just help you. It might not be money. It might be a place to sleep – and you might be laying like sardines on the floor – but it’s not in the van and that means everything.”
But, ultimately, touring is about connecting with new fans – something Bunz has seen no shortage of, either. This is also a result of the fertile mid-markets they frequent, he says.
“Cities like Augusta, GA; Chattanooga, TN; and Greenville, SC have a good population but they don’t get a lot of stuff coming through,” Bunz says of the warm reception they’ve found in these and other cities across the south.
“People just go out to shows there. That’s a thing that I’ve noticed in other cities: they have venues that people just go to no matter what. They know if the venue has something going on that night, it’s gonna be cool and they just show up.”
The closest he’s seen to something like that – a place that’s truly accessible and approachable by all social circles and musical tastes – in Indianapolis is the HiFi, which is why he’s selected it for their tour kick off show this Monday March 9th.
If you want to help support what Bunz and the rest of the #ghostgunsummer crew are doing, cough up the five bucks (proceeds to help fund food, gas and lodging on the tour) and come give them a good send off.
Curious what tour life is really like?
We are, too. That’s why we’re sending Mojo Minute correspondent Jackie Dee along on the Good Luck In Your Dreams Tour. Keep a close eye on our social media feeds using the hashtag #ghostgunsummer (on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) for updates live from the field until they return home on Sunday March 22nd.
Monday March 9, 8:00 PM – $5
HiFi (1043 Virginia Ave Suite 4)
#GHOSTGUNSUMMER (FREDDIE BUNZ, OREO JONES, GREY GRANITE, SIRIUS BLVCK, JOHN STAMPS, WITH ACE ONE.)
SEDCAIRN ARCHIVES ( FORMERLY DMA )
Drive-By Truckers take to the American and European highways, figuratively speaking, to promote a new edition – English Oceans – to their long standing and ever expanding catalogue.
English Oceans is a full length album spun quickly by the originally-Athens-based five-some during hiatus late last summer. In an industry where careers are built over time, Drive-By Truckers explores evolving sounds while venturing down roads where their familiar southern hospitality meets true musical grit.
It is noted that co-lead guitarist and vocalist Mike Cooley spearheaded this album’s direction with his lyrical input and, more than ever, presence – perhaps giving, for the first time, a fully balanced sound alongside Patterson Hood’s pronounced and popular front.
The record reads like true life, with mature themes wrapped around country chords and that signature twang DBT has become so well known for. ‘Grand Canyon’ and ‘Primer Coast’ are tracks that well represent the cohesive, honest efforts of a band that is almost twenty years old. ‘Natural Light’ may be the most diverse song as it teeters on the edge of the blues with vocals reminiscent of Willie and surprising, two-step guitar and barroom keys.
Southern adages are in a league all their own, and when, come to find, shit shots do count; it is then that suddenly the whole world wants to sing…so cut the apron strings and get on with it already.
You can currently stream the album at Paste Magazine.
The Vogue Theater
Tuesday March 25th
Doors at 7:00 PM; show at 8:00 PM
21 and over
$22 – $25