Would it kill you to try something different in your life?
I’m not asking you to skydive from 120,000 feet. All I’m asking is that you give the Ryan Montbleau Band a chance. You must see one of their shows. (And more importantly, hear it.)
They’re heading out on tour in November, and thankfully going as far as Minneapolis. Usually they push all the way to the West Coast, but it’s a shorter loop this time, driving around flyover country to give us Midwesterners a taste of…
Authentic americana? There are many flavors in their music, making it impossible to describe or categorize. But it’s safe to say you’ll certainly like it, if you like good music.
I usually write about their shows after the fact, like last year’s show at The Dakota, but this year I wanted to try winning some hearts and minds beforehand. At least one of you reading this is required to see a show. I think this is a reasonable expectation.
That one person doesn’t count if you’ve already seen them before. You’re probably already a fan. Someone new has to go. (All you old-timers are already planning to go, obviously.)
Here are some of the midwest cities on the tour: Ann Arbor, MI (11/2), Chicago, IL (11/4), Des Moines, IA (11/5-6), Minneapolis, MN (11/7!), Madison, WI (11/09), and Columbus, OH (11/14).
It’s a tough gig, being an independent artist. There is more music than ever, despite the RIAA’s claims that file sharing is destroying music. The internet has made it possible to reach an audience without the blessing of the gatekeepers, but many of these audiences are small, making the economics challenging. Although I doubt that it’s any harder than before to get heard and make your living this way. That is, it has always been a rough road. It’s so hard to live your dreams and do what you truly want to do.
But RMB has been doing it for a while now. They work hard. Their audience is small when compared to the big name brands, but we’re dedicated, and there is a reason for that. These guys are so effing good. The recorded music is fantastic, but as usual, it’s the live shows where you really see it, hear it, and feel it.
I know it’s hard to commit to going out for a show. I love live music, but it’s only RMB and a couple of others that I make the time and effort for. If you tell me about your favorite band, I may be interested, but I’d have to overcome a lot of resistance to go see them. It’s just the way things are. And it’s why the musician’s road is full of Volkswagen-sized potholes.
It’s going to take microphones and stages,
Many people rearranging
what their plans are for the night time
Hope they show up at the right time
And I’ll sing them my song
And I hope they sing along
I know they always sing along in my imagination.
I’ve been a Rush fan for nearly 30 years, but I recently turned down the chance to attend a show on their latest tour. I didn’t want to pay $112 for a seat in a big stadium with crappy acoustics.
With the Ryan Montbleau band, you’ll pay $10 to $20 to see them play in front of a hundred people or more at a classy joint like The Dakota. It’s an immeasurably better way to see and hear a band ply their trade.
Did you read my post about last year’s show, yet? Please do.
I’m not paying $20 per ticket for this year’s show. It’s more like $200 for two tickets, because I’m one of the rabid fans, and fortunate to be in a position where I’m able to support their work. In this case via a PledgeMusic drive that RMB ran earlier this year to finance a new album, For Higher.
(You can read more at the project page about how Ryan came to play and record with session musicians George Porter Jr., Ivan Neville, Anders Osborne, and Simon Lott.)
Web sites like PledgeMusic and Kickstarter are a return to a patronage model, but instead of nobles and Kings, we commoners get to choose our own music. The album project was a huge success; they have a strong tribe. I went for the VIP Package:
You and a friend are invited to the show of your choice as guests of the band. Attend soundcheck and meet the band, plus get two signed CDs, a photo with the band, stickers, and a recording of that night’s show on USB drive.
I’d send them money for nothing in return other than that they keep playing, but this will be a lot of fun, being a “VIP.” I’ve already met most of the guys at various shows. They’re accessible. They’re good people.
I haven’t written about the music so much in this post — the most important part. For more about that, go read the Dakota post. Except that it also fails to quantify the unquantifiable. This is just me trying to get you interested in their story and curious about if the performance can really be all that. It can! These guys play 200 nights a year. They know how to put on a great show.
Now! Hearing is believing. Listen to Ryan covering Bill Withers on the new album, with “Heartbreak Road.”
Be careful not to draw too many conclusions from one or two samples, though. They play a lot of songs, down and up. They jam at their shows, and they groove some slower stuff. Ryan plays a couple of solo tunes. It’s always a good time.
I don’t see how anyone could not have the time of their lives.
If you’re anywhere in the path of their giant tour van, then for the love of god, please, go see them play! You will, yes? Come on, now, give me a “yeah man!”
Here’s another cover song from the new album, to help you say it — no, sing it — yeah, man!
(YouTube: Ryan Montbleau, “Yeah Man”)
You can hear most of their shows streaming live online for free. Try before you buy at RMB Live. They’ve gotten some press in the New York Times, Forbes, and other big publications for this setup, although remember that we don’t need Big Media to tell us what’s cool.
And you can download the shows for any price you want, including $0, from their store. These guys aren’t locking their light up in a box. It’s shining bright for everyone to see. And when you find that you love it, please think about your role in the new and improved world of music that the internet provides us. Support the artists, even if we don’t “have to.” We should want to. You can have it for free, but you may need to pay a little more in the end to make this work. We can have better music! We don’t need rock stars flying on private airplanes and trashing hotel rooms, but we must enable talented artists to earn a decent living.
I hope a bigger audience finds these guys, so they’ll get the attention they deserve and the income they need for a secure future, as a reward for the beautiful music they’re giving us. But maybe they won’t become a household name. Maybe they don’t need to. Maybe it’s the price to be paid. This is organic soul food. It may cost more, but it’s so much better for us than the star-making factory meat grinder. We have to stop wolfing down Cheez-Its.
Let’s try one more song from their previous album, Heavy On the Vine:
(YouTube: Ryan Montbleau Band, “Chariot (I Know)”)
I just want as many people as possible to have the chance to experience this. Forget about the money for a moment. Start with the music. Listen, right now. Then go see the band.
(Now, remember the money? If you feel compelled to run right out and buy an album… for live music, try Live at Life is Good. I’m listening to it right now as I put the finishing touches on this post, and it makes me feel good. Life is good. Sample and buy all of their albums at the RMB Store.)