All summer long, I have been taking you to the front of the stage, to the VIP rooms and the after parties with some of the hottest rock bands to come through the area.
My final destination was to be in Terre Haute, where I would meet up with one of my personal favorites in Digital Summer.
In a typical show review, I would take you through a band’s set list, fan interaction and offer up a photo set. A virtual ticket to the show. Except this time, there was no show. Not even a VIP room, an after party or even a venue. Even the headliners on this tour, 12 Stones, were somewhere on their way to Indianapolis with supporting bands Blameshift and Throwing Gravity close by.
So what happened? Well, according to Digital Summer lead singer Kyle Winterstein during an impromptu vent session over a plate of appetizers at a Terre Haute Applebee’s (yes, you read that right), not having a competent booking agent came up several venomous times. The tour has already had two show cancellations (Indianapolis and Terre Haute) and will incur another in Virginia later this month.
So, here is why this story carries further than just a “sorry” and “hope to see you next time.” Rather than moving onto the next stop, which was Cleveland after driving eight hours from Des Moines, Iowa, to Indiana, Digital Summer honored their word. Having a stop on the tour means something to the band, and respecting their fans is at the top of the list. Applebee’s became the new interview location, and thus a chance to gain unique and incredible access to one of the rising bands on the rock scene.
“Most bands, it would be easy to blow people off, ‘sorry man’ if a show was cancelled,” started Ian Winterstein, rhythm guitarist. “If we tell someone we are going to do something, we make sure it gets done.
“In that same sense, if a fan is going to take the time to drive to a show, spend the money on a ticket, buy a T-shirt, food, beer…they spent the money for an experience. If they want to hang out and get something signed, we owe that to them. Without the fans there, there is no reason to do a show. We are not above anybody.”
The band itself is touring in support of their Aug. 7 release of ‘Breaking Point’, Digital Summer’s third full-length album. While I could go on and on about how good the songs are, just read a review here, and pick up a copy of the CD here. The first single off the record, “Forget You”, has an old friend in Clint Lowery from Sevendust offering guitar work for the track. Need any more incentive to take a listen? Well, the album was funded through a Kickstarter campaign, which fans literally donated to Digital Summer in exchange for CDs, shirts, prize packages and so forth based on the level of donation. The initial goal was $25,000. They reached it. Then $30,000. Once the deadline passed, the band had received over $50,000 from their fans, more than enough to produce the album and facilitate a tour.
“I think we have always been very personable, that’s what we are about,” said Anthony “Guido” Hernandez, bassist for DS. “We want to show that. We will take time out, hang with fans. With the Kickstarter campaign, it comes full circle because the fans are what got us here.”
So, what’s it like to hang with a band without an itinerary? It really was like hanging with old friends you haven’t seen in a while. Aside from some tattoos and Guido’s mohawk, they ordered dollar margaritas and two for $20 dinners just like you and I do. Drummer Ben Anderson was very quiet and unassuming. Guitarist Jon Stephenson was as personable as anyone at the table, and would look me in the eye every time we spoke. Ian seemed to be the co-spokesperson of the group, willing to answer any question I had, as did Guido. Kyle was very friendly, but spent most of the time on his cell phone outside the band’s rolling Ford home, “trying to make a few extra bucks.” Kyle was very informative about the process of promoting an album and tour, which the band handles itself. From booking to answering all of the fan emails, posting on the social media pages, to even calling media members directly when plans aren’t working as scheduled.
It’s not that bands don’t respect their fans. Most encounters I have had this summer, the guys get it. What sets Digital Summer apart from a lot of the other outfits I have met over the years, is once the tour is over, they go back to work. Not in the studio, but literally back to work. Ian is a paramedic and Kyle is a firefighter. Guido is a college student at Arizona State University. Jon works for Ben’s mother at an office. Ben also has a job in greater Phoenix.
“After this round of touring, we go home for a little bit, then tour again this fall,” Ian said. “It’s hard to say. There is no deadline, not like a project at school and you get it done. You’re always growing. As a band, when are we satisfied, when are we going further…”
Continued Guido, “The Kickstarter thing gave us a chance to keep this ball rolling. Gain some momentum so we can do this full-time without having all the jobs and schooling back home. We’re doing what we love, it’s been an incredible experience.”