Musicians are barely getting a slice of music industry revenue, largely eating off of live performances instead. For ‘Tour Tales,’ we dig into the rider requests, delayed shows, diligent preparation, and future of touring by talking with the multitude of people that move behind the scenes. Record executives, photographers, tour managers, artists, and more all break down what goes into touring and why it’s still so vital to the livelihood of your favorite artists. What happens on tour stays on ‘Tour Tales.’
“On that tour, we did a lot of it on our own. Our security was our driver, tour manager, and did everything. We checked ourselves into hotels. We collected our own money. We did all of that ourselves,” Lucciano told REVOLT. “We were in a sprinter van driving to every city. It was very uncomfortable. It taught us. We got it out of the mud.”
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” Lucciano explains developing his on-stage chemistry with Harlow, the NBA 2K tournaments on the road, and what to expect from them in 2021. Read below.
How did you and Jack first connect?
We first connected through music because I’m mainly a producer. We started linking up in the studio and he liked some of the beats I was making for my homeboy Ace Pro. He hit me like, “You have some more? I’d love to work some more.” At that time, around 2016, I hadn’t heard of Jack Harlow. He was already making a lot of noise on the music scene in Louisville, filling out 200-300 capacity venues.
How did that turn into you being his DJ?
We were getting closer and one day he was like, “I have a show tonight. Do you want to go?” I was like, “Yeah, let’s go.” I get there and it’s a sold-out rowdy crowd at The New Vintage. I’m on stage with him and sort of took over. The DJ wasn’t really talking, so I took the mic and was basically hosting. A few days or weeks after that, he asked if I wanted to be his DJ because I took initiative and turned up the crowd. The first show we actually did together was at an 800-cap venue called Mercury Ballroom. It was sort of intimidated. I didn’t know what I was doing. I’m playing the songs that would turn the club up. It was a trial and error for both of us because it was also his first time doing a venue that big. We sort of grew together in that aspect.
What were some early mistakes you two made that helped build your chemistry?
One show, he was pretty mad at me. We were at Texas Tech when something happened to my laptop and when it was time to perform, none of the songs were working. I’m loading the songs up and it’s saying “error loading up” on each song. So, we didn’t get to perform because his songs were no working. I was completely flabbergasted as to why it wasn’t working. That lesson was to have my preparation A-1. After that, we put a big emphasis on soundcheck. I didn’t do a soundcheck that day.
What was the first tour you two went on?
“The Loose Tour” [in 2018]. The whole Private Garden collective went on that tour. It came about because Jack was rising and rising, and getting more popular. I remember he would tell me something new every day. He was like, “[DJ] Drama just reached out to me. I just got a booking agent.” Things would level up every month. On that tour, we did a lot of it on our own. Our security was our driver, tour manager, and did everything. We checked ourselves into hotels. We collected our own money. We did all of that ourselves. We were in a sprinter van driving to every city. It was very uncomfortable. It taught us. We got it out of the mud. We thought we were doing something at the time.
What are some fun tour memories do you have?
Jack is a really good dude and he’s really humble. He’s also naturally funny. In the sprinter, we loved to talk in our English accents a lot (laughs). He likes to troll people. He may know something ain’t true, but he’ll play along with it. He likes to troll random people and that be funny. We play NBA 2K a lot. He’s really competitive. We kept a basketball in the sprinter so if we see a basketball court, we’ll stop and play. He wants to win a game of 21. He doesn’t care if he gets dirty or scratched. He’s really competitive and you can hear that in his music. Even in the sprinter, he’s writing songs. He wants to win in 2K even though I won in the 2K tournament on the last tour we did. I like everybody to know that. We actually had a best-of-3 series with everyone in the sprinter van and I won (laughs). He’s a humble guy. I love him to death.
Jack Harlow (behind), Ronnie Lucciano (front)
This tour came after he signed to DJ Drama’s Generation Now. How has Drama helped with Jack’s live show over the years?
I’m sure he’s been super helpful with Jack. I don’t know any specific conversations they had, but Drama has helped me with a few pointers and advice. He gave me some advice on making sure Jack and I can actually see each other before he comes out on stage because you don’t want to start playing his music and he’s still in the green room. That’s happened to me before. He’s given a lot of tips, and I’m thankful to have an experienced legendary DJ in my corner.
