Having a fluid roster makes it easier to deal with the pandemic
“Liquid Blue had been on a streak of performing at least a hundred shows every year since 2000,” says Scott Stephens of his group’s pre-Covid run. “2020 was the first year the band hasn’t played internationally. In contrast, since the turn of the century, Liquid Blue had averaged 12 international shows per year.” The 7-12 member classic rock extravaganza has performed in more than 100 countries on seven continents, playing over 2000 shows in more than 400 cities. They hold a Guinness World Record for their song “Earth Passport,” for Song Sung in the Most Languages. The track hit number 3 on the Billboard Hot Dance Singles charts and number 12 on the Hot Singles Sales chart.
The band’s last gig (other than livestreams) was in mid-March at Humphreys. “I’m running two other companies which help make ends meet, but I’m still putting in a good 40-plus hours a week marketing and managing Liquid Blue,” says Stephens, a former pro roller derby skater for the L.A. Thunderbirds (1978-1981). “The band has been my primary source of income ever since we switched gears and got serious about being an events band instead of splitting our energy between covers and originals, which we did from 1996 to 2011. During that time, we did okay, but the band was secondary income rather than primary. In 2013, I sold my other business to focus solely on Liquid Blue.”
For years, the band has also been the main income source for singer Nikki Green (the first American to qualify for the Chinese Idol TV show) and guitarist/tech director Michael Vangerov (who has his own Neal Moser signature guitar). “All of our performers gig with other acts when we have open dates, but almost all of them derived the bulk of their performing income from Liquid Blue. Our primary band members are staying afloat by various means. Some are drawing on government pandemic relief funds, but most have grabbed day jobs. A few are still working gigs here and there, mostly at local casinos that have continued to offer live music.”
Having a fluid roster has made it easier to deal with the pandemic. “There is no traditional loyalty like there was in the 70s and 80s, and everyone is an independent contractor. It’s similar to so many industries nowadays. Tony Gwynn played his entire career with the Padres. That doesn’t happen today. It’s generally the same with bands. If you’re lucky like us, you’ll have a few core members that hang with you through the good and bad times, and the rest will come and go. If you want longevity and consistent revenue, you need to establish a brand, and have an ensemble of musicians to call upon.”
Founded in 1996, Liquid Blue were San Diego Music Awards nominees for five straight years (2001 to 2005), taking home an award in 2002. They became the first American act to be signed by a major Chinese record label, thanks to a 2005 distribution deal with Shanghai Audio and Video, the biggest music publisher in China. Band alumni include Sony recording artist BC Jean, who started her career with Liquid Blue in 2003 and was subsequently signed to a recording contract by Clive Davis, as well as writing songs for Britney Spears and others.
The group’s 2017 album Top Tracks contains one song each from the band’s catalog of full-length LPs, featuring original compositions and covers. After its release, they moved away from songwriting to focus on special events as a party band. The last group performances were a pair of online livestreams for Rock & Roll San Diego. “Our most recent recording session was just a couple of months ago with Alan Sanderson at Pacific Beat Recording. We made demos of our new song arrangements and medleys and showcased a couple of new musicians for a promo. None of it will be officially released.”
The band will perform a livestream set from the historic Whisky a Go Go nightclub on the Sunset Strip on Thursday, January 21. “The last time I was in this venue was in 1977, interviewing David Lee Roth for Raw Power Magazine,” says Stephens. “Liquid Blue has never performed there, as the Whisky has been pay-to-play for the past two decades. But with few other options available for shows other than livestreams, we figured why not play some rock classics there.”
“There won’t be a live audience, but maybe, if we’re lucky, a few ghosts from the past will pay us a visit.”