As part of the joy that comes with being the Spouse of Toad, I am regularly called upon to feed groups of musicians that stay with us following gigs. Usually at least 4-5, sometimes more. We consider it an important part of promoting as Song, by Toad that our bands go away paid, fed and housed to an adequate degree. As some of you may be considering promoting gigs yourselves, I thought it worth laying out how we approach the second of these [Toad: yep, best not talk about the first].
It’s an interesting challenge because it is very unlike the occasion upon which most of us might expect to cater for so many. I refer of course too the formal dinner party where you spend two days running round like a blue arsed fly so that you can attempt to persuade your guests that knocking up feuillette de saumon avec sa sauce vierge is like falling off a log, only exceeded with the ease with which you can casually trot out a rotisserie of stuffed veal with baby vegetables before smugly plonking a non ironic version of baked Alaska in front of them.
Fuck that. Catering for bands involves answering three questions satisfactorily.
1. Is it filling yet healthy?
2. Is it cheap?
3. Can I make it in one pot?
Question 1 is key. Bands don’t get fed by all of their promoters. Moreover, they spend a lot of time on the road and not in a middle class road trip sort of way, “oh, isn’t this village just darling, lets stop at the alehouse for an organic pub lunch”. Doesn’t happen when you need to get to the next sound check quickly and don’t have any bloody money to start with. So, a decent home cooked meal that fills them up is appreciated. Furthermore, something that has an element of vegetables goes a long way to balancing out all the Esso microwave burgers. A salad of some sort involving carbohydrates usually does it.
And, despite the fact that Matthew can barely hear the V word, some bands include vegetarians. He doesn’t always give me notice and so I have to presume that there might be one which means lobbing out some cheese and crackers which they can top up the salad with. Vegans? Unless told otherwise, play the odds. Most vegans know through painful experience to announce themselves loud and clear. Our main dish is usually meat-based but aim never to be in the position where some poor sod is left with bread and butter because you are a thoughtless cunt. For example, after boiling the macaroni, it is little effort to mix one aspiring mac and cheese with cheese and mushroooms and one with cheese and bacon before sticking them both in the oven.
2. Is it cheap? Feeding anything up to 8 people is not cheap, ask any mum. So, the key is to make sure that you are not spending money frivolously. For example, I apologise to Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and the chickens of the world but 3 Tesco chickens for ten quid is manna from heaven when feeding bands. Stick a lemon up their jacksies, rub them with butter and herbs for tasty skin, salt and pepper and bung in the oven at 180 degrees for about 90-100 minutes (stab down the side of the leg – if the juice runs out bloody leave them in longer, if clear take them out). Rip apart and serve with mayonnaise and salads.
Likewise, a few tins of corned beef, some onions and some tatties makes perfectly respectable stovies. Generally, chicken is pretty cheap where it involves bones, beef hough is cheap but needs long cooking and rolled lamb breast is probably one of the cheapest cuts going. Of course, buying cheap meat goes for nothing if you then top it up with African air freighted veg. Stick to stuff that grows in Britain or is in season. The less packaged or prepared any meat or veg is, the cheaper it is. A local halal butcher for example, is worth visiting.
3. One pot cooking is awesome because 1) it’s easier to clean up 2) easier to serve 3) easier to look after while cooking. As soon as you decide on one pot, you are usually in the bung it in and walk away camp, whether on the stove top or in the oven. Accompanying salads are a matter of chopping shit, lobbing it into a bowl and dressing it and if you can do that whilst not paying too much attention to what’s cooking, you are on a winner.
To do this for variable sized bands however, requires a big fuck off pot that won’t burn shit if left on low. So look out for old Le Creuset casseroles in charity shops while Chinese supermarkets do a good and cheap line in enormous stockpots if you suddenly have to knock up stovies for eleven. Stuff you can bung in the oven on a timer and fuck off to the actual gig is good too. Never seen bands complain if their fresh roast chicken came cold.
Other tips? We live in a country where people can’t or won’t cook but are seduced by cookery shows to a degree that they give and get given kitchen equipment for Christmas (Jamie Oliver Herb Shaker anyone?). Most of it ends up in charity shops or the back of cupboards. If embarking on a promotion career where you intend to feed bands, check your maw’s cupboards before buying anything, next hit Shelter.
Wouldn’t be seen dead in Lidl or Aldi? Get over it, between the cheap Pils, the cheese and the very decent vegetable section, they are awesome. A few months ago, I calculated a price comparison on eight key branded items (including Stella lager) between the majors and the discount supermarkets. Even accounting for deals, you are looking at an extra 10-15% staying in your pocket. [Toad: did she fuck 'calculate a price comparison', she pulled that number out of her arse.¬† It is a hell of a lot cheaper though!]
Time-poor or don’t have a car for a big shop? Order your stuff from Tesco online using the iPhone/iPad app. If your boss is an asshole about internet use at work, you can get a shop done in the dunny in the time it takes to squeeze one out. The delivery charge can be absorbed by the ability to just shop from the deals section. If you are really short of time, cook the main shit when you can, freeze it and defrost the night before the gig and reheat. Salads just take minutes so there is no excuse for not dishing out some veg to pale hipsters.
That’s it really. Unbelievably, the very act of giving our bands a decent meal appears to set us apart from many (not all by any means) promoters. It’s not cheap unless you think about it but if you make it as easy as you possibly can on yourself, the effort will go a long way towards establishing you as a promoter that bands look forward to working with.