True Endeavors Rides Again

I’m back on my own promoting shows as True Endeavors, returning after a long hiatus, and am excited to be announcing our first big show on Monday, November 15.

I had been promoting shows continuously for the better part of three decades, but that all came to a screeching halt with Covid. The concert industry got smacked and has been adjusting in fits and starts, settling into the reality that we can live with the virus provided we all take common-sense precautions, i.e., getting vaccinated, wearing masks, and not being dumb.

A bit of my bio. I promoted my first show in 1978, a fundraiser for Compassion International. A big show I did a year later at Memorial Hall in Dayton, OH, my hometown, set me back four grand. I dropped out of college to paint houses and pay off my debts. I didn’t return to promoting until the early ’90s, after having moved to Madison for grad school. I took a break from my studies and started a company called Tag Team Productions. My first Madison show was in 1993 at the Barrymore with Jefferson Starship, featuring Paul Kantner, Jack Casady, Signe Anderson (the original female vocalist in Jefferson Airplane predating Grace Slick), and special guest Papa John Creach. I remember how Creach, then 75 years old, hunched over backstage in the chilly downstairs dressing room, but stood up straight as an arrow and wailed on his electric violin, stealing the show. Sadly, he died less than a year later.

That show was a big deal for me because Jefferson Airplane, and the Starship and Hot Tuna iterations that followed, put out some of my favorite music when I was a kid. I went on to promote over 300 shows at the Barrymore, including some historic moments. South African artists Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela. Indie rock and punk stalwarts like Television, The Ramones, The Cramps, The Fall, Jesus Lizard, Killdozer, and The Butthole Surfers. Two shows with iconoclast jazz visionary John Zorn. The first time The Blind Boys of Alabama played Madison. A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Souls of Mischief on the same bill. Morphine. Emmylou. Joe Ely, Guy Clark & Robert Earl Keen. One of the last shows ever performed by Uncle Tupelo before the two principals, Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar, split up to start Wilco and Son Volt respectively, both of whom I later presented at the Barrymore.

I did shows all over town, bringing Townes Van Zandt to Club de Wash and Calexico with Neko Case to O’Cayz. Amazing shows at the Pres House with John Renbourn, Lucy Kaplansky, Ted Hawkins, John Hartford, Rodney Crowell, and The Call. By the end of the 90’s I started doing shows under the rubric of True Endeavors, with a distinct mission to raise money for worthy causes whenever we could. We raised $40k in a single night for Progressive Magazine’s centennial celebration with a killer lineup featuring Indigo Girls, Ani DiFranco, and Dar Williams. We raised $10k for the Center for Media and Democracy in a sold-out show at the Barrymore with the legendary Patti Smith.

When Henry Doane purchased the Orpheum and saved it from the wrecking ball, I brought Lucinda Williams to that venue for the inaugural event and followed with many more shows there with artists like Atmospshere, Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Decemberists, Snoop Dogg, George Clinton & P-Funk, and Bon Iver.

All told, I’ve had the pleasure of presenting over 2500 shows in my career, not just in Madison, but in cities all over the Midwest. As I get back into it, I do so with a view toward finding my niche, my place in the challenging and evolving terrain of live entertainment in the age of Covid. There’s a place for me, that much I’m certain. The pandemic has shaken the concert industry, creating renewed space for the independent entrepreneur. My goal is to continue the vision I embraced years ago — raising money for local non-profits whenever possible, putting on kickass entertainment while elevating awareness about important work in our communities.

In other words, doing well by doing good. I hope you’ll join me.