- The Washington Times - Friday, July 24, 2009

As album sales slow to a trickle, many bands continue to rely on touring profits, licensing deals and merchandise sales to stay afloat. Perhaps no label has weathered the shifting tides better than Fueled by Ramen, a Florida-based company whose roster is almost exclusively filled with young, photogenic rock bands.

Fueled by Ramen understands its audience, whose teenage tastes and technological savvy demand a more nuanced approach to marketing. The label’s bands all maintain a healthy Internet presence, often writing blog entries or uploading behind-the-scenes video footage to the Web. Individual band members are encouraged to open Twitter accounts, enabling their audience to keep tabs on the musicians in real time. Consequently, fans feel a close connection to their idols, resulting in high concert attendance and a sense of loyalty uncommon in today’s fast-paced market.

In 2007, the Cab signed a contract with Decaydance Records, a subsidiary of Fueled by Ramen founded by emo icon Pete Wentz. The band has toured relentlessly since that time, playing a fusion of brawny rock ‘n’ roll and mainstream pop to steadily growing audiences. This summer marks the Cab’s first national headlining tour.

“Instead of playing a 25-minute set, we’re onstage for an hour every night,” vocalist Alex DeLeon says from the North Star Bar in Philadelphia. “As a singer, it’s pretty intense.”

The 25-minute set is a rite of passage among many Fueled by Ramen bands. The label often “breaks” its younger artists by sending them on the road with more veteran acts, sometimes lumping as many as five bands into the same touring package. Fans typically pay for the headlining bands, discover the opening acts and ultimately pledge allegiance to the whole lineup, thus enabling newly signed artists to headline shows during later tours.

The Cab may have graduated to a coveted hourlong slot, but the four additional bands that comprise the What Happens in Vegas … Tour are all relegated to shorter sets. Downplaying any notion of a status hierarchy coming between the headliners and undercard acts, Mr. DeLeon emphasizes instead the bond uniting his tour mates.

“We do this sort of thing a lot,” he says of the package tour, which stops by the 9:30 Club on Tuesday. “I don’t know what I would do if we only had one band on the road with us. Every time we do this, it’s like a big party or summer camp. All the guys on tour are the same age — between 19 and 24, I would say — and we’re all best friends. It doesn’t really feel like a job; it just feels like we’re all hanging out.”

The What Happens in Vegas … Tour has been a big success thus far, selling out multiple venues during its 42-city run. Having already canvassed the West Coast and much of the Midwest, the tour will make its way down the Atlantic seaboard before concluding in Las Vegas, the Cab’s hometown. The band will take a break from the road shortly thereafter.

“We’ve been writing new songs for a while, and after this tour, we’ll go home for a month or so to finish up the writing,” Mr. DeLeon says. “We hope to get into a studio this winter.”

As for the Cab’s long-term plans, the singer strikes a delicate balance between realism and optimism. “After the next album comes out,” he says, “we’ll do the same thing that we did with our debut — tour the country, hopefully go oversees and just have a good time. Enjoy it while it lasts, you know?”

The What Happens in Vegas Tour will visit the 9:30 Club on Tuesday.The Cab, A Rocket to the Moon, the Summer Set, Eye Alaska and My Favorite Highway all will perform. Tickets are $10, and doors open at 6 p.m.

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