Feature Stories

Biker Gang Booking Is Helping the DFW DIY Concert Scene

Max Cronen
courtesy Max Cronen
Max Cronen

Max Cronen went from working as a stagehand to founding a small, independent booking agency that has represented many DIY artists across the country.

The 24-year-old Arlington resident says he started Biker Gang Booking in 2016 to help grow Arlington’s music scene. His initial goal was to throw DIY shows in the area with out-of-town bands and give Arlington musicians the opportunity to play more shows around DFW.

Since then, Biker Gang has booked local musicians, such as Sara King and Wassup Rocker, and popular out-of-town bands like Bane’s World and Triathalon, at Deep Ellum venues and other venues outside of Dallas. In December, Biker Gang booked San Diego’s electro-pop artist Temporex and Long Beach’s R&B artist Aolani, both acts associated with the SoCal DIY scene, at Club Dada during their first Texas tour.

Cronen also manages King, a self-proclaimed glitter pop artist in Dallas who started her music career posting covers of songs on YouTube.

Biker Gang also worked with Goldenvoice, the Los Angeles-based music promoter that operates Coachella, and Margin Walker, Texas’ premier independent events promoter, to curate shows outside of Dallas. Cronen says all shows are all-age admissions, focus on giving fans the opportunity to connect with bands during and after shows and offer artists a platform to perform.

“I like to throw this Sadie Hawkins dance in LA where I get some of the bands on our roster to come and DJ, and then we have some bands perform,” Cronen says. “I tell all the bands and people on stage, ‘I really want this to be an opportunity to connect with the kids who are there to see you and show them that you’re just normal people having fun just like them.’”

Cronen says, “I really mean it when I say I just want people to feel included, and I don’t want people to feel uncomfortable, left out when they’re at our shows.”

Cronen is no stranger to the DIY scene. He grew up playing music and going to shows at venues like 1919 Hemphill in Fort Worth, with “no booze, no drugs, no jerks” rules. He says he saw the struggle that particularly popular bands went through to play live shows. 1919 Hemphill’s help in creating a platform for bands to play in front of people who wanted to see them was an eye-opener for Cronen, and that later inspired Biker Gang’s motive.

1919 Hemphill owner Chris Cotter, who taught him what it meant to be part of the DIY scene and curate shows that were hate-free, became a good friend to Cronen, and they now work together on some projects.

“I cared most about creating an experience for people, something they can take home and remember and feel like they were included in something,” Cronen says.

“I cared most about creating an experience for people, something they can take home and remember and feel like they were included in something." – Max Cronen

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Before Biker Gang, Cronen and friend Sammy Gonzalez worked at the Levitt Pavilion, an outdoor concert venue in downtown Arlington, where they constantly met different artists from the area. The two were always scheming about putting on shows until they finally realized it’s what they had to do.

“We both loved music and concerts, and we just decided we kind of wanted to take things into our own hands.” Cronen says. “We really had no expectations. I had no expectations.”

The two threw their first show together at a now out-of-business Arlington pizzeria as What You Want Presents, where they paid bands with free pizza. They promoted their shows by handing out flyers at The Parks mall, hanging them in bathroom stalls and in restaurants.

What You Want Presents threw shows in Arlington for the next few months until they parted ways because of different goals.

“I started developing a vision that I wanted to book bigger shows, and he really wanted to keep it community-based,” Cronen says. “I guess the reason we split is because I knew at that moment I had to keep growing. I felt like I had to prove something for my parents and myself, so at the end of the day, I felt like I was doing something with my life even though that’s already how I felt.”

After parting ways, Cronen started Biker Gang Booking knowing only the bare minimum about what it took to book shows. He began a long process of trial and error to see what worked and didn’t work for him, he says. The challenges he has experienced, the negotiating with promoters and venues, they may seem tedious and stressful to some, but it’s something Cronen says he’s always loved to do.

Cronen says his biggest challenge when starting Biker Gang was gaining the reputation and recognition he needed to work with bigger bands.

“It’s really important to network basically,” Cronen says. “It’s pretty humbling to have to do that because it means you start, basically, at ground zero. You have to find your way to build yourself up enough to the point where people recognize you and they trust you.”

Now, Biker Gang is made up of agent Patrick Dehoyos and intern Ellise Shafer.

Cronen’s first show under Biker Gang was a packed math-rock house show with dtb, Stannis The Mannis and Terra Collective at The Cabin in Denton. He continued curating shows in Arlington venues such as Mavericks Sports Grill, Division Brewing, Levitt Pavilion and record store, and later booking at Club Dada and Three Links in Deep Ellum.

Bands booked by Biker Gang range from indie-rock, rock ‘n’ roll, pop-punk and punk, to math-rock, surf-rock and new wave.

In 2017, Biker Gang booked its first unofficial SXSW showcase at Love Goat starring The Buttertones, Surf Curse, Hockey Dad and Summer Salt – bigger DIY bands outside of DFW.

Cronen said he decided to throw a free showcase during the SXSW Music Festival for fans who couldn’t afford the SXSW badges needed to attend.

“It was crazy. I remember kids had filled the entire roof up of the Love Goat to see Surf Curse, and when they were playing, everyone was pushing everyone up at the front into the band, like the crowd was just right in front of [frontman] Nick Rattigan’s face,” Cronen says. “That’s the spirit of DIY. We don’t follow the rules.”

This year Biker Gang will host three shows for its third unofficial SXSW showcase March 15-17 at the Spider House Ballroom and Love Goat.

Cronen says he’s excited to work with Boyscott, Petite League and Drench Fries, three bands just added to the Biker Gang family, in 2019.