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In Phoenix you can more readily measure the passage of time by the limited life expectancy of live venues than by the forward projectory of Valley bands. But there's a group that started out playing battles of the bands, bowling alleys and matinee all-ages shows at the Mason Jar, where the residue cigarette smoke from the night before must've stunted group members' growth by at least a few weeks.
In less than five years, Tolerance is on its third album -- and it's sold 600 copies in less than two weeks, completely selling out its initial inventory on CDBaby.com. The band currently has two of the 10 top-selling local CDs and is generating major-label buzz as rabid as the returns on the world's most successful chain letter.
And its rose-colored glasses just got redder: The band has been invited to play at the newest of schmoozathons, the Eat'M Festival -- a South by Southwest with slot machines -- at the end of May. It's being staged at the MGM Grand the same week that VH1 Divas Celine, Cher and Mary J. Blige will step on each other's cues and Jimmy Buffett will preach to the converted. And to put things in perspective, at least two members of Tolerance will not be old enough to attend the La Femme show at the Grand.
To hear Tolerance manager Maria Vassett talk about seeing the band for the first time, you'd think it was a million years ago. "I saw them at the Tempe Bowl," she grins. "Their parents told me to come down and see them. It was amazing. They were 17. Not much younger than now."
You don't get much more concentrated expansion and development than in those just-getting-started wonder years from 15 to 21. Someday a teen band is gonna call its first album Time to Shave, its sophomore effort License to Drive, and follow that up with Who's Drinkin'? I'm Buying! And if they hang around long enough to make Caning the Delivery Boy, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum will have to take out the entire Will Smith wing just to make room.
In fact, Tolerance's first album, Die Mantra, contained no references to shaving more than once a week but less than twice. Instead, nearly every song included at least one sentence punctuated with the word pain. It's no longer available, having long since sold out its 1,200 copies. Imagine how persuasive the then-15-year-olds must've been to close the deal. If you think they sold their CD with boxes of school chocolate, you're not completely wrong.
"We absolutely did!" laughs singer-guitarist Corey Spotts. "We walked around school selling it . . . at a couple of different high schools, had 'em at our shows. Playing all the battles of the bands for all the cities. That's how you get gigs when you're that young, and we'd sell them there. Wherever we could, even out of the back of our bikes.
"We were still trying to find a sound. It was probably more poppy, more Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins," Spotts continues. "Eventually, we released our second CD in 2000, and that's when people really started getting into the band and the fan base started to grow and people were really getting behind us, which was really cool."
Not only did the band acquire management , they developed a proactive fan club that will, as the kids say, "do shit for them." This task force is known as the Tolerance Street Team. It sounds like a bunch of kids with buckets who go out and clean off graffiti, but it's actually a legion of teenagers and young adults working promo for a band they like. (To become a member, fill out a questionnaire at www.tolerance.net.) One member of the Street Team came to the recent CD release party at Bash on Ash all the way from California to shoot live videos that the band will post on its Web site.
A more typical fan is 16-year-old "tolerance guy7" from Gilbert, who got his membership card on 5/11/02 at 4:29 a.m. and posted six times in his first three days, generally on the level of "how is everybody?" and "just saying hi." The newest member of the 300-strong/30,000-hits-a-month team is "punkrawker4488," who was born in 1988, which means you probably own toothbrushes older than he is. His posts number in the zero range, but when the time comes, there's no doubt that "toleranceguy7" and "punkrawker4488" are going to bring in some new recruits. How else can they face their comrades on the message board -- or the message board administrator, who's also a member of their hero band?
Those who marvel at what has happened for the band need only see that its internal orderliness has trickled down to its fans. Nate Nash, the band's bassist, maintains the Web site and electronic press kit and is the message board administrator. Drummer Adam Boyd takes care of all retail consignment, Corey Spotts mans recording/production and is the liaison between management and the band, and guitarist Mark "Marco" Buzard sends out tour publicity.
"We run our band like a business," says Vassett. "Everybody in the band has a specialty. And since no one's dropping the ball, it's turned into this amazing business. To be able to sell out on CDBaby or Amazon without major-label distribution is amazing."