“Tag’s Deal”- or How I Became a Concert Promoter (for those too timid to ask)

I look forward to July 20 with some trepidation.

No, it’s not because we have Immortal Technique at High Noon on Sunday. We do hip hop shows on a fairly regular basis, and we generally have less problems – the occasional obnoxious tag (as in graffiti) notwithstanding – than, say, at a Yonder Mountain show packed with over-served hippies.

July 20 is the anniversary of my move to Madison twenty years ago. I moved here from Dayton, Ohio to pursue a doctorate in Agricultural Economics under the guidance of Dan Bromley, a thoughtful Natural Resource economist who was also one of the few remaining expositors of the Institutional School of economics. Institutional Economics, with its holistic multidisciplinary approach, offered an alluring respite from the arid confines of neo-classical orthodoxy and its extreme reliance on mathematical equations and statistics. I looked forward to studying with Dan in the hopes that my interest in economics as a means of grappling with the complex issues facing us – particularly global environmental crises — would lead to a career in academia.

Man plans, God laughs. Before I could get to the good stuff, I had to pass muster in the form of prelims, and in order to do that, I had to take classes in Micro, Macro, and Econometrics. My math training upon arrival was minimal – I had never before seen a proof. In short, I was screwed. For the first time in my life, I was a failure.

In retrospect, I should have transferred to Sociology or Political Science, but I tried sticking it out. I could write well, and consequently had a paper published shortly after my arrival. I was invited to present my ideas at a couple of conferences, and I ended up getting featured in a video shot at an academic conference exploring the emerging discipline of Ecological Economics, one that was shown on college campuses across the country, even making its way to the Clinton White House (true story.)

But then more reality set in. I fell in love, hard, only to see it end in a slow-motion train wreck. And my parents died, both of them, within six months of each other. I was in a world of pain.

So I dropped out and became a concert promoter.

I sometimes think I subconsciously started up this business so I could drink on the job, which I did in the early days to good measure. It’s an occupational hazard, one that I now try to avoid, but then it helped me when little else could. Of course, what drinking gave, it took back and then some.

I intended when sitting down to write to ruminate about my early recollections of the Madison music scene, kind of a “then and now” retrospective. I do remember the first time I went to O’Cayz. I can’t remember the band I went to see, but I do remember thinking it was a long walk from campus. I saw Negativland at Club D, Fishbone at Headliners, Mahlathini & the Mahotella Queens and King Sunny Ade & the African Beats at the Barrymore — as many shows as I could fit in while wading through those dense math equations of my early grad school days.

I remember Phil Gnarly & the Tough Guys at the Wagon Wheel, Marques Bovre at the Crystal, the Indigo Girls playing the Terrace in front of what seemed like 6000 people, Lou Reed signing autographs at Club De Wash, the Gomers doing their crazy theme nights, also at Club D.

Bunkys, R& R Station and GS Vigs have all been torn down. Inn Cahoots became The Chamber, which became Mass Appeal, which became the King Club, giving way, most recently, to Woofs. Club de Wash burned down on a miserable February morning, and, not five years later, the same fate took out O’Cayz.

All I can say is thank God for Cathy’s perseverance.

O' Cayz Corral, Post- Fire

O' Cayz Corral, Post- Fire

I’m sitting upstairs at High Noon while I write this, listening to Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles rock out and thinking about how I used to drink Budweiser while waiting for the guys at No Name Printing in the basement of the old Buy ‘n’ Sell — which stood in this very spot — to finish up my flyers so I could go hit State Street.

I wonder what life would have been like as a college professor, if my original intentions upon landing here 20 years ago had been fulfilled. It was my dream to be a public intellectual, to get paid to read and write and think. I still have my regrets, that restless longing for what might have been.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t have had the life experiences I’ve had. I get to chat with Lyle Lovett, hang out with Patti Smith, witness the ongoing explosive genius of an artist like Ryan Adams. It’s not all like that; there’s a lot of endless work, lots of nights like tonight with 50 people in the house and a few hundred shy in the till. But, all in all, it doesn’t suck.

