Category Archives: Behind The B3

Behind the B3: On the Road Again

**CAPTAIN’S LOG: SATURDAY, JANUARY 18TH 2013, 2330 hours**

I found the simple life ain’t so simple, when I jumped out on the road – VH

No truer words have been spoken Mr. Roth, no truer words indeed. As a matter of fact I’m on the road with Sugar Free Allstars at this exact moment – heading east on I-40 toward Gallup, New Mexico where we will be playing the last show of a 10 day tour that also included Phoenix, Arizona and Los Angeles, California – so it’s only fitting that I should be thinking about the challenges of touring. Touring is hard physically, mentally and emotionally, but if you want to expand into new markets and build a fanbase outside of your home area you have to do it. It’s fun and exhausting all at the same time. It can be something of a paradox because when you’ve been at home for a long period of time you start itching to get back out on the road, but as soon as you’re on the road you just want to get it all over with and come home. You miss your family, your home, your friends, sleeping in your own bed, home cooked meals, but it’s really fun exploring new places, meeting new people, playing for new fans and old fans you haven’t gotten to see in a while.

Until I had to do it, I never realized just how much work goes into booking a tour. Months of preparation went into putting together this one and it only lasted 10 days. You have to find your venues, make contact with their talent buyers, work out dates that make sense with routing, negotiate a fee, confirm and/or contract the shows, promote the shows (through all social media, emails, reaching out to friends/family in each town, sending posters, etc, etc) and when that’s all done you have to find places to stay while on the road. It is a lot of work and there is never a guarantee that something won’t go wrong along the way, whether it’s issues with the touring vehicle (an all-too-common issue for most bands), shows falling through, band member illness, or any number of problems.

Sounds like more trouble than it’s worth right? Well maybe on paper, but the experiences and benefit gained from touring usually outweigh the amount of work that goes into putting them together. Because we have so many friends, family and fellow Kindie artists that are willing to help in any way they can, it makes all the work so much easier. Just a few examples are: on this tour we didn’t have to worry about having a place to stay in L.A. for our first several days there because our great friend and fellow Kindie musician Heidi Swedberg opened her home to us and even cooked several amazing meals! The venue we played in Santa Monica, McCabe’s, was recommended to us by another good friend and awesome Kindie musician Lucky Diaz – it was through his introduction and referral that we were able to build a relationship with the venue (I also got to catch part of a Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band show at The Grove while in town and man, they rock so hard!). Our new friend and family musician Birdie Mendoza organized a potluck get together with other musicians including David Tobocman where we all got to enjoy great food and make music together. We also met Mista Cookie Jar as well as Rodney Lee from Groove Kid Nation for the first time at our McCabe’s show, and ALL the family musicians mentioned thus far helped promote our appearances – the Kindie community really is like none I’ve experienced before and we thoroughly enjoy all of the personal and professional relationships we have developed on this journey!

So we’re closing in on home and about to finish up this westward run that we’ve been on for the last 10 days. As difficult as it can be to put together and be gone for so long it, was worth it on this trip. We had fantastic shows everywhere we played, moved some merchandise, made some new fans – basically what you hope all tours turn out to be like. That being said, we are so ready to be home and not in a moving vehicle for a good while. But before long we’ll be back out there again, maybe somewhere close to you! Until next time, that’s life on the road from Behind the B3…..


Behind the B3: Expendable Arts

For the last week I had been working on my next blog post which was going to be about Sugar Free Allstars’ recent 10 day tour out West.  That was… until I got home to Oklahoma and learned about OK House Bill 1895.  This bill proposes to cut state funding to the Oklahoma Arts Council by 25% per year for four years, eliminating all funding by 2017.  This is disturbing for numerous reasons. On the grand scale this is sending a message to the nation that the arts aren’t important in my home state. On his blog Representative Cockroft,  who authored the bill, says:

I have nothing against the arts, in fact; quite the contrary. However, I do not support the misuse of taxpayer’s dollars. Every dollar saved from these side projects is a dollar better spent for our education system, state employees, and agencies across Oklahoma.”

Needless to say it’s discouraging when one of your state’s legislators refers to the arts as a “side project”.  In reality, studies have shown time and time again that this “side project” increases students’ intellect and test scores, has a positive impact on local economies, and culturally enriches communities, thereby attracting new businesses and families.

If the motivation behind this bill is purely fiscal responsibility, let’s talk numbers: the Oklahoma Arts Council only receives $4 million per year of the total state budget of $6.8 billion (that’s less than 1/10th of one percent!) and according to a 2010 study by Americans for the Arts, the arts in Oklahoma actually generated $29 million in tax revenue, a $25 million profit.  I’m no financial expert, but I’m not sure it makes much business sense to cut a program that provides a 600% return on its investment.

