Selling with the Band
For hard-core rock fans, starting a business offers a way to follow the
By Kelly Kennedy, For the Camera
September 22, 2003
The bragging doesn't work well on a resume.
Educational experience: 329 Grateful Dead shows.
Work experience: selling hot dogs in the parking lot at Phish shows. Intern for SCI (sold
tambourines and light sticks). Got free tickets hanging Widespread Panic posters.
Objective: find a job with a blissful scene and lots of travel opportunities.
It's a moment that comes for every hard-core fan: They have to face the music and get a job â
€” and maybe even a tie. Mom and dad will no longer sponsor the String Cheese summer.
Phish and Leftover Salmon fans flounder when they discover they can't pay the rent on music
alone. Even Big Head Todd has a job.
But for a few Boulder Cheeseheads, Phish heads and Deadheads, the music didn't have to
end. They gathered their experiences meeting an assortment of people, traveling the country,
and capitalizing on trinket sales, and they thought past the parking lot.
"I got really into the Grateful Dead when I was in high school," Peak to Peak Batiks owner
Eric Maiorana said. "I saw 211 shows â€” it was a huge chunk of my life."
He made his way by selling hand-designed batik T-shirts in the parking lots of shows. When
the Grateful Dead disbanded following the death of band leader Jerry Garcia in 1995,
Maiorana was left adrift.
"I made enough to buy my tickets and food," he said. "I had no savings whatsoever. Then
Jerry died, and I didn't know what to do."
Or at least, he didn't yet.
Maiorana discovered the batik process when he began searching out Maine batik artist Tina
Carpenter at Dead concerts.
"In the parking lot at a show was the first time I saw a batik," he said. "I thought it was really
interesting, and I kept buying batiks from this woman who was selling them. It was cleaner
and more artistic than a tie-dye."
In 1990, while living in Boulder, he met a guy who was new to town, who needed a place to
stay, and who happened to be a batik artist. He showed Maiorana the ancient process of
batik in exchange for rent.
Maiorana recently demonstrated the process in his tiny Boulder shop on a Leftover Salmon
T-shirt. Maiorana drew a design on a piece of paper, in this case, a Leftover Salmon banjo.
Then, Maiorana used tjanting tools, which are something like paintbrushes, but rather than a
brush at the tip, they have different-sized copper funnels at the tips, to trace lines of wax onto
the T-shirt over his hand-drawn design. Then, he colored in the design with dye.
After he finished the logo, he painted over it with wax to prevent the design from picking up
dye when he dipped the shirt into a Rubbermaid tub full of color. The wax cracks a bit during
the process, leaving a slightly marbled texture to the design. He then takes the shirts to a dry
cleaner to have all the wax removed. Each shirt is hand-waxed and dyed, and goes for about
"After (my teacher) left, I started selling batiks at the shows," Maiorana said. "This was in
'92. My hair was down to the middle of my back â€” I was definitely more loose about my
hairstyle. Then Jerry died in '95."
Maiorana began selling his shirts at festivals and shows â€” wherever he could find a spot.
He made the shirts in a little cabin he was renting in Ward, before renting his south Boulder
shop in 1994. He found that the same people were buying his shirts: people from the concert
scene. He set up a spot at Planet Bluegrass in Telluride in 1997 featuring his freehand
mountain scenes and flowers, as well as his favorite musical instrument and animal designs.
"It was an unbelievable response â€” amazing sales," Maiorana said. "I made a couple
thousand dollars at their festival. I had been ready to completely give up on this."
Then, he encountered Leftover Salmon at the Rocky Grass festival in 1998. The band
members' wives asked him to make the band's shirts.
He still goes to those festivals, and now he makes T-shirts, wall hangings and dresses for
Leftover Salmon, Yonder Mountain String Band, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, The
String Cheese Incident, Widespread Panic, Mountain Sun and three Japanese clients whom
he exports to â€” all by hand with the help of two part-time assistants.
"I'm not rich or anything, but I'm a lot better," Maiorana said. "I have a savings account, and I
bought a cabin (in Ward) in 1998. It's definitely growing."
And he still loves the concert scene.
"I thrive off it," he said. "I love going to the shows. It's a lot of work, but it's like
work/vacation when you're there listening to music that you like. I'm very lucky to be able to
do this for a living."
His work can be found at www.peaktopeakbatiks.com.
Justin Baker started out following The String Cheese Incident, but he hopes to expand his
newly established nonprofit to the NFL, Pearl Jam and even Britny Spears.
