Last year, two young women from Tempe started sneaking into every stop of the Vans Warped Tour to illegally sell a compilation CD that they went into debt to produce. Going a little hungry didn't stop them, and scrounging for gas money didn't discourage them.
Eventually, they got busted. And that's when they got their big break.
In fact, if Melissa Garten and Melissa Rodriguez hadn't ignored the rules, they probably wouldn't be spending this summer following the Warped Tour again -- this time promoting their own 34-date Uproar Stage, with sponsors, a tour bus, and even the Warped founder's blessing.
That's how the employees of Static Management, a five-woman, almost-five-year-old band management company, shifted their careers into high gear -- dropping day jobs and now spending their waking hours working at warp speed, to the point that they're almost impossible to get ahold of.
There's nothing static about them.
"We were winging it, big time," says Melissa Garten, the company's president, a sassy former rocker who talks so fast that her co-workers can barely get in on the conversation. Along with Static employee Melissa Rodriguez, an easygoing brunette, Garten followed the entire Warped Tour last year, sleeping in a Hyundai and sneaking into every show to sell CDs without permission -- "except for when our car broke down halfway through it," she says.
Static Management, which started in Kansas City and relocated to the Valley three years ago along with Garten's former band, Fifteen Minutes Fast, had borrowed the money to press 10,000 copies of a compilation CD promoting music from seven local and seven national bands. Garten and Rodriguez sold them for a dollar apiece, scraping together each day's gas money with the proceeds.
Life on the road was an endurance test. Garten says, "You don't shower, you don't sleep. You drive 10 hours a night, you work 12 hours a day. But it's worth it."
For a while, crashing the shows was a piece of cake. "We'd find the most gullible guy at every door," Garten says. "I would always be on the phone, carrying boxes of CDs, and saying, 'Hey, yeah, I'm almost in.' We did this every day, but then I got busted in Chicago. They were like, 'Who do you work for?'"
Garten says there are more than 450 men on the tour, and maybe 30 women. "That's why we couldn't pull it off last year -- if we were guys in black tee shirts, they never would've caught on to us."
With thousands of CDs to sell -- and pay for -- Garten decided it was time to go legit. Halfway through the tour, she e-mailed tour founder Kevin Lyman to ask for help.
"I was like, 'Okay, look -- we don't have the right to ask you for anything, but we'll do whatever it takes. We'll cook barbecue, we'll strike stages,'" she says. "We had to figure out some way to at least start getting into the shows, because they were detaining us and giving us too hard of a time," she adds, laughing.
Lyman agreed to support them, offering wristbands for daily admission to the shows. Sure, they had been sneaking in, but they were so passionate about helping out young bands. "I don't really get that uptight," Lyman says about discovering Static's unsanctioned project. "I don't run [the tour] like a prison camp."
The relationship paid off this year, when Static Management and Atlanta-based Brand Name Records beat out hundreds of other applicants for the chance to co-produce one of the side stages, called the Uproar Stage. Even more remarkable is that Lyman is allowing them to do it free of charge. "There were like 300 companies that applied for this, and four or so got side stages. It was a big deal, because it's the 10th anniversary year," says Garten. "But we're not making any money off of it -- it's all nonprofit."
The Uproar Stage features 10 acts a day -- from labels such as Victory, Drive-Thru, Equal Vision, and Epitaph -- for 34 consecutive dates of the tour. Local bands Before Braille, Fifteen Minutes Fast, and Not Quite Bernadette are included in the roster for national dates.
In an ironic twist, another company called punkrocks.net is splitting time with Static for its own stage for the first 15 dates of the Warped Tour, including Phoenix -- "So we got the chance to book Arizona bands outside of Phoenix, but not here!" says Kathryn Davenport, a tall blonde with sleek glasses who's been with Static Management since the beginning. The Uproar Stage starts up in mid-July in Vancouver, and then continues through the rest of the tour.
This year, Static's releasing 40,000 copies of its second compilation, Start Some Static Vol. II, which includes tracks from Phoenix hard-core band Last Ten Minutes as well as Chandler emo band After the Burn. In addition, Static is selling I Walk the Line, featuring Before Braille and Not Quite Bernadette along with national acts such as Boys Night Out, Mae, and Fear Before the March of Flames. All of the proceeds will be donated to Hopeline, a suicide prevention hot line.
Lyman speaks highly of the Static gals' efforts. "They're good kids -- they're very thorough," he says. "The biggest thing about this is to let some other ears be involved in the booking process. We had over 2,000 [band] submissions for the tour this year, and I want to make it so that there are still some opportunities out there. And these kids are gonna find some bands that I don't know."
So far, they have a great track record: Six out of the 14 bands on last year's comp got signed to record labels, thanks to the exposure.
"People are kind of watching us because they think that we have an eye on what's up-and-coming," Garten says. With Start Some Static Vol. II, she adds, "We're hoping that in six months, people look at it and go, 'Wow, that was really ahead of its time.'"
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