The building’s main attraction, however, is the meticulously organized warehouse in its back section, where Strange merchandise (such as $100 football jerseys, $25 drinking flasks and $20 ladies panties), tour stage sets and promotional items are housed, and where a mirrored wall dubs as a rehearsal corner. Plus, there’s a large back parking lot, which houses 23 fully wrapped vehicles used for touring and promotional purposes. Nearly all of SM’s business is taken care of under one roof, except for O’Guin’s screen-printing and bus-wrapping companies, which are housed elsewhere in Kansas City. While many independent labels rely on their distributor to manufacture their physical CDs, Strange Music bypasses Fontana and outsources the task to an independent manufacturer, who they have a partnership with. “We believe in cutting out the middleman,” says O’Guin.
It’s that airtight business sense that has enabled O’Guin to earn the respect of all those around him. There’s something to be said about a CEO who enforces a nine-page tour rule book, which includes fines for a variety
of offenses (quiet time on buses, starting at 3 a.m.; no drugs onboard; no stealing hotel pillows). After three offenses, the wrongdoer is off the tour. Everyone on the bill, including the non-Strange acts (such as Murs and Slaughterhouse, who have accompanied the label on tours in the past), is held accountable. Amounts vary from $250 to $1,000 and fines increase per infraction. If the same rule is violated three times, the artist is removed from the tour. At the end of the tour, the money raised from fines is donated to a charity of the artist’s choice. “If [Travis] wasn’t like that, we’d be a lot sloppier,” says Calhoun. “If not for him, we could easily not be where we’re at right now.”
As the packed crowd inside Liberty Hall grows impatient, chants of “K.C., Mo! Ohhhh, ohh!” (that’s for Kansas City, Missouri) erupt. Minutes later, the headliner makes his grand entrance, bursting through the graveyard stage
set’s brick wall and immediately breaking out in a rapid-fire flow that’d leave Twista in amazement. After a few quick-tongued bars, Tech abruptly stops and freezes, arms stretched outward, taking in the thunderous applause.
A packed Liberty Hall is officially under his control.
During the entire show, the energy never dies, nor does the level of performance. Tech, Krizz and Kutt engage in some Michael Jackson–esque choreography and Bloodwalk dances (Tech makes no qualms about growing up in a Blood-gang environment). A mosh pit full of bombastic White kids breaks out to the sounds of “Ghetto Love.” “Areola,” the crew’s Miami-bass-inspired joke song, recorded under the guise of “816 Boys” (in honor of the Kansas City, Missouri, area code), inspires some ladies to fl ash their breasts while hoisted atop friends’ shoulders. One particular female, partially naked from the waist up, receives a hug from Tecca Nina, which sends her into near convulsions.
It’s business as usual for Strange Music. Today, Lawrence, Kansas; next stop, maybe worldwide domination, albeit one venue at a time. “This music game is a popularity contest,” says Tech. “While everybody is doing their popularity thing, I’m gaining all these people in all these towns. So when we do reach that higher level, where I’m doing the Grammy Awards, they’re gonna wonder why everybody knows all the music already.
“All I can say is, don’t let us get on radio or television,” he adds. “If we do, the industry is going to have some problems.”
Y’all have been warned.