Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hellraisers ball (unedited)

I can't control my gypsy soul.

As the preeminent BulletBoys blogger, you'd think I'd be blogging about the life and times of many mostly forgotten hair bands.

Truth of the matter, I follow the comings and goings of several bands, but I don't go out of my way to see that many of them that do come to town. I'm a fan of Tesla to this day, but I haven't been to one of their concerts in a few years. They draw decent in comparison to some of their hair band brethren, and make a much better living than the BulletBoys, without a doubt.

Thursday night I drove from the Twin Cities to the unspectacular city of Mankato, Minn., for an L.A. Guns concert. I have written about the BulletBoys several times, but the band I've seen live more than any other is L.A. Guns.

I'll spare the L.A. Guns history lesson, and references to their catalog. If you don't know who I'm talking about, you don't care. All you need to know is that using an A to D scale of success during the hair band era, Bon Jovi and Motley Crue are among the A level acts. Tesla is a B level act. L.A. Guns is a C.

The band finds its way to Minnesota annually, sometimes several times in a year, which is ironic since the dudes really do live in the Los Angeles area to this day. Their management and booking is by a St. Paul-based company, which is a lot of the reason why they play gigs in the midwest as often as they do.

I don't have any insider knowledge, but from what I have gleaned over the years is that L.A. Guns flies into an area for a weekend of shows and then heads back to California after two or three nights of gigs. The band doesn't have the support of a major label any more, there's no tour bus traveling across the country. Compared to their late 1980s early 1990s heyday, it's quite a step down. Fans treat them like rock stars, and they have it better than most musicians ever will, but the bloom is off the rose at this point.

My guess is that they draw enough to get paid a few thousand dollars, give or take, per gig. Who pays for their flight back and forth? Who pays for the hotel rooms where they crash each night? Who pays to drive them between cities each night during their weekend jaunt? I assume that's covered by their management, who must get a cut of the fee L.A. Guns collects from each venue.

Since there's no tour bus or cross country tour, I'm also guessing that much of the equipment from night to night is provided by their management. There's no way these guys are taking more than a few guitars with them for three nights of concerts in Minnesota and Iowa.

There's much I don't know, but what I do know is that I still enjoy most of their songs two decades after I they were major label darlings. The irony is that I never got to see the band when they were drawing sellout crowds at huge clubs across the country or opening for bands like AC/DC. After years of touring without the original lead singer, the band reunited in 1999. I finally got to see them live on a Friday night in St. Paul, and for no cover charge. I don't know how that happened, but it did. There was a nice crowd at that unspectacular club. They sold more than a million copies of their second CD, so they still had fans.

And they continue to draw a few hundred people to a show in the Twin Cities. On a Thursday night in Mankato, the crowd was probably 200. It was $10 at the door, $7 in advance. I have no idea how much the bar has to pay to book the band on a Thursday night, but I'd love to see accounting for their night.

Since L.A. Guns performs in the Twin Cities regularly -- perhaps more often than they perform in California at this point -- I can count on seeing them live at least once a year. I once saw them three times in less than three months here in the Twin Cities.

But I had to miss their last show here in the Twin Cities, on Oct. 29, 2010. And it had been more than a year since they last played at a club here in the Twin Cities, so I decided to make a Thursday night road trip to Mankato, as long as the weather wasn't too lousy to drive. It was 75 minutes one way, so it was an easy round trip, especially since I timed my arrival to fall less then 30 minutes before L.A. Guns took the stage. The round trip, including a 14-song set by the band, was barely more than four hours.

That's a minor time commitment, although working for a living makes a Thursday night road trip less than ideal. But I don't have children to worry about or a time clock to punch at a set time every morning, (a blessing and curse of working in the media.) I have a less than glamourous life, I may make less than glamourous choices on a Thursday night in Minnesota, but I have the freedom and ability to hit the road and go hear a band I have enjoyed for two decades. A lot of people can't do that.

Would my life seem empty and meaningless today if I hadn't went to Mankato last night? No. And unlike hardcore music fans, it's not as if I was suffering symptoms of withdrawal from having missed the October show here in the Twin Cities. I simply had a chance to see a band I still enjoy, and I took advantage of it. '

It was a nice luxury to have, and one life doesn't afford me nearly often enough.

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