1996-’97 62+ shows
Again, records are a spotty in the early days. 62 shows in ’96 are accounted for. I’d guess there’s another 20 shows in late ’96 and ’97 that are not in my record books.
Now this was a band in a van that had something going for themselves. Critics darlings, everyone loved them. Main man, Harold Chichester, added instant cool to this band having just split from Columbus’ favorite sons the Royal Crescent Mob. The Mob did tours with The Replacements, Faith No More, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, real deal shit. But their day had come and gone, Harold jumped ship and formed Howlin’ Maggie while their singer David Ellison became a Tour Manager for big bands. More on him later.
Back in the mid 1990’s the mid-west was a hot bed of good original music, lots of bands were getting record deals from Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland and all the touring that Watershed did put me in a position to be the go-to guy for some of these bands. Howlin’ Maggie was the next band in Columbus to get a record deal and I was the only guy in town who could fix a smashed guitar and drive a van, I was hired at $300/week.
Still in a van but somehow this tour seemed like a step up. The bands we were opening for were current and cool like The Afghan Whigs and The Verve Pipe. Those bands drew big crowds and hot hip Indie-rock chics to shows, newer and later late night adventures were going on and my first trips up into Canada, a whole new kind of adventure. This is also when the big summer radio festivals were starting to happen all over the country (except for Columbus). Foo Fighters, No Doubt, Local H, Cracker, Everclear, Garbage were the kinds of bands headlining these shows. Howlin’ Maggie always went on around noon. First or second band of a long long 10 or 15 band festival. Sometimes on the “Second Stage”, and often that second stage was in the parking lot. Still, I had to have my shit together for those quick 15 minute festival set changes or some crusty older Roadie was gonna have me for lunch. Not quite the big time yet but much better and higher profile gigs than in the Watershed days and later in the year we got a Tour Bus. My first, and all of ours’ first Tour Bus… for two whole weeks. After over 500 shows in a van that two weeks felt like I’d made it, like we all made it. I would not see another tour bus for three more years.
In the Summer of ’96 Howlin’ Maggie had a minor hit with “Alcohol” off their record Honeysuckle Strange. I knew it wasn’t just Columbus radio playing them when all these rock stars from the bigger bands at these festivals would watch our set from the side of the stage. Something really seemed to be happening for these guys, and man, when they were ON they were one of the best bands I ever saw OR worked with. Great players, great charisma, great songs. I had a lot of fun touring with them even though I was only breaking even money-wise.
Never quite able to follow up on the obvious buzz they had that Summer of 1996, Howlin’ Maggie lingers in the “what could have been” category. But also that Summer a quick, almost forgettable meeting with a future employer occurred. While at the Toronto Opera House opening for The Afghan Whigs, Robby Takac of the Goo Goo Dolls came to the show. A fan of both bands. Three years later we would met again.