What was the show like at Old Forester’s Paristown Hall in 2019 when fellow Kentucky native Bryson Tiller came out by surprise?
Bryson is definitely the most well-known artist from Kentucky. He and Jack grew a big relationship. Their schedules were able to link up that day. It was like a gift from God because Bryson lives in L.A. We were trying to keep it undercover and not let anyone know he was going to be the surprise guest because he doesn’t do a lot of shows. It was a blessing.
What were their interactions backstage?
Bryson’s a real chill person. We were back there chilling and talking about what’s going on next, and our goals for the next year.
What has been the craziest reaction you’ve seen in the crowd?
Imagine being in the club with thousands of people. That’s what our shows are like. We’ve seen people mosh pit, which shocked me because Jack’s music isn’t too up-and-down.
What’s your favorite festival performance with Jack?
I love the festivals. Bonnaroo in 2019 was probably my favorite one. It was wild. As we got bigger, our slot times started to move back to later times in the day when the crowds would come in. We had a 4 or 5 o’clock set and that’s all you need at Bonnaroo. They were lit.
What’s on his rider?
I can’t wait to see the next rider because the rider we’ve been having has been simple: gum and soap. He tries to eat healthily. He prioritizes eating healthy, so we’ll have some Sun Chips or something back there. We’ll also have Tito’s vodka because it’s gluten-free. We don’t really have anything too extreme because we don’t use a lot of it. We might have some deodorant and chargers. He also has fruit trays because he likes to be energetic and not sluggish when he performs.
His biggest song thus far, “WHATS POPPIN,” blew up during the pandemic when shows were limited. You both did spot performances. What was it like doing those?
It was crazy. In 2020, we performed “WHATS POPPIN” one time and that was right when the pandemic ended. We had a booking in West Virginia and we performed it. It came out in February, so it was new, and the West Virginia venue wasn’t too big, but the reaction we got from there made us go, “Oh my God!” We did that one show, the pandemic kicked in, and we never did another show for the rest of the year. But, in 2021, we started to do some club appearances. It’s not the same as a headline show, but there are still great reactions.
What are Jack’s tour hits?
We did a bunch of shows in Tampa for Super Bowl weekend. So, songs like “Route 66” go up. That shocked us because the first bar is “Bitch, I’m from Kentucky but this not no fucking Dixie Chicks.” There aren’t that many people from Kentucky but they shout that line. People really like his song “Warsaw” because it’s so vibey. There’s a lot of testing we’re doing right now since we’re not doing big shows yet.
You did virtual performances in 2020. What were those like?
Virtual performances were cool but there isn’t a crowd, so you can’t feel the reaction. We love to feel the reaction. Most of the time when it’s virtual, it’s live. The Shaq Bowl was live, so we had to be perfect. Anything you do wrong will be heard, recorded, and stamped forever. You have to be on your p’s and q’s. You can’t treat it like any other show. You have to stay focused.
How has your role in his show evolved over the years?
When I first started, I didn’t really know what I was doing. As the shows went on, I got better. Now, I’m able to be on the mic and command the crowd. I’m able to talk to the crowd now and control them. I control the autotune on his mic now. I’m cueing up the songs and controlling the autotune all at the same time.
Are there any songs he made specifically for live shows?
There have been some songs. When I’m in the studio, I give him my feedback from my DJ point of view. For us DJs, we know what the crowd likes and what they’ll react to. I’d tell him, “You have to make more songs that’ll make them jump.” There have been some songs where he’s said, “OK, I want the crowd to do this.” It’s not really the beat, it’s his bars. So, if he wants a song to be up-and-down, he’ll go that route with his bars as opposed to some chill shit where he’ll write a story to it.
Jack Harlow (behind), Ronnie Lucciano (front)
What should we expect in 2021?
All hell is going to break loose in 2021. We can’t wait to get back on the road. We missed out on a lot of offers and opportunities because we couldn’t do it. We were supposed to be on tour in Europe right now. Tours got pushed back three times. As soon as things settle down, it looks like we’ll be on the road nonstop. As far as music, he records every day. He has a lot of songs in the bank. I’m also making my music. I have a lot of placements coming out. I’m working on my [Luciano] tape that’ll have a couple of big names on that that I’m excited about. I got a couple of deals on the table. We’re ready to take this next step.