123. Road Trip larp, Part Six: A fake band that became real

This is the sixth part of the series on the Road Trip larp project. If you want to start from the first post, it is #116.

The Runaway Sound didn’t exist until July 10, 2017. In our fiction, they were a small European/American band, that had had a couple of their songs picked up by internet radio in “some of the party towns in Bulgaria”. We told people that there were pretty big in Bulgaria and Romania.

In reality, the band hadn’t played together before the larp, and it showed. Four of them had practiced a bit together beforehand, since they (by coincidence) lived quite close to each other in Northeastern USA. The lead guitarist, Ermis, is Greek, and didn’t meet his fellow bands members until we all met up in Chicago.

To make the band believable, we had decided to stay away from major hits that were easily recognisable. This meant that while someone might have heard one or two of the songs before, there was a good chance that they wouldn’t be able to place them.

This meant that to the rest of us, the songs they played belonged to The Runaway Sound. We hadn’t heard them before, so we naturally linked them to our band. I’ve since heard a few of them in their original format. It feels like they’re the cover versions.

That’s setting the stage. Now, for the meat. Following the Ten Lessons Learned of this series, I give you Ten Lesson Learned About A Fake Band That Became A Real One

  1. Performing and playing are not the same. Our band had very little experience in playing together. But performing? They looked pretty damn good at times. Luckily! For our next run, we’ll make it a requirement that band members can not only play, but also perform.
  2. It’s good that we planned for flexibility. We’d planned the music so that – if necessary – Jeff from our organising team could perform them alone. It didn’t come to that, but since we lost 2/5 band members along the way (for various reasons and with our blessings) it wasn’t a problem.
  3. Venues will give you wrong information. “We have a drumset”, “It’s not accoustic.”, “You need to be there at 8.” and the like all turned out to be less than true. This isn’t specific to our fake/real band in any way, but it was a learning experience that turned it all the more real!
  4. Performing live makes you grow better fast. The first gig didn’t go that well. The second did. At the third live performance, the band delivered a pretty solid performance. It was amazing to see them grow as a band right in front of our eyes. Both impressive and awesome for the larp.
  5. Band practice on the road is cool. I never traveled in the ingame van, where practice was held, but I’ve been told that it was great. The road stretching out before the car, people singing, guitars playing and Cholly the Thunder Lizard drumming away on a small drum. What’s not to like?
  6. Shooting music videos worked very well. Part of the tour was centered on recording a music video. Apart from concert footage, we did two stops where we did music video recording. I don’t think I’ll ever forget directing an actual music video shoot at Cadillac Ranch. Damn cool.
  7. The band supported everyone. On a real rock tour, the band is the center of attention and rightfully so. Here, it was a little different. The band characters were center focus, but the band players did what they could to “spread the play”. If we ever do this with a real band, we need to make sure that they understand that part of it.
  8. The entourage makes a hell of a difference. We played an open mic night in Amarillo, Texas. The other performers came in alone, or maybe with some friends. We came in with a presenter, stage managers and roadies, a tour manager and four documentarists with big cameras. We were an event, and people loved it.
  9. It didn’t have to be fake. We could have done the same thing with an actual band. We could have booked them, transported them, supported them and made them into something bigger. We could have filmed music videos and done after parties. And while the band was fake this time, it wouldn’t have mattered much if it was real.
  10. At the end, it wasn’t fake anymore. We had a real band. They played real songs. At real venues. For real people. What had started as a pretend adventure had turned into a real one. And that was a pretty wild experience to be part of. I don’t know if we’ll do it again exactly this way, but I’m glad we did it this time.

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Director at The College of Extraordinary Experiences, Coach at McKinsey & Founding Partner at The Global Institute For Thought Leadership. Author of 31 books.

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