OK, we've been letting out the information slowly over the last several days to both fans and friends that we, the Bilge Pumps, will not be back for the full season of the Texas Renaissance Festival in 2010. It's a bummer, I know, but it just comes down to the ole equation of what we get vs what we have to give up. We love the atmosphere at TRF and the people we work with out there, particularly the cast and the Pride of Bedlam crew who have made us feel at home even though we could have easily been viewed as invaders in their space. We have fun performing our shows and doing the evening pub sing and hanging out after hours and talking with our fans after shows. All of that is the good part. That's what we get out of going there. Now on to the bad part, aka what we have to give up to perform there.
The primary bad part is that the band members all have day jobs and must commute from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area to TRF every weekend. (Roughly 7 hours round-trip) and it really wears you down after a while. Currently, we've just finished week 5 of a 10 weekend run this fall and it feels like we've been traveling forever. The time of year TRF happens in is also a factor as we're forced to give up Halloween and Thanksgiving weekends with our families to perform at the festival. Sharkbait Simon's daughter's birthday also happens during the run of TRF. Not to mention OU-Texas weekend (which is an official holiday in Dallas) TRF also has 2 days of kids days that force me and other members of the band to burn vacation days to go perform at.
It's really a cost-benefit thing. The Bilge Pumps don't really make much money at TRF. I'm not talking salary or anything like that. I'm talking about tips and sales and salary combined. Even though it's the largest ren fest in the country, it's below average in profitability for us. It's a combination of travel costs and the small stage we perform on at the festival. When there's only seating for 20 or so people at your stage, you're going to have limited tips and merchandise sales because it's difficult to hold a crowd when they don' t have a place to sit and/or put their stuff down to watch your show. We've been known to have quite large crowds around the Wharfside Gazebo stage at TRF, but when you see the audience from the stage, it's obvious that we can maintain a large crowd, but it's a fluctuating crowd. If people aren't sitting down, they'll only stay for a song or two, then they'll wander off, to be replaced by more people that will stand around for a song or two. When people don't see the whole show, they don't buy or tip much. When we decided to do TRF, the Entertainment Director told us we'd be on the Wharfside Gazebo and we were fine with that, but we told ourselves that we'd give it three years to see if we'd get a crack at a larger stage. If we didn't, then we'd give it up. This year is the 3rd year and there are no signs that we'll be moving to a larger stage. In fact, we were told before the start of the year, there was "not a chance". So there ya go, minds made up for us.
Now don't get us wrong, we hold no hard feelings for the festival. It's just the way it goes. Cause and effect, you know. If we can't make enough to justify the loss of vacations and holidays and kids birthdays and the travel grind of keeping this pack of pirates mobile and together, then we're not going to do it any more. I've spoken with the ED about this and he understands the grind of all of it and seemed receptive to hiring us back for the pirate-themed weekends of the festival in the future. I think we made a good impression with everyone at the festival and we look forward to the chance with working with/near them all again. The ED just needed a music slot filled at the Wharfside Gazebo and he views the Bilge Pumps at a music act more so than a stage act, and in the world of TRF, music acts go on the smaller stages. (Read my earlier blog post for my take on that whole distinction) No hard feelings either way. It's just the way it is.
Now, I've heard about a petition going around from fans of ours at TRF trying to get us a bigger stage so that we'll stay and I want to throw in the bands' two cents worth on what's been said. No, the Bilge Pumps are not behind this petition. Some of our fans asked us why we weren't coming back and we told them the whole story you've read above and they decided to act on their own. No, the Bilge Pumps are not threatening to quit as a tactic to get the ED to give us a bigger stage in the future. We're ready to come back and play on pirate's weekends and have fun annoying the local fauna in the future. No, we're not needing a bigger stage to be able to provide for our families. As I mentioned before, we all have 9-5 jobs during the week and do not do the Bilge Pumps thing to support ourselves in the slightest. Though we do make jokes about how our kids will starve to death without your tips, it's not really true. Some of you are shocked right now, I know. That being said, we go through quite a bit to put on this show and we don't do it for free, either. Thanks very much to our fans at TRF that care enough to get riled up when they hear that we're not going to be back full time next year. We're very glad we have had that kind of positive impact on your lives. Please don't be negative with the festival or the ED. For though I might not agree with him that we fit well on the stage we're on, I do agree that it's his right to decide where we perform to best suit his show, just as it's our right to call it quits if it doesn't fit us. We gave it a crack and it didn't work out.
To everyone at TRF, we love you guys. Hope to see you lots the rest of this season and in the future. Who knows what strange things might happen? Next time we perform there, we might be on a stage that seats 500... or not.
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