On the smaller scale this bill would affect me, professionally and personally in my ability to provide for my family.  The first family shows Sugar Free Allstars ever played were for programs funded in part by the Oklahoma Arts Council, so I feel confident in saying we would not be where we are today without them.  More than half of the shows we play in our home state are subsidized by the council in countless libraries, schools and festivals – in many smaller Oklahoma communities it’s the only way kids and families are able to experience live music.  If the arts council isn’t able to help fund these shows they just simply won’t happen, and for SFA that means fewer shows and less family income.  It’s already a full time job finding shows to keep the band busy, and this would greatly reduce our options.  SFA is honored to be included on the Oklahoma Arts Council’s touring roster, which allows schools to apply for a special grant to bring us to their town to play concerts and teach workshops about music theory and history.

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Many of these schools have already lost their arts programs and our visits are an effort to help fulfill their state mandated art education requirement.  Without these grants from OAC, these rural communities wouldn’t be able to have us come visit, decreasing their exposure to the arts.

I’m a lifelong resident of Oklahoma, and I’ll be the first to admit that in the past we haven’t been viewed as the most forward-thinking or culturally-advanced place; but within the last 5 years or so our image has improved. There is a sense of upward momentum and civic pride coupled with support of all things local that is making me increasingly proud of living here.  Then something like this comes along and reminds me that there are still people here and around the country that view the arts (one of the things at the very heart of our cultural renaissance) as expendable.

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The arts are around us everyday, in virtually every aspect of our lives, and yet they are almost always the first thing on the chopping block when it comes to balancing the budget.  The next Oklahoma legislative session begins on February 4th, so it looks like I’ll be contacting my legislator this week to express opposition to this bill.

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I am encouraged to see the outpouring of support for the Oklahoma Arts Council from the community and hopeful that HB 1895 won’t make it past committee.

Sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in from Behind the B3…..

Behind the B3: Who Am I and What Am I Doing In A Kindie Rock Band???

wiserThe Rock Star Dream: name in lights, stadiums packed with screaming fans, partying all night, making millions of dollars…  Awesome, right?!  So how does one end up going from that fantasy to playing shows in libraries and schools for kids and families?  Well I’ll tell you after I introduce myself.  My name is Boom! (I also answer to Wiser, Chris or DaddyDaddyDaddyDaddyDaddy) and I play organ and sing in the funky kindie duo Sugar Free Allstars out of Oklahoma City.  For those of you not familiar with kindie (indie music for kids) it is basically a sub-genre of children’s music that has become a whole movement of creating music that is enjoyable for kids and adults alike.  A phenomenon common to many kindie acts, SFA included, is that they started out playing for “grown ups” (often times in late night establishments) and have somehow found themselves performing kid-friendly music at family events, school assemblies and public libraries instead.

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The first incarnation of Sugar Free Allstars came together in late 2000 and immediately began playing late-night club shows, releasing our first album in 2001.  Many times fans that had kiddos at home would come to shows after buying our albums and tell us how much their little ones liked the music.  It happened often enough that we started tossing around the idea of “one day” releasing a kid’s album.  But not yet, we were too busy living the dream…oh yeah, the Rock Star Dream…only the stadiums packed with screaming fans in reality were more like 10-15 people in a club at the end of the night.  Oh, and the millions of dollars turned out to be maybe $200, but after paying a bar tab and buying gas to get to the next town, more like $100 to split between everyone.  Par-ty!  And so it went, year after year, until late 2006 when Fate intervened. After performing at an all-ages community show, we were approached about playing a tour of Oklahoma City area libraries for their kid’s summer reading program.  We were excited to book the shows and quickly began recording our first kindie album Dos Ninos (released in 2007) in order to have merchandise with subject matter that was appropriate for kids. We were amazed as SFA began to receive attention nationally, seemingly having found our niche playing funky music for families.  Even more encouraging, the first song on the album went to #1 on XM Radio’s Kids Place Live channel. After the surprising success of that first release, the course of our careers was forever altered.

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So there you have it – from bar band to Purveyors of Kindie Rock. The musician life is much more fulfilling now and even slightly more prosperous playing for families rather than in clubs. That being said, it is still a job, and a continuously demanding one at that. I do have an amazing, super supportive wife and incredible 2 year old son who encourage and motivate me to continue pursuing this path. My intent with this column is to provide a behind the scenes look at being a working kindie musician while also figuring out how to be the best PTSAHD (part-time stay at home dad) I can be: sharing the ups and downs, the frustrations and the triumphs, the disappointments and the successes along the way.  This will be your chance to get a glimpse of the reality of this kindie rock business, not just the big fun rock shows.

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 I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences with you from Behind the B3!