Over the span of 40 days, I tried something I have never done before. I took to the road and hosted seven shows of The Meetinghouse in seven different places in four states. I learned a lot, I paid all my bills, I alternated between exhilaration and disappointment, I ended up worn out, and I spent considerable time thinking how to make a Tangle Tour of ‘24 a better version of what happened this fall.
I choose my 2023 locations based on who I know in these locales. Turned out I don’t know enough people in Greenville SC and Raleigh NC as our attendance in both places was very low. Top attendance registered in Nashville, mostly because we provided a church their Wednesday evening program but also because high school friends from Murray and St Louis showed up and that was nice. Hendersonville was also well attended because the Jewish synagogue came to support their cantor and my Baptist congregation came to support their pastor—me! Both of these places drew more than 40 people, with Campbellsville, Owensboro, and Louisville attracting about two dozen each. So total attendance was right on my projection—about 150 total. Plus program personnel.
Attendance would have been much better had we time, money, and personnel to do proper promotion and publicity. We needed, first, planning further in advance, second, use of established promotion platforms (newspapers, radio, television, etc), and third, items designed for promotion, like a Tangle Tour poster and website.
Preliminary figures show total expenses of the tour to be approximately $36,000. This includes travel, hotels, food, venues, music, videography, and materials (plus my stipend of $1,000 per month to plan and manage the Tour). Not bad, considering I traveled with my sons Allan and Ike, and with my wife Jan. This figure does not include post tour video editing to produce three Tour videos, tasks which are just now beginning. Most of the tour videos are now posted on my YouTube channel and also on TheMeetinghouse.net site.
Throughout the Tangle Tour, I used musicians from each region. This included three bands, one duo, and three solo performers. This proved extremely popular and affordable. Brassfield in Nashville was the best, no doubt because they are a professional full time performance group. But I must give a shout-out to the self-styled Ron’s Band of Durham who came to Raleigh and played nothing but John Prine!
Artist Ike Moody was consistently the strongest feature of the programs. His original art, created specifically for this Tour, was large, colorful, and powerful. His stories, told with great enthusiasm and energy, were compelling, covering the full range of life’s drama—addiction and recovery, crime and punishment, friendship and isolation, danger and death, and art and imagination.
The central feature of the Tangle Tour of ‘23 was the seven interviews I conducted and recorded. These featured a scholar publishing a new book, a minister led by visions, a minister on the front lines of advocacy and change, a professor writing about religion and race, two lawyers describing their spiritual and professional journeys, and a cantor introducing the rest of us to the preparation and delivery of synagogue leadership (ending up with a plan for joint worship between his Jewish congregation and my Baptist congregation).
As I look to the new year, I have in mind Tangles in places like Lexington, Birmingham, Austin, St Simons Island, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, Springfield, Illinois, plus returning to some ‘23 sites. But the key to Tangle success in any of these places is identifying and securing compelling interview guests that will draw an audience. I am working on that now but welcome any help from anybody.
I certainly will spread out the schedule, to one per month, and will use throughout the Tour the same videographer and management team. Regional musicians worked well, and I will stay with that. I need a photographer, a producer, and a publicist. But all that takes money, more money than the first Tour, and I will see how that might happen.
Stay tuned for more news about The Tangle Tour of ‘24.