How to Get Your (Developing) Band Out of Town: Hound Goes to Chicago

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  • How to Get Your (Developing) Band Out of Town: Hound Goes to Chicago
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    How to Get Your (Developing) Band Out of Town: Hound Goes to Chicago
    Published: May 29, 2024

    My intent is for this piece to serve as a guide for those interested or involved in the DIY booking / tour managing process – a collective knowledge (in my successes and failures) throughout my five years experience within the DIY music space.

    I’ve included intricate details and photos from a recording and one-stop tour in Chicago, IL that I booked for the rising post hardcore group from Charleston, SC, Hound. 

    This May I traveled to Chicago with Hound, who were just announced as the opening act at the fifth annual Extra Chill Fest taking place August 10th at the Charleston Pour House.

    I’ve been Hound’s acting manager since moving back to Charleston from Denver in August, including members Alex Brouwer (drums), Connor Stephens (guitar), Blake Ryan (vocals/guitar), and Jackson Hudson-Jacoby (bass). 

    Our purpose in making the trip to Chicago was to record the group’s double-single “Score One for New York / Glow” set to be included on the band’s first LP. I booked them a time slot at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio with Brooks Hannon, an old friend from Charleston. Albini sadly passed away on May 7th, shortly after our trip. We did not get to meet him but we were in awe of the legendary space where we were recording.

    Hound at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio, May 2024.

    The members of Hound have always been admirers of Steve Albini’s discography of work, surpassing much further than his music catalogs, Chicago has been a topic of conversation for the band since they formed at the start of 2023. 

    We received kosher windy city hospitality, caught up with some old friends, and experienced a true Chicago-infused punk weekend; but none of this came without some tedious planning to ensure a successful and profitable trip. 

    Utilizing Your Connections

    Interpersonal relationships are an essential pillar of your index of contacts, that allow for not only new opportunities but are also probable to come with referrals. If you miss one pillar, the rest stacked on top will crumble – you can’t have one without the other. 

    In the music industry the line between personal and professional relationships are relatively blurred. Because music (live music specifically) occurs in social environments, work is always more than just work – people are drinking, smoking, and chatting, but also getting the job done. Personally speaking, all of my friends are also involved in the Charleston music/entertainment industry in some fashion, and from what I know about this line of work it’s the same for many others. 

    Hound in Chicago, May 2024.

    But the one thing I’ve taken away that prioritizes anything else is that there are a lot of people who can do your job (managing a band, tour managing, photography) in this saturated job market. The real test lies in how you’re able to communicate and maneuver in an array of situations, ranging from things going exactly to plan, to being able to resolve the last-minute chaotic shitstorms that come along with the gig.

    How enjoyable are you to be around? How enjoyable is the band you’re working with? When we’re talking about spending long periods of time together, these questions are important to ask yourself. We all value compatibility, respect, and communication in romantic relationships – why should you treat your job any different?

    Brooks Hannon: The Chi-Town Connection

    Working with Brooks Hannon at Electrical Audio.

    With all of that being said, we wouldn’t have had such a smooth experience without the help of our Chi-town connection, Brooks Hannon, who is a longtime friend from the Charleston scene. 

    Brooks is a multi-instrumentalist, audio engineer, and vocalist who made the jump to Chicago from LA a couple years ago. Brooks grew up with Brouwer and Stephens in James Island along with the few working together on numerous projects over the years. When Hannon made the offer to host the crew and engineer the tracks at a friendly rate, we jumped at the opportunity. 

    Hannon has a self-built studio in the basement of his home in the Ukrainian Village, which he rents out from time to time, when free from engineering at Electrical Audio.

    Brooks’ home studio in the Ukranian Village of Chicago.

    Booking: Traditional vs. DIY Venues

    While the priority of our trip was to record the double-single at Electrical Audio, I also wanted to take full advantage of our travels to expand the band’s following and turn a profit. A flight from Charleston to Chicago is expensive enough to warrant a visit longer than 1-2 days, so we made the time worthwhile by adding a show at DIY venue The Spice Rack to the mix.

    When working with a newer band that’s in the process of releasing their first few records and are new to touring, it’s vital to remain realistic with yourself and the band about where they’re currently at. Part of this is the choice between traditional and DIY venues. It can be difficult for an out of town band to land a slot at a traditional venue, especially if said venue is owned by Live Nation or Ticketmaster, much less draw a crowd in a city where they have no following. 

    Hound at The Spice Rack in Urbana, Illinois.

    For this reason, DIY venues are always my go-to when booking in a city where a band has little to no following. Promo costs are close to none for the bands as house show venues have a reputation of bringing in their own loyal crowd, taking the weight and stress away from a touring band that has no guarantee of attracting an audience.

    At a traditional venue, production fees range anywhere from $200-$500 (more depending on the venue) after paying out the bar, sound guy, door, etc –  it can get extensive. Factoring in the promotional costs it would take to bring a crowd to Hound, a fresh project still in development of their first album, and without a palpable following outside of the Carolinas, booking them at a DIY venue was an easy choice. 