I still remember the first time I drove into Madison, down Park Street until it dead-ended into Lake Mendota, lost and not a little bit scared. I’ve watched the buildings go up, the skyline change, the city grow and prosper. And, I like to think, I’ve grown up and changed with it.

I’m glad I was bad at math and good at rock. And I’m very glad I moved to Madison twenty years ago.

Thanks to all who have supported our shows over the years and continue, so generously, to do so.

Tag Evers

Tag Evers

(If you are on our home page and would like to comment on this or any other entry just click on the title of the blog you want to weigh in on)

20 Responses

  1. hey,
    keep going on this thread. If you can write, write! You surely have a lot of stories, tell them. People dig stories, especially from people who can write.

    Alex

  2. Thanks Alex. I do have a lot of stories. Lots of them. Maybe this is the right venue for sharing them.

    We shall see….

    Meanwhile, thanks so much for your encouragement and support.

  3. This is a terrific post. I always figured you just went to college and got a degree in rock & roll 🙂

  4. Great story. And much thanks for your efforts in bringing rap acts like Immortal Technique to Madison from an old guy who still manages to drag his ass out to as many shows as possible.

  5. I certainly lost enough money when I started to pay for a college degree in rock, and then some.

    Thanks for appreciating political hip hop like Tech. Should be a great show!

    Tag

  6. thanks Tag for sharing your story
    and bringing us all the musical goodness over the years!

  7. Wow. I had no idea the path you traveled and I thank you for sharing. Although you don’t know who I am, when I see you I will have a smile of respect in knowing your story. All the best to you.

  8. Always feel free to introduce yourself. And don’t be afraid to make suggestions as to what artists to bring to town or what causes to support in terms of a benefit. We want to hear from you.

    Thanks for your smiles and encouragement.

    Tag

  9. Good to know more, thanks for sharing!

    Thanks for your work, Madison needs (many) more folks who really care about music.

  10. Great post, Tag! Very interesting and inspiring to hear your story!

    -From someone who’s also bad at math, and trying to be good at rock…

  11. You should definitely try to bring in bands who are just starting to become more and more known like Quietdrive…I totally LOVE them!!

    If you don’t know who they are, last year they were featured on A & E as the background music doing a remake of “Time After Time.”

    If you book them, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell me!
    I saw these guys way before they were famous, and they were even good then.

    🙂

  12. Ataboy, Tag! Keep on keeping on in Madison events.

  13. I think you should rethink your promotion style and be less of a dick when trying not to be a dick.

    • Scott–

      I agree I was a dick last night.

      You and your friend made an assumption that you would get into the second show for free, though at no point did we advertise it as such. They were separate events, contracted, billed and advertised as two different shows. The High Noon, like many venues in town, and across the country, often do two shows in one night.

      We have thought about offering a discount of sorts in these circumstances, and perhaps we will in the future.

      To make up for my poor manners, please accept my apology and the offer of a pair of tickets of equal value to last night’s show.

      Sincerely,

      Tag

  14. Tag-

    Just started reading your blog recently. Curious to know what the first show you promoted was? I seem to remember a very early show at the Barrymore with about 5 bands that ended with Phil Gnarly and the Tough Guys playing a very short drunk set.

    Joel

    • Hi Joel–

      I’ll have to double-check, but I think my first show in Madison was Jefferson Starship featuring Jack Casady, Paul Kantner and Papa John Creach at the Barrymore in the spring on 1993.. It wouldn’t have been the Tough Guys show.

      Thanks for checking out the blog. Please feel free to offer your suggestions.

      Tag

  15. Tag,
    Seems like a waste for you to be an economist. Seems like music is the place to be. Congrats!

  16. Enjoyed reading this Tag. As an agent who’s worked w/you from the beginning I can only say good things. You’re a true gentleman and you have great taste in music. Here’s to another 20 years (if you want to that is…).

  17. I like this, very much. The world of rock music is lucky indeed to have a man like Tag involved.

  18. I like this post, enjoyed this one thanks for putting up.

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