Burger Records' Caravan of Stars Rolls Deep In a Nursing Home Shuttle Bus

Photo: Steele O'Neal
Gap Dream's Gabe Fulvimar
By: Harley Oliver Brown Gap Dream's Gabe Fulvimar has had a surreal couple of years. Last December, he emailed a sample of his lo-fi glam pop to Fullerton, California's DIY visionaries Burger Records, who offered to put out his self-titled debut on cassette; after his song "58th St. Fingers" was featured on Pitchfork, "shit hit the fan" and he moved halfway across the country from Cleveland to live in a storage space at Burger's warehouse, which includes the label's record store and office space. "It's a very odd thing to make music for a long time where no one knows who you are, except for your buddies and people who think it's a joke, and suddenly people are interested in it," he tells me over the phone from a gas station somewhere between Portland, OR, and Salt Lake City. "I'm trying not to let it freak me out," he says, even when some female fans drew a picture of his face and posted it to Twitter. "I never thought that would happen."

See also: The Burger Records Guys Are Opening a Store Full of Vinyl and Cassettes. In This Economy?

Fulvimar is on the road with Burger Records' Burgerama Caravan of Stars Tour, a traveling festival of sorts that began three years ago as an attempt to take Burgerama, Burger's annual two-day festival in Santa Ana, California, on the road. Sharing the bill with Gap Dream are skuzzy psychedelics Cosmonauts, garage punkers Together Pangea, and "sonic brownie"-bakers the Growlers, who will be joined onstage by various members and friends of the Burger family during their month-long jaunt across the country.

"We're doing our best to create a festival-like vibe with having a lot of bands play, and bringing all of our merch and creating kind of a little pop-up store in each of the venues," explains Burger Records co-founder and co-owner Sean Bohrman, who sat out this year's Caravan to get work done around the office and stay on-hand as an emergency contact ("emergencies," he adds, usually entail something like, "Hey, we need some weed"). "We got a bunch of local bands that always play our shows here. We just wanted to recreate what we did here by trying to mostly use all-ages venues," Bohrman says.

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Inspired by Bohrman and business partner/best friend Lee Rickard's desire to "bring the Burger vibes to places we've never brought it to before," the inaugural Caravan of Stars kicked off in 2010. They planned the tour with the same do-it-yourself ethos that has powered Burger's prolific cassette output–now up to five or six releases a week by the likes of Ty Segall,Jonathan Toubin, King Tuff, and Black Lips, among over 400 other bands since the label's inception in 2007, when Bohrman and Rickard put in a hundred dollars each to release the first 7" by their band, Thee Makeout Party, because no one else would put it out. In this case, however, that attitude was exactly the problem: "We did everything ourselves, so we booked the whole tour, and we're not professional bookers," Bohrman says. "It was a rough tour." They packed 10 people into an eight-person van for a month, and for several of the bands on the bill, it was their first tour ever. "It was definitely a learning experience," he says.

This time the bands are riding comfortably in a true caravan, each to their own vehicle. "I hate those big ugly fucking tour buses," says the Growlers' Brooks Nielsen. After the yellow school bus they had been using on previous tours brought them too much attention when they rolled into town, the Growlers downgraded to a converted shuttle bus ("It's a nursing home rotator bus," says Fulvimar). With so many bands on the bill, Nielsen admits it's a drag that soundcheck is at 3 p.m. and load-out at 3 a.m.; the upshot is "there are so many guys to party with. If we went to a show and some guy forgot to promote it, we'd still be playing for 25 guys that are all band members, all drunk and rowdy."

"It's like a vacation, but it's work," adds Fulvimar. "We all believe in Burger, are happy to be on Burger going around to different towns and seeing people that are stoked on Burger. It's an independent label that actually acts like one."

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