Musicians' Resource Directory
Quantum physics. International finance. Tort reform. Tour booking.
Of all of the duties of being a professional musician, few are more mind-cramping than setting up a national tour. On top of all the logistics and preparation is the tough task of finding a ride reliable enough to get you from Tacoma to Tucson to Tallahassee and back. For most bands, that means purchasing a vehicle of some sort, usually a hand-me-down van bought from another band and paid for with bar tips. While a used ride will come infused with that wonderfully mysterious, lived-in smell, it also comes with a more pressing question: Will this clunker make it over the next hill before the transmission drops out?
Renting was previously a difficult option for most bands because of cost and notoriously crappy customer service, but a five-year-old company founded by musicians for musicians addresses that problem directly. Bandago, based in San Francisco with offices in Seattle, L.A., and Pennsylvania, is the second career of former Creeper Lagoon frontman Sharky Laguana. Toward the end of his touring days, in the throes of a 23-hour cross-country sprint that resulted from a true-life tour horror story (stuck for 10 days in Nevada with a broken-down rental, missing paying gigs every night), Laguana had a revelation.
"I was watching the sun come up after the second night and I thought, 'There's gotta be a better way,'" he says. From that moment, and Sharky's experience and passion, Bandago was born. "It's a labor of love in some aspects," he says. "It's not a nonprofit but it's also not Charles Schwab."
Unlike other national companies that charge exorbitant prices for exceeding allotted mileage—usually 100 miles a day—Bandago allows 250 miles and offers accurate quotes based on tour itineraries. It's also the only rental company in America with Dodge Sprinters in its fleet. Popular in Europe for years, diesel-powered Sprinters have standing room, captain's chairs, and—perhaps most importantly—a separate storage compartment at the back of the van. A remote keychain alarm can be carried into the venue or hotel and goes off wherever you are if the alarm is triggered. And all of Bandago's vehicles come with the necessary diversions for spending weeks on the road: DVD players, Xboxes, and iPod support.
The list of clients on the company's website is a rock and hiphop who's who. "We've done everybody from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Macy Gray, all the way down to bands that just started last week," Sharky says. No matter what the band's profile, everybody gets the same musician-friendly rate, which hasn't changed since the company started.
"I'm a musician, everyone that works for the company is a musician," Sharky says. "I'm in love with music, and I love helping out other bands, helping them get on the road. I love being in a position to facilitate someone having a really good tour. It's a real honor."