How Best Coast decided to cancel their tour

After two years of pandemic delays, veteran indie rock band LA Best Coast were so ready to hit the road in January that they named their 25-date cross-country tour “Finally Tomorrow.” It’s been 22 months since the duo – guitarist-singer Bethany Cosentino, 35, and guitarist Bobb Bruno, 48 – released their last album, “Always Tomorrow”. Like most working-class musicians playing in clubs and theaters, they and their usual crew (five band members, two crew members, a merchandise vendor and a bus driver) had spent all this time without touring income – the way most acts of their size make a living.

They had postponed the tour twice before widespread vaccination made a return to the road possible in the summer of 2021. But the Delta variant complicated those plans, and in June Best Coast decided to try again from January 11 2022.

However, as Omicron crossed the country during the holiday season, familiar feelings of anxiety returned. After assessing the risks (medical, financial and mental), Cosentino and Bruno announced on January 6 that they were “devastated” to cancel the tour for the third time. “It was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but we ultimately felt it was the right one,” they wrote.

Two shows, February 11 and 12 at Highland Park’s Lodge Room, were meant to be a homecoming, but “it just wasn’t fun being on pins and needles, where somebody starts coughing and you’re like, ‘Oh God, do we have to put them in a room?’” Cosentino told The Times. “The music industry is hurting, especially bands at our level. But fans were also saying, ‘Thank you for canceling. We wanted to see you, but we weren’t sure it was safe, and now you’ve made that decision for me.'”

It was not an easy or obvious choice. Many artists are on tour now, and others are looking warily at spring and summer returns. With no clear government or industry guidelines, artists are more or less on their own to decide whether it is safe to perform at this time. (Group must open for Jawbreaker at Wiltern the 1st of April.)

We spoke to Best Coast and his team about how they arrived at their agonizing decision and their not-so-rosy outlook for the year ahead.

“I felt really bad for our tour group, our tour manager, the front engineer. It sucks for everyone involved,” Bethany Cosentino says.

(Harmony Gerber/Getty Images)

1. Anticipation

Bob Bruno: I love being on tour. I love the bus and being with the band and playing.

Bethany Cosentino: In December, I knew COVID was still here, but felt like we were getting back to normal.

Jordan Kurland, coach: In 2020 they were a third on the tour when the world stopped. This tour was called “Finally Tomorrow” because they were getting the tour they were supposed to have 22 months ago.

Ross Harris, sound engineer/tour manager: Everyone was looking forward to it. As much as being in front of an audience, we just wanted to hang out and be together.

Sam Hunt, Reservation Agent: When COVID first hit, it was total chaos. We had rescheduled the tour twice, and at the time we thought, “If we still have a problem in January 2022, we will have much bigger things to worry about.

Kurland: We started following Omicron closely in December. Everyone was on pins and needles. We were asking, “What if Bobb or Bethany gets COVID and has to self-quarantine for five days?” We’re going to lose three or four shows. It’s the difference between being profitable and not.

2. Decision

Consentino: During the holidays, when Omicron arrived, it started to feel weird selling tickets and promoting the tour when thousands of people tested positive in New York. It was simpler in 2020 when there was a national mandate for no event. We had no choice. Now there are people on tour, at sporting events. It was much harder to make a decision this time.

Bruno: The closer the dates got, the slimmer the chances of everyone staying healthy seemed so. In rooms full of people, you never know what the situation is. It was already going to be a lot to take on financially if we lost a week. It’s not just the loss of revenue from the show, it’s the expense of putting someone in a hotel to wait. It just seemed like it was going to be a money pit. And not sure.

Consentino: Just before Christmas, I phoned Jordan and Sam, and we decided to postpone the first week and reschedule it until the end of the tour. I called Jordan on the first Monday of the year with so much anxiety because the tour was starting the following week, and I felt so unsettled. That’s when the conversation started to move.

Hunt: Tours are worth doing when you can rely on them. But for medium-sized club tours, if you play 20 shows, the profit margin can be as low as two or three shows. There were so many scenarios where the result would be lost revenue, and that risk is borne by the artist.

Kurland: On January 5, we made the decision. In the end, it was up to Bethany and Bobb to make the call.

Bruno: I’m really obsessed with daily case counts for LA, and when the numbers went crazy after New Years Eve, I felt like it was a good idea not to do the tour.

A man with long hair flying behind him plays an electric guitar on stage.

“Bigger groups than us can pay a team to stay home, but we don’t have that luxury,” says Bobb Bruno.

(Harmony Gerber/Getty Images)

Hunt: It would have been a huge risk. And it’s not like you go to a nice dinner and drink with your buddies after the show. You stay in your bubble as best you can. Maybe you don’t even enter a room until you’ve played.

Kurland: The no-show rate impacts merchandising sales, and according to the group, we break even on guarantees but earn a certain amount on merchandising to make up the difference. Tours can go perfectly, but if on the penultimate day three people get COVID, you have to pay to quarantine them, and that eats away at your profits.

Consentino: If someone gets sick, we stop the shows, we isolate them, we pay for the hotels and the tour goes into debt. Even though we’ve been doing it for 12 years, we can’t afford to call a guy to replace the battery and pay to put someone up in a hotel.

3. Impact

Kurland: We all put in a ton of work, and now the team we hired doesn’t have that job anymore: the tour manager, the engineer, the merch guys all thought they would get paid. This tour is not life changing, but no one has made money on tour for two years. Best Coast does not receive millions of dollars on streams.

Hunt: I had three artists with tours in January. Best Coast made the decision not to play, another was postponed to March, and an artist moved on and it was good but it wasn’t the same experience. I don’t think any of these three regret their decisions.

Consentino: I felt really bad for our tour group, our tour manager, the front engineer. It sucks for everyone involved.

Bruno: Groups larger than us can pay a team to stay home, but we don’t have that luxury.

Kurland: Everyone has to decide what their risk appetite is. At the end of the day, you weigh everything: what if you have an event where people get sick or you have fewer attendees because people don’t come inside? For Best Coast, the negatives outweighed the positives.

A woman on stage playing an electric guitar, dressed in a leopard print jumpsuit and wearing sunglasses.

“COVID puts a lot of perspective on how hard you push yourself on the road,” says Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino.

(Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images)

4. Future

Bruno: I have savings but not enough to get to the summer when we could go on tour again. I got a bunch of job offers this week for various side jobs, so that was a huge relief.

Harris: I started getting more interested in sound design, recording, editing podcasts, etc. It was difficult not to work, but I learned a lot.

Consentino: It’s weird not having any income. I live with a partner who has a job, but it is certainly very stressful to know that I have no income at the moment. The royalties are far from what I earn on the road.

Kurland: Venue availability is limited for the remainder of 2022. Bus companies are fully booked through October. If you rent gear, it’s really crowded. That doesn’t mean you can’t get things done, but for Best Coast we’ll be looking to do that later in the year.

Hunt: It is difficult to draw general conclusions for the future. The drop counts, the actual people attending the events, aren’t great right now. But it’s better this week than last week, and the same the week before.

Harris: I’m curious how this will affect small freestanding venues as I really like these and the rent is a huge burden.

Consentino: I only canceled maybe two shows, because I was incredibly sick. COVID puts a lot of things in perspective on how hard you push yourself on the road.

Kurland: They don’t have to sell their house or anything, but there’s an emotional side to it as well. The reason for touring is that you have fun doing it.

Corina C. Butler