Why T.O.S.O. Booked Its Music Festival at Its House Rather Than a Venue

T.O.S.O. is Zac White, Evan Dorney, Marc Ellis, and Eric Ellis.
T.O.S.O. is Zac White, Evan Dorney, Marc Ellis, and Eric Ellis.
Elijah LeComte
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Tempe psychedelic grunge-rockers T.O.S.O, are going to throw an epic DIY festival. There will be more than 20 local bands, three stages, visual artists, installations, comedy, and an art garden. With T.O.S.O's infamous stage theatrics, and an attitude of artistic anarchy that will allow bands to do whatever they want, who knows what will happen. The lineup encapsulates a multitude of genres including noise, prog-rock, punk, hip-hop, rap, psych-rock, and folk. This all-ages festival takes place Saturday, January 21 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. in Tempe.

However, this freakish shindig isn't happening at some commercial venue. T.O.S.O has decided to stick to their DIY roots and host the event at their very own venue, at 1011 East Alameda Drive Tempe.  That's right; it's the band's house.

The band chose to throw a music festival at their house rather than a traditional venue so they could create a more open space for performance art, support unknown bands, sidestep the pressure to make money that comes at established venues, and have more control in creating immersive festival grounds.

“[It's not that] we don’t like venues as much, but ... we have the control to make the best-looking and -feeling show at our own house," says T.O.S.O bass player Marc Ellis. "We have the ability to create a world and release people into it. Our aspirations are always in the fantastic and the whimsical, and we try to bring that to an audience. That’s our biggest goal. We want to put something on that no one has seen before, and capture the light we have all found over the years in the DIY scene.”

Outside of comfort and control levels, money is also a concern. Hosting an event like this at a venue requires a lot of overhead. There are building utilities, space rental and/or ticket fees, security staff, sound, and lighting, just to name a few. Venues and promoters need to get paid when operating a space. After all, they expect to make the money back that they pay bands to play. A band will most likely not be booked again by a promoter if it doesn't attract a good crowd. The financial cost means a lot of risk when booking a new artist, which can become very stifling.

Subsequently, house shows and DIY spaces give artists that aren’t very well known, or who don’t have the connections to contact a venue, the opportunity to perform.

At T.O.S.O. Fest, no band will be pressured to draw a certain amount of people, and there is only a $5 ticket fee at the door.

“This is the first show we have even charged a cover at," T.O.S.O frontman Zac White says. "The only reason we are charging this time is to raise money to support the making of our record."

Letting the proverbial freak flag fly in a commercial venue space is also not always easy for a new artist. DIY spaces are generally more laid-back environments suitable to getting weird. T.O.S.O. desired to create a space where artists can fully let loose and perform without feeling hindered by a venue.

“I’m not saying we’re getting too dangerous," Ellis says. "We are just a really open environment for the band to perform to their peak. Here, you have the total freedom to set up your artistic playground. House shows and DIY shows seem more real. They are free, open spaces like back in the old days of rock 'n' roll."

T.O.S.O. hopes this festival will inspire others like the DIY music scene and the bohemian counterculture of Arizona has inspired the band itself. 

“Let’s encourage listeners to consider the entire scenario more than just listening to a band," White says. "Let’s consider why they are there and what they are thinking of, and their place in the big scheme of things. What is popular or what is desired or expected out of an artist is inevitably a reflection of what most people settle or agree upon. It’s unfortunate that there are a lot of stale expectations or ideas in the status quo that persist in the masses about what is expected at a show."

Here's the full lineup for T.O.S.O. Fest:

The Sink or Swim
The Assholes
Gracie Reed and the Sunspots
20 Ft Neon Jesus
Andy Warpigs
From Mars
Tru Barz
Mama Butane
The Dumpster Bros

Live Art by:
Frankie Clock
Kylie Walstad
Kellina Templeton
Sierra Randall
Nathan Schulte
Tom West

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