    How to Book a DIY Venue

    Sold out show at The Spice Rack in Urbana, Illinois.

    Similar to booking with a traditional venue, the process begins by throwing countless darts at the most active target, waiting for one to stick. Personally, this part of the booking process is my most dreaded; however, it was to my surprise that while searching for a DIY venue in the Chicago area (via Instagram), the experience was swift and completely interconnected. 

    A great place to begin your DIY search is to search a specific (traditional) venue on Instagram and dive into the deep hole of the ‘Suggested Users’ button. That will take you to an array of bands that follow the venue, leading to other places they’ve played, and so on. This will take days, weeks, sometimes months if you’re planning that early on. Have your ‘press kit’ prepared along with the mental capacity to keep your line of communication open at all times (email, dms, etc.) 

    Traveling out of town for a house show at The Spice Rack.

    I quickly discovered that if we wanted a house show spot it was necessary to travel outside the parameters of the city, being that all the [operating] house venues I found were nowhere within an hour radius of downtown.

    After reaching out to various accounts in the Urbana area (about 2 hours from Chicago by train), specifically spots around The University of Illinois – Urbana, I connected the dots that more than four venue owners I was in contact with were all in the same band (Stańczyk). I’d never seen such a lively and bonded house show culture before – it was revitalizing. 

    When in the process of nailing down a date and securing a lineup, I knew Hound wanted to travel in May – which luckily aligned completely with The Spice Rack’s availability. Turns out the first weekend of May was the last round for a majority of house shows in the area (four venues).

    After operating for more than three years, the majority of the tenants were graduating, leaving Friday May 3rd — the day of our show — the last viable date for booking. 

    The Spice Rack’s consideration of other shows in the area was their first priority – to ensure fellow bands/venues were able to attract a decent crowd without their competition, they considered door/showtimes indefinitely. The venue configured the entire bill for the show (almost never the case with traditional venues) making Hound the lead touring band alongside all locals. 

    Hound performs at the final Spice Rack Show, May 3rd 2024.

    Arriving in Chicago (May 1st)

    As I mentioned, we wanted to make the most of our short trip to Chicago, so we spent some time exploring the city. Hound and I spent the majority of our time in the Ukrainian Village (a.k.a. “The new Brooklyn”) – which gave me an immediate sense of a second home with an extensive history of punk music, resilience, and overall aura of absolute friendliness. I took a bunch of photos while we explored and you can see a gallery below. 

    Recording at Electrical Audio (May 2nd)

    Nestled a few miles east of Wrigley Field, we spent the entire day on May 2nd recording at Electrical Audio, the two-studio hub opened by the late Steve Albini in 1997. I also took many photos during these recording sessions, which can be seen in the gallery below.

    With an emphasis on engineering, not producing, Albini’s technique lives on as an aeonian staple in challenging the industry’s ‘norms’. Remembered by his outspoken criticism towards the whales that dominate the typical and all the unnecessary “flashy shit” that comes with it, Albini will forever be remembered as one of the most commemorated musicians and unparalleled audio engineers known to underground alternative music. 

    Albini’s most recognizable work is with renowned groups such as Nirvana, Pixies, Page and Plant, The Breeders, and so on. 

    See photos from our recording session in the gallery below.

    Chicago to Urbana (May 3rd) 

    Our Amtrak journey from downtown Chicago to the venue in Urbana was a swift two hours, accompanied by some mini bottles and card games. We were sure to arrive early to the train station, because in this case, if we had missed the train, we would have also missed the show. 

    Hound at The Spice Rack

    We arrived at the Spice Rack and while trying to further gather a feel for the venue’s surroundings I meandered across the street to another house show (The Cosmo) that also attracted a hefty crowd. I stayed for 15 minutes or so while waiting for my street tacos from the food truck parked in the neighborhood, gathered the owner’s info for future touring connections and returned to The Spice Rack

    The Spice Rack hit capacity that night and all the bands walked away with a decent chunk of change, making for a successful night for Hound. We could have done even better if we had brought merch, but Hound had sold out prior to the trip. 

    Always bring merch when you can. It’s great passive income on the road, free advertising, and expands your following outside of your hometown and gets people asking “who’s that band?”

    We traveled light from Charleston, and thankfully all of the gear we needed was collectively backlined by the four other bands performing. Headliners from the show, Stanćzyk, offered up their place (five minute walk away from The Spice Rack) for us to crash, who had also thrown their very last house show the weekend prior. 

    See more photos from the show below.

    The Chicago Music Scene: Closing Thoughts

    Say what you will about the flyover states – Chicago’s rock scene stands out among the EDM-dominated music scenes of the midwest. 

    After spending a year in Denver, CO, my perspective of the midwestern music space was tainted. An over-saturated EDM market that dominates the city’s live music scene on every plane possible. Whether you wanted to spend $10 or $80, chances are 95% of shows only involve a laptop and two white guys behind it. 

    Chicago proved to be a hardcore hub for DIY artists, with a textured community centered around cultural preservation, quality underground music and down to earth people who just wanna have a good time. 

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