"I started going to see String Cheese as a college freshman, and avoided paying for tickets by
volunteering to hang posters," Baker said. "It's the community that makes it great. I've seen
like 150 concerts, and I've never seen a fight. They're an openly loving community."
Baker followed the band while remaining an honors student in religious studies at the
University of Colorado.
"I did a lot of homework in car rides or plane rides," he said. "I traveled all over the country."
Baker had already developed a love of community service while in high school, so jumping to
setting up literature stands and food drives at SCI concerts made sense to him.
"In March 2002, I did my first food drive at a concert, and we took in 4,000 pounds of
food," Baker said. "It went so well we decided to do it again."
Fans would bring in 10 cans of food or $10 and receive a poster by California artist Michael
Everett, who donated the initial artwork. Baker's organization, Conscious Alliance, now
brings in enough cash in poster sales to pay for the posters. The food goes wherever it's
needed, but Baker distributes as much as possible to Indian Reservations in the West.
Conscious Alliance incorporated in December, and received federal nonprofit status in
"It pays for itself, but I'm kind of stretching my luck on Visa," Baker said. "The drummer lets
me sleep on the floor of his room to keep overhead down, and we camp whenever we can."
Local businesses help out with accounting and legal services, as well as truck rentals for
delivering food. This summer is the first time Baker went on tour with String Cheese to
organize his food drives full-time. He brought in 12,000 pounds of food, then delivered it to
local food pantries in the towns where String Cheese played, or to Indian reservations.
"They're all pretty blown away by all the food we bring in at concerts," Baker said. "SCI
didn't want me to become their food-drive guy, but they realized that they're just part of my
larger picture. People trust me now, and no one ever says no when I present them with a
proposal. It's all happening really fast."
He hopes to organize food drives at other concerts and events, and then have local
volunteers collect the food and give out posters in exchange for tickets. He has already begun
working with Sound Tribe Sector 9.
He'll also organize a food drive during the University of Colorado's Homecoming festivities
Oct. 25. Lori Salsbury will donate art for the posters.
"I'm psyched about getting involved in something positive," he said. "It's like a big bliss
festival when the food drive's going on."
Did he expect to make a career out of traveling with a band?
"I knew I needed my college degree to do what I wanted to do, but I've known I was going
to do this since I was like 15," he said. "String Cheese â€” their trust and support is entirely
the reason it's grown. I don't think they expected this either. When I met them, I had
dreadlocks, a beard and a kitten in my pocket. I've always been like the little kid who was
Baker can be found at www.consciousalliance.org.
John Joy also had a moment of reckoning when Jerry Garcia died. Joy used to sell beer and
quesadillas in the parking lots at Grateful Dead concerts.
"I saw Jerry Garcia 97 times," Joy said. "That's a relatively low number compared to some of
my friends. But in '95, it came to an abrupt end. I wasn't ready to stop. As a kid, I had no
idea what the hell I was going to do. I thought about being a carpenter or an electrician. For
a short time in Colorado, I was working as a framer, but then I realized I moved here to ski."
He'd tried to slow down before, dropping in and out of college before getting associate's
degree in business management at Newbury College in Boston. He'd moved to Atlanta with
his girlfriend to try to make a go of stability. But he realized he wasn't ready to leave the
When Garcia died, Joy traveled to Nepal, Thailand and India with the hope of starting an
import/export business, but nixed it when he realized that the start-up costs were high and the
customs rules were complicated.
"Then I fell into a crazy music scene in Nepal and realized there is still tons of great music,"
Joy said. "So I started promoting shows in the mountain towns in Colorado."
He went with friends to the New Orleans Jazz Fest every year, then began bringing the New
Orleans bands to Colorado. In the process, he realized he wanted to manage bands.
"I definitely know a few managers who came from the jam-band scene â€” there are a
handful who have come up that way," he said. "But when I started, I couldn't seem to find
anyone who was succesful who would help me or show me anything. You had to do it
yourself and figure it out yourself. I just made myself available and worked hard."
Now he manages and promotes Leftover Salmon, the Rebirth Brass Band and Jive through
his company, Red Underground.
"I do everything: organizing, promotions and negotiating deals with promoters, record labels
and record sales, as well as dealing with the band," he said. "I'm the go-to for everyone."
Do his roots make him different as a manager?
"I definitely love hanging out with the fans â€” passing out fliers after a show, which is usually
the intern's job," he said. "It's just a great way to talk to the fans and connect with them."