Blues Traveler will always hold a special place in my heart because of how I first got turned on to their music. I was a freshman in college when their first record was released. I had a copy of it on tape. “But Anyway” was getting a lot of airplay on 97X, the college radio station at Miami (just think of that scene from “Rain Man”):
So, when the word spread that Blues Traveler was playing outside of a fraternity house for free, I had to check it out. As an 18-year-old freshman, it was about as cool a scene as you could imagine. Here was this band, setting up in the street, with thousands of people all over the place trying to position themselves for the best view.
They launched into “But Anyway.” It was loud. Really loud. They even had professional lights mounted on the side of the fraternity (or maybe I just thought they did). John Popper was blasting his harmonica across the normally staid streets of Oxford, Ohio. People were dancing. It was a trippy scene.
But just as quickly as it began, it was over. The cops pulled the plug after just one song. Someone, probably a lot of people, complained. It was too loud. People were drinking in the street. It was chaos! It was glorious. And, even better, to my knowledge it wasn’t captured by anyone on videotape (no cell cameras in 1990, sorry) and it’s nowhere to be found on YouTube.
For anyone unfamiliar with the song, here it is:
A year later Blues Traveler returned and played Millett Hall. Another up and coming band, Widespread Panic, was the opening act. And yes, tickets were $12.50.
Fast forward to 2015. I have to admit, I largely lost track of Blues Traveler over the years. They scored a big Top 40 hit (peaking at #8) with “Runaround” in 1994, and I did see them in the HORDE festival around that time, but other than that, I didn’t really pay much attention to their career.
But now this.
Looking past the actual music on their latest release, in which they make questionable decisions like partnering up with Hanson and a member of NSYNC to play faux reggae/pop songs, Blues Traveler is now offering a variety of things for sale beyond the normal digital download/CD/vinyl packages.
Want to take a harmonic lesson from John Popper over Skype? It’s yours for $1,000 (but hurry, as of this writing there were only two left). If you want a music lesson from anyone else in the band, also via Skype for 30 minutes, it will only set you back $500 (take your time thinking about that one, there are still seven left).
It gets weirder.
Want to jam with the band, live, onstage, during one of their shows? That’s $2,000. Want to take it a step farther? Your band can actually open for Blues Traveler for a cool $5,000. What if you have a song that you really want to have John Popper play harmonica on? Send $5,000 via paypal, and it will happen.
And then, for the truly deep pocketed spenders, there’s this: Blues Traveler will come to you and play a private show for $50,000.
That would buy a lot of patchouli.
It strikes me that maybe the guys in Blues Traveler are having a musical midlife crisis. There’s plenty of precedent for that. “Tattoo You” anyone? How about “Hearts of Fire” or just about anything Paul McCartney put out in the 1980s.
Now, to be fair, Blues Traveler is far from the first band to offer unique opportunities to fans for a profit. There’s plenty of officially sanctioned goofy shit out there. And even the biggest names in the game (I’m looking at you Bob Dylan) have offered themselves up to private gigs for the right price.
This article about that is over a year old, but you get the picture. Hey, back then you could have booked Blues Traveler for less than $40,000!
Who knows, maybe someday Dylan will offer harmonica lessons over Skype, or you’ll be able to pay to apply makeup to KISS, or light Willie Nelson’s joint backstage.
For me, I just want to enjoy the music. I spend enough money on that. I don’t need to drop hundreds (or thousands) to have John Popper mow my grass while playing harmonica.
After all, as Blues Traveler themselves sang, “It won’t mean a thing in a hundred years.”