Tour Tales | Tim House remembers the time he made a surprise Kanye West show happen
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” veteran tour manager Tim House talks prepping for a last-minute Kanye West show, inadvertently saving someone’s life at Smokin Grooves Fest, and more.
For more than 20 years, Tim House has been everything from the friend on tour with Jurassic 5 to the tour manager for the rare mashup of NxWorries and Earl Sweatshirt. House’s hands-on experience has placed him in the middle of scenes most people only dream of coming across.
“I look to my left, I see Lauryn Hill and all of her kids. I look over here, and I see Wu-Tang Clan. I look over here, and you see Mobb Deep. They had all of these people on a fucking ferry,” House tells REVOLT.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” the OG expounds upon inadvertently saving someone’s life during Smokin Grooves Fest, Kanye West going from performing in an arena to hitting the stage at a nightclub in a matter of hours, and more. Get into our exclusive chat below.
What was the first tour you were on?
It was in 2000 at the ‘Word of Mouth Tour’ with Jurassic 5, Dilated Peoples, MC Supernatural and the Beat Junkies. I’ll be honest, I was just the homie on the tour. I was working for, and with, the legendary rap group Above The Law in L.A. I was there for the music and the culture. I was friends with Akil from Jurassic 5 and he said, ‘Mob with us for a little while.’ Once I did that, I had more interest in what was going on behind the scenes. They had a tour manager named Lalo Medina who was a phenomenal guy. He now works with Jack White.
Which show during that tour was most memorable for you?
The show that sticks out the most is the one where I met my son’s mother. We’re not together anymore, but I met her at a J5 show. She was already friends with them, and I was the homie. During soundcheck, I’m chilling. Then, one of the homies gets the text saying, ‘Yo, can you get the homegirl? She’s outside.’ From there, that’s where we first met.
You were a part of the 2002 Smokin Grooves Festival, headlined by Lauryn Hill, Outkast and The Roots. Which set stood out to you most?
At the Tweeter Center in Tinley Park. Jurassic 5 was on that tour and after their set, they wanted to go into the crowd and watch the show from the audience. We were walking through the crowd, and then the lights came up as the show ended. Once the lights came on, people realized they were one of the acts who performed earlier and started rushing them to get autographs. Security was like, ‘We need to get people out and make sure y’all are good, so we’re going to escort y’all to the back. I’ll get a couple of other guards.’ So, they pull one of the guards from the stage over to escort us and a minute later, a big ass speaker falls off the stage right where the security guard who was telling us all of this was at. Someone replaced his spot before the speaker fell, and that dude got squashed by the speaker. Unfortunately, he passed away. That security guard with us was like, ‘Y’all saved my life because if I didn’t move, that would’ve been me.’ I had to come back to Chicago a week or two later for a family reunion, and I saw in the newspaper they didn’t say anything about the actual festival — they just said it was a Lauryn Hill concert. They put everything on her.
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What did you learn from your first tour managing role with Zion I?
I learned if you have a name like Timothy House, there are several people who have the same name as you. And when you get to the border to get into Canada, they pull up all of Tim House’s stuff. I was on tour with guys I had never been on tour with. When we get to the border and run everybody’s shit, they run mine and say I’m associated with sexual assault, gun trafficking and grand theft autos. They’re looking at me like, ‘Who are we out here with?’ I’m there like, ‘None of that shit is me.’ It took a few hours to get through everything.
You also worked Rock The Bells 2011 with Souls of Mischief. That lineup was stacked with Lauryn Hill, Black Star, Erykah Badu and so many other artists. What was it like backstage?
What was interesting about that show was they brought in a bunch of different artists. They brought Souls of Mischief to do 93 ’til Infinity front-to-back. Since the show was on an island, we had to take ferries. They scheduled ferries for everyone who was on the bill. Our ferry had Slaughterhouse and Erykah Badu’s crew on it. It was pretty low-key, and everyone was staying to themselves on the way there. After the show, if you didn’t catch your ferry at a particular time, you had to ride the one with everybody on it. We didn’t leave early; we waited until the show was over and then left on the ferry with everyone on it. Being on that ferry was like being in a hip hop high school cafeteria. I look to my left, I see Lauryn Hill and all of her kids. I look over here, and I see Wu-Tang Clan. I look over here, and you see Mobb Deep. They had all of these people on a fucking ferry. It was loud and rambunctious. There are no food fights, drinking, smoking or anything like that. What it is, is you can’t turn around without seeing someone who is a factor in hip hop. We all had to get back the same way. Lauryn was headlining, but she had to ride the boat with everybody else.
Speaking of Souls of Mischief, you managed the 20th anniversary tour for their classic album 93 ’til Infinity. What went into putting that together?
