What I Learned Selling Merch at a Big Head Todd and the Monsters Show
Credentials for Big Head Todd and the Monsters' New Year's Eve show included a photo of the band on its first tour, in 1987.
Local music fans have power. We can make bands and we can break them. When we go to shows, spread the word, buy merch and even post music on social media, we help them grow.
Last weekend, I worked the merch table for Big Head Todd and the Monsters' New Year's Eve show at Ophelia's Electric Soapbox. A friend of mine is part of the band's management team and offered me the gig. Big Head Todd may not be my sonic cup of tea, but I respect the group and was honored to spend the evening working such an intimate show.
Big Head Todd formed in this once-small cowtown more than thirty years ago. In case you need a refresher course, peruse Westword's 10,000-plus articles mentioning the band. In short, the homegrown act has spent the last few decades making records and touring the world, even selling out the cruise ship circuit. Big Head Todd blew up before Denver's latest economic boom, and to many who have lived in Colorado for a long time, the band is still a big deal.
Ophelia's is a fairly small venue for such an act, and intimacy is what fans purchased when they ponied up $100 per ticket. The people at that show weren't just run-of-the-mill music lovers out for a night on the town. They were Big Head Todd fanatics, so much so that they cornered me, a lowly, random merch girl, and told me all about it. Not that it was scary. On the contrary, it was charming. Of all the shows I've worked from many sides of the industry, I have never come across fans who wanted to tell me, in depth, about all of the times they had seen a band and why it was important.
One woman told me Big Head Todd played in her high school's gymnasium in a Colorado mountain town decades earlier. Another woman stood at the merch table for ten minutes explaining in exquisite detail the look of each Big Head Todd shirt she had ever purchased over the years and which tours she had seen the band on. Others claimed that Big Head Todd is the greatest bar band ever, because early on, the musicians could capture a crowd's attention over the din of clinking beer mugs and chatty pool shooters. At one point, a gentleman bought four of his friends matching Big Head Todd shirts to commemorate how they brought in 2017 with their favorite band.
The best story came from a fan who wanted to make sure I knew she didn't just live in Colorado; she was from here. When I told her that I, too, was born and raised here, she hugged me and begged that I pass on her gratitude to the band. What for? Because when she tried to order tickets through the fan club's website, there was a glitch and she couldn't get them. Not too long after, a person from the band's crew called her on the phone personally and made sure she had finally received her tickets. This simple gesture reaffirmed her investment in the band.
Bands and their admirers have a special relationship. That Big Head Todd was from Denver mattered to its fans — especially those who had followed the act from its earliest years.
When you show up for unknown bands' concerts, promote their shows or buy their merch, you're contributing to their success. Any Denver musician could be the next Big Head Todd. By seeking out new music and promoting it, you just might help make that happen.
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