After seven-and-a-half hours driving from New Jersey to Virginia Beach and another hour figuring out where to set up and play a show on the blistering asphalt, at last, Full Service gathered their equipment and got ready to start their impromptu concert. As they opened the hatchback to bring out their gear, the kiss of death rolled up on two wheels. Eight grueling hours in a van and a bike cop shuts it down within eight seconds.
As they heeded their dismissal and headed for their hotel, the cop offered some friendly advice — "You know, what you should have done is had all your equipment set up in the van; then you could just take it out and get a couple songs in."
Fortunately for the four-piece group of 30-something musicians, the incident was only a small setback. Full Service still had seven cities to look forward to, police and all. So, brothers Bonesaw and Hoag, along with fellow band mates Sean and Smell (aliases of course), packed it up and kept on going.
That was the summer of 2008, when the Austin, Texas, rock band decided they were going to get their music to their fans the old-fashioned way — by crashing a national summer tour, of course. Bringing their unique blend of rock, reggae and beach music to the masses seemed easy when they came up with the solution. Full Service tagged along for the whole ride during a 2008 summer tour by 311 and Snoop Dogg, setting up their equipment in parking lots pre-show, powering off of generators and using the swells of 311 fans to get some exposure.
They documented the ups and downs of their takeover tour and aptly titling the resulting film Takeover!. The documentary will be shown at the Evening Muse on May 6, followed by a brief performance by the band. After all, Charlotte holds a special place in the band's heart. Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre nearly welcomed the band with open arms. Full Service found the Queen City audience to be so receptive — and security to be so chill — that the band played for longer than they planned.
"We set up in a gravel parking lot [at Verizon] before the 311 show, and had no security trouble," said lead singer and guitarist Bonesaw. "The response was awesome and we've made some lasting fans. Those shows were so great, and we had the next day off. Widespread Panic was playing, so we went back and did it again."
Not only did Charlotte get the honor of two shows, but guitarist Hoag credits the venue for some of the best footage in the film. "That's some of my favorite visuals in the movie, because it was such a great day," he says. "The lighting was great, the crowd was great and everything was good."
The welcome reception in the Queen City aside, the truth is Full Service took a huge risk when they hopped into their white van (which they call "the Whale") and played guerilla style shows day after day.
"It kind of turned into a film because the nature of the whole adventure was that we didn't know what was going to happen. It was going to be a movie about the little band that could and didn't, and completely failed; or else the little band that could and did, and something happened," Hoag says. "Or maybe we wouldn't even make it past two shows... We just had a feeling that whatever happened, it would be funny, dramatic and a cool story about an underdog."
The group learned a lot about the trials of gate crashing as they swayed between success and shutdowns. "It was just hard on the psyche to go into a new town and just promote a lot and work hard but still have some trouble getting people out," Hoag said. "That's the way it goes. It's not like we suck and people weren't coming out, but we just kind of wanted to cheat somehow a little bit. We would go to these parking lots because there was a shitload of people there. It was a built-in crowd, [because 311 fans] were just in the parking lot before the concerts hanging out."
As security guards from Philadelphia to New York were put into a frenzy, not knowing what to do with the band who decided to make shows their own, Full Service usually got to play at least a few songs before getting kicked out.
"I'd say in about half of the cities we got shut down, but the thing was, it took them a while to find us and figure out what to do with us, I think," Hoag said. "That bought us some time."
The coolest part of the story? The ending. On the last day of their "Takeover Tour," 311 got wind of what the group had done and immediately offered up some big opportunities. Impressed with the boys' full-fledged assault of their tour, 311 invited Full Service to play a number of shows on their 2009 spring tour, spend four days with 311 and 3,000 fans in the Caribbean for a cruise, and even invited them to play the Pow Wow festival in Florida in 2010.
"They said something that kind of blew our minds," Hoag said, referring to the band and their managers. "We thought they didn't know about [the takeover] until later, but when we finally asked they said that they had heard about it through some MySpace chatter and had looked into it before the tour even started! Their initial thought was 'They can't do this. They can't just hijack the tour and mess everything up.' Then they looked at our Website and were like 'Maybe we should just sort of let it ride... they probably won't make it past the second day.'"
Now, with the documentary completed, Hoag, who created the movie — as his brother Bonesaw says, "He probably won't mention the fact that he's the one who made the movie but you should ask him about that because he's too modest" — described his initial feelings about embarking on the screening tour.
"The documentary world is a tough one to navigate," Hoag says. "Part of me feels like, 'What have we gotten ourselves into? It's hard enough to break into the scene musically, and now we're trying to break into the film scene?' But it's just kind of the way we do things. We have a lot of projects and ideas and we're trying to see it through."
For more information on the band and their documentary screenings, visit www.fullservicemusic.com.