That was a crazy tour. It was in the realm of 50 dates. Their booking agent at that time graduated in 1993, so he was juiced. We got a lot of gigs because so many people connected to the ‘’93 Til Infinity’ song. Initially, the group decided they wanted to do a live band, so there were a lot of rehearsals going on. We were ready to go. I send the band out to our first date, which was in Omaha, Nebraska [on June 18, 2013]. We were about to leave to fly out and meet everybody, and then the partner for the tour pulled out. Now, we don’t have the revenue to pay for the band. So, I had to bring the band back. I’m already behind the 8-ball, and it didn’t start yet. We get out there and do our thing. We did a show in Winston Salem, N.C., and nobody was there. It might’ve been a dozen people there, but these motherfuckers tore that shit up. For the people who were there, they saw Souls of Mischief tear some shit up. It was very interesting to see them kill some shit in front of the least amount of people they’ve ever played for.
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You’ve brought your son with you to a bunch of concerts. Who has he been able to meet so far?
He turns 18 in June, and he’s been going to shows with me since he was 12 weeks old. He’s met people like Tyler, the Creator and Dave Chapelle. But, for him, the big thing was meeting Macklemore. I went on tour with Macklemore for the ‘CA to CO Tour’ with Zion I and Grouch. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were the opening act. They hadn’t blown up yet. My son meeting Macklemore, at the time, was dope for him.
You also managed NxWorries’ tour with Earl Sweatshirt in 2015. That seems like an odd pairing. How did the shows go?
They mixed like gin and juice. It was a perfect blend. To be honest, it was so different because cats like Knxwledge and Anderson .Paak are do-it-yourself cats. They did it all themselves. There were no handouts. They really grinded their stuff out and took advantage of the hard work they put in. A.P.’s manager, Adrian Miller, is a friend I’ve known for years. The shows were essentially Knxwledge on his gear and A.P. on the mic. There was no live instrumentation or background vocalists. It was just those two dudes. It was as if Madlib was backing up D’Angelo. There was also never a setlist. It was whatever Knxwledge played, A.P. had to catch up. I think the last song of the night was them doing ‘Drugs.’ They’d start the show off differently every night. I’d tell them, ‘I need to print a setlist’ and they’d be like, ‘Nah.’ Earl was on the side of the stage watching them every night. When I saw him the first night, I wasn’t really tripping. But then, when I saw him at the second, third and fourth show, I was like, ‘Oh, Earl really fucks with them.’ What else was interesting about that tour was Earl’s tour manager was a woman. His manager was a woman. His bus driver was a woman. His merch managers were also women. You don’t get that on any tour where there’s a balance of women and men. But, really, it was the women in charge.
What are some unique fan reactions you’ve experienced while on tour?
I’ve experienced people trying to get on the bus. I’ve fought people who didn’t understand trying to step on the bus is like trying to step into our house. There have been situations that have turned me into a fan. In particular, I was on tour with Alchemist, Dilated Peoples and 88-Keys when our tour stop in Portland [on June 3, 2008] coincided with Kanye’s ‘Glow in the Dark Tour’ with Rihanna, Lupe Fiasco and N.E.R.D. We were performing the same night in Portland. 88-Keys is Kanye’s patna, and Kanye executive produced the album he was working. Kanye was also friends with Dilated. I also think Evidence co-produced ‘Last Call’ on The College Dropout. 88-Keys came to me and said, ‘I talked to Ye earlier. I think he might come through.’ I was like, ‘If he’s coming through, there’s a lot of shit I have to handle because we’re in a club and Kanye’s playing arenas.’ I had to go to the venue and tell them, ‘There’s a chance the biggest rapper in the world is going to come through tonight.’ The dude who ran the venue was like, ‘Let me know what’s up, and I’ll make sure everything is handled.’ Ye ended up calling and saying he was coming through. He was able to park on the sidewalk. They let him park on the sidewalk while someone watched his car. When I brought him into the green room, security was acting like Secret Service. They were throwing people out of the way like, ‘Get the fuck out of the way.’ We brought him up to the stage, and I have never seen a whole venue pay attention to one person on stage. They were only paying attention to Kanye West on stage. That was some pure hip hop shit. He rocked with 88-Keys before doing some off-the-dome freestyle shit. He then did the song with Dilated. The crowd knew it was historic.
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What do you have coming up for the rest of 2022?
I have something cooking right now that’s probably the biggest thing I’ve ever been a part of. I’m just waiting to pull the trigger on that. As of right now, I’m focused on Bay Area local things, particularly in Oakland. I curate and book an event called Hiero Day, a block party in Oakland for Hieroglyphics and the greater Bay Area. There are three stages of live music, vendors, food and the best things about Oakland are there. I’ve had Kehlani, Guapdad 4000, Bun B, DJ Quik, Toro y Moi and other artists there. I’m looking forward to doing more this year. There are a few people I want to see hit the stage. I’m always juiced about working with the newer cats. Anybody that’s from the 80s and 90s, I’m always juiced to provide a platform for them too.
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