PETROL-FIEDGasoline prices keep going up, and no one seems to know when or if they'll ever come down. Though everyone with a driver license is feeling the pinch of $30-50 fill-ups, touring bands are getting hit especially hard. Dozens of Austin bands tour regularly, but since most don't have any kind of label support, they wind up paying for their trips entirely out of pocket.
"Now it takes about $90 to fill up a 15-passenger van, which are terrible on mileage to begin with," reports singer-songwriter Jeff Klein, who says he'll try to cut costs on his next jaunt by "tour-pooling" with Joseph Arthur. Benjamin Howard of Youngmond Grand estimates they spent $250 to go 1,400 miles to and from the recent North vs. South festival in Lawrence, Kan.; last year, the same amount of money could take them 1,000 miles farther to and from Tucson. If Gorch Fock hadn't saved in advance for its recent West Coast trip, "we never would have survived," says drummer Jason Morales, who saw prices well over $3 per gallon.
So how do bands survive? Some raise their asking price, or pass the hat among friends and family before setting out. Others are very interested in the new biodiesel fuel. Milton Mapes singer Greg Vanderpool says finding alternative streams of income is crucial: "We were on one of those Starbucks compilations this year, and that put enough money in our account to allow us to go out and play."
If it gets much worse, reckons Moonlight Towers guitarist Jacob Schulze, there's no telling what might happen. "Maybe we'll have to rotate who gets to eat," he says. "Like, every third day, one of us puts their per diem in the gas tank."