Jason from El Topo Bookings

Copyright Lies Praet

We found Jason, who is the force behind "El Topo Bookings" and organises shows in Mol, a small city in Belgium. We asked him why and how he makes things happen.

 

So, Jason, tell us something about yourself. Who are you and what do you do for the music scene?

Who am I? Let’s just keep it simple: I’m a 21-year-old male Public Relations student (about to graduate, actually) from the big city of Antwerp who lived in the tiny town of Mol for about half his life. Just like every normal human being I have a few hobbies, and just like most people in the scene, I’ve allowed the hobby “music” to grow into something that could probably be described as an obsession.
As to what I do for the music scene: apart from supporting bands by visiting shows and buying merch, I’m a promoter/booking agent. As El Topo Bookings I put on around 10 ska/punk/reggae/folk shows per year, including a two-day festival, and I book a few short tours. Apart from that I also book bands for Chili Con Rock, a festival hosted by a charity organisition in Mol that I’m a member of.

 

A good show is a good show, regardless of the size of the town it’s in.

Jason, El Topo Bookings.

So you are the force behind "El Topo Bookings", what made you decide to put on shows?

It all started with Chili Con Rock, in fact. I was already involved in that festival before I was asked to help select the line-up. Back then I had been frequenting shows for about a year or so, so people knew I knew a lot of underground acts. That was for Chili Con Rock 2011. That same summer I decided to host an all-day birthday party for myself, featuring 7 bands or so. It was a bit of a mess – I barely knew any of the “technical” stuff, so for instance when bands asked if they could share backline I didn’t have a clue. Rookie mistakes, I guess? It was a lot of fun though, so I thought: “Why not do this more often?”. After all, Mol used to have a pretty big punk scene back in the day – Kickass Records was founded here, for instance. There hadn’t been any punk shows in Mol for about a year and a half, so I figured there was definitely a need for them. It took a while to get started – the first show was in March 2012 – but ever since El Topo’s been growing steadily, so I guess my hunch was correct.

 

Isn't it difficult to get bands to come to a small city (Mol)? How do you find these bands?

I think the size of town doesn’t have much to do with it. If anything, smaller towns are better for small bands – after all, big cities have a tendency to close down small venues. Totally not looking at you, Antwerp. It doesn’t matter that much to bands anyway – a good show is a good show, regardless of the size of the town it’s in. The bands I put on don’t seem to mind anyway, because new bands often come to me because so-and-so of band whatever has been talking me up. That’s one way of getting bands to play Mol, and by far the most satisfying. Apart from that, it’s mostly sending out a shitload of e-mails, either to booking agents or DIY bands, asking them to be put on the mailing list for when they’re ever booking a tour. I find Facebook to be an amazing tool for discovering new bands – just follow a band you like, and when they share an event page for a show they’re playing, check out all bands on the bill. That’s right, all that time I’m staring at Facebook is actually spent productively… or at least some of it.

 

In 5 years, where do you want to be with El Topo Bookings?

I definitely want to find a way to make a living out of music. It would be nice if El Topo Bookings turns out to be that way. The shows themselves probably won’t be what I make money out of, I think I’d prefer to book tours as a job and put on shows on the side. Maybe some combination of the two. Maybe 5 years isn’t enough… Honestly, I don’t know. I definitely want to expand the area I work in, so I can put on shows during the week, which will make it easier to get some bigger bands. In 5 years, I want to be able to get something the size of Mad Caddies – is that too ambitious?

 

Tell us about the funniest thing you have experienced as a booker.

I never really know if I’m supposed to tell this, but I’ve seen the band in question mention it in an interview so I guess they’re fine with it. I once put on a show the day before someone’s birthday. He threw a kegger at midnight, so everyone including the touring band got extremely shitfaced. That band taught me the origin of that expression. Luckily there was no face involved, but there was shit involved… One of the band members had a little accident during the night, and the poor fellow was so embarrassed he couldn’t think of anything but to empty his trousers into my front yard without telling me. Now when I say front yard, remember that I’m a student, so I haven’t moved out yet, and it’s actually my mum’s front yard. I brought the band back to the venue, helped them load in their gear, saw them off and went home, where I was greeted by not-so-happy mum. So embarrassing, but in hindsight it was a pretty hilarious situation. My mum doesn’t think so for some reason.

 

You are organizing El Topo Goes Loco festival, why should we come to this event?

Great atmosphere, amazing bands, fairly cheap booze, yadda yadda yadda. I don’t like to brag, but I feel we (because El Topo Bookings officially works as a two-piece as of a few months ago) have managed to put on a pretty great line-up. It has some established bands, some new ones. It has some danceable ska, some really solid punk and some really sweet reggae. It has some “traditional” ska or punk stuff, some weird genre-mashups. I’m really into the UK ska scene because they tend to mix a lot of genres. There’s ska/deathmetal, ska/hiphop, ska/dubstep… There’s probably ska/deathmetal/hiphop/dubstep. It’s all good! And on top of all that, we’ve found a really solid headliner. The UK skacore giants Random Hand are going into the studio later this year, and they’re not playing very often in 2014 – I think we might even be the only non-UK date this year. It’s pretty exclusive, plus it’s a big band in a tiny venue, so why wouldn’t you come?

 

Thanks for this interview, keep up the good work!

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