In a city where live music is primarily advertised, Pete Monfre was surprised to find local musicians working for free that he left the industry for 10 years in 2006.
Local musicians tended to be underpaid before COVID-19 rocked the music industry, but the fallout from the pandemic has exasperated existing problems. Musician and marketer Monfre knows it: he’s behind that shaking tip pot, trying to make a profit while doing what he loves. He’s tackling the problem with a unique brand of live shows, which go against the grain, mix business and pleasure, and help bring the bacon home.
The shows, called Stories from the Road, are an informal storytelling jam session at the Saxon Pub that encourages interaction between artist and audience.
After a brief hiatus due to lingering pandemic woes, Stories from the Road returned to the Saxon Pub on Saturday. It was the first of 23 back-to-back shows that didn’t sell out, which Monfre attributes to the breakup of not having any shows.
“We called it Stories from the Road – not a band, an experience,” Monfre said. “We’re not going to rehearse, we’re not going to have a list, we’re not going to prepare, every show is unique and you will never see it again.”
Its shows start early at 6 p.m., with a rotating group of musicians playing blues or americana who don’t need to rehearse. This time it featured Mark “Kaz” Kazanoff on saxophone and harmonica, bassist Mark Epstein, drummer Kevin Hall and Adam Pryor on the Hammond organ.
You’ll likely end up spending a bit more than the typical Saxon Pub show, around $ 30 per person, but each show goes directly to supporting the artists who made it.
“Part of the mission was to advocate for fair wages for musicians and to help musicians understand their economic value,” said Monfre. “Now I can afford to pay the musicians a modest guarantee and we call it the Fair Play approach to live music. “
Monfre moved to Austin as a young adult with the intention of “conquering the music industry” in 1981, which he told Austonia he had not done but had met ” a lot of interesting people “. He left Austin to tour for a few years, then moved to Milwaukee, where he continued to play music.
After returning to Austin in 2006, Monfre discovered that some musicians performed shows for free.
“I play Chicago and Michigan and hardcore blues places, and we don’t play for free,” Monfre said. “So I quit for 10 years. There is no reason to play for free if you just get the right model.
Having already tried once to conquer the music industry, Monfre took a business-forward approach for the second time. The model is also aimed at what it believes to be an underserved group: professionals who want to meet like-minded people but also be home by 9 p.m.
CTO for Transformative Technologies David Smith, who has been coming to other Monfre shows since their debut in 2016, said he appreciates the improvised nature of the shows because it reminds him of old Austin.
“The stories of the road go back to the root of what music is: the fact that you can sit and jam, make music with musicians because they understand music, and that is the soul. Austin, ”Smith said. “It really is a celebration of music.”
Monfre said informality is what makes his shows so popular – you’ll hear musicians asking for the key to a song, responding to a request from the crowd, jabbing a cheerful jab, or creating a song from scratch.
“They want to see the sausage being made, it’s really funny, I never would have thought of it,” said Monfre.
Price (right) said he was happy the show ended early so he could return home to Lampasas. (Laura Figi / Australia)
“I am stunned. It didn’t really improve from what we just had – this group was so good, the crowd was so good, ”said Price. “That’s what Austin was like in the ’60s and’ 70s, just everyone throwing it together.”
Stories from the Road returns to the Saxon Pub stage on December 18th with a whole new group of musicians. The show, as always, will start at 6 p.m.