Caterer Shelleylyn Brandler expended her career feeding rockstars. Now they’re helping her survive

It’s been one yr because concert venues and tunes festivals have indefinitely closed their doorways…

It’s been one yr because concert venues and tunes festivals have indefinitely closed their doorways thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the music and society sector, the cancellation of Austin’s annual South by Southwest (SXSW) competition in March would be a harbinger of the crisis to come. The celebration marks the commence of the all-vital spring-summertime competition and touring season, as its songs portion showcases growing youthful talents. With the decrease of bodily album revenue, the pageant doubles as the financial spine for artists and driving-the-scenes personnel, from managers to caterers to location homeowners, who make it all run. 

SXSW’s songs competition returns March 16-20 as a virtual international function. Nevertheless it alerts a proverbial gentle at the end of a tunnel, its electronic comeback also illuminates the prolonged and unsure road to recovery as venues await reopening and the business reemerges into an increasingly electronic landscape. 

Every single working day this 7 days, KCRW will be spotlighting distinctive artists actively playing SXSW 2021 alongside other staff in the stay tunes environment. They all mirror on the earlier year and share their predictions for the potential. 


“Our small business model is feeding rockstars,” says Shelleylyn Brandler of TaDa! Catering.

In March 2020, caterer Shelleylyn Brandler was gearing up for what was intended to be just one of the busiest seasons of her occupation. Her organization, TaDa! Catering, has used the earlier two a long time supplying food items for expertise and crew at big audio festivals and venues across Southern California, together with Coachella, Stagecoach, the Forum, the Hollywood Bowl, and the Greek Theatre. Or, as Brandler puts it, “our small business model is feeding rockstars.” 

Then it all came crashing down with the cancellations of SXSW and Coachella in fast succession. In 48 hrs, Brandler’s calendar for the next three months was entirely wiped out, leaving her and the 150 employees she employs for competition period in the lurch.  

“It was like a domino outcome,” she tells KCRW. “But it’s inconceivable that a yr later items would nevertheless be this way.”  

During all those initial months, Brandler dipped into her own savings to aid assistance her staff with people who have been counting on seasonal operate from TaDa! Catering. As the shutdown stretched on, on the other hand, Brandler located herself battling to survive. 

Like several of the unbiased personnel and area of interest companies that designed the reside tunes business operate, the one of a kind character of Brandler’s perform meant that she slipped through the cracks of lots of aid courses available. Thanks to the seasonal nature of the do the job, for example, TaDa! Catering outsources its payroll to yet another corporation, indicating it technically has no employees, thus disqualifying Brandler from eligibility for a federal Payroll Defense System (PPP) loan. 


The TaDa! Catering employees backstage at Coachella. Photo courtesy of Shelleylyn Brandler. 

Equally, quite a few regional and foundational tiny organization grants require owners to have brick-and-mortar areas to implement, protecting against Brandler from applying because her organization travels from location to venue. 

“Between individuals two matters, I located it unattainable to get any actual support everywhere,” Brandler says. “It’s humbling. It’s surprising to consider that I are not able to shell out my bills now. Like, that is how poor it truly is gotten. I experienced a flourishing business enterprise.”

Brandler, along with her organization husband or wife and chef Mike Goerdel, experimented with to pivot to personal catering and shipping, but uncovered it hard to compete with hundreds of dining establishments in LA doing the same, and felt that catering nevertheless posed way too much of a overall health possibility. Her predicament acquired to the issue wherever Brandler was planning to market the prized 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 that she has had for 17 years, and has made use of to make operates for her business.

“I was basically shopping for a ‘For Sale’ sign and striving to offer it so I could just survive an additional month without the need of going beneath and dropping every thing I have labored for,” she suggests. 

Though out getting the indicator, Brandler obtained a connect with about an sudden donation from Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, whose Ohana Competition she has been catering for yrs. The reward, along with other music and smaller small business guidance programs like Vans Foot the Invoice (Brandler has also catered the Vans Warped Tour), have aided Brandler hang on to her car or truck and business enterprise in new months. She’s grateful to obtain support from the community she has expended her vocation serving, but just how prolonged she and many others can adhere it out continues to be to be seen.

“I really don’t imagine that we’re going to make up almost everything we have shed in the calendar year,” Brandler suggests. “I imagine that will get time, but I do believe we will, at some place, be super active and stay events will occur back again.”


A board displays the backstage food choices for team and expertise at Coachella. Picture courtesy of Shelleylyn Brandler. 

With word of some smaller venues eyeing reopening in Southern California, and experiences of pageant bookings in other states, Brandler stays hopeful. But she’s also planning to return to a reside new music environment that, at least in the beginning, may look rather distinct from the thick crowds, beer-stained floors and sticker-plastered punk rock loos of yore. 

Venues, she states, will most likely be running at constrained capacity with enhanced employees and sanitation restrictions. On the catering side, Brandler expects boundaries and pre-packaged meals will just take the place of her typical decadent buffets. She’s also bracing herself for a higher price of carrying out small business, many thanks to the sharp boost in food stuff costs wrought by the pandemic, as perfectly as the require to retain the services of additional team in purchase to put together and provide foods securely. 

“There is that fear of, when I do go again into small business, am I gonna get squeezed? Am I gonna have to provide significantly less or do all vegetarian?” she says.  “The target is heading to be on cleanliness and sanitation. I consider some of those improvements, we won’t know until finally points hopefully start out to come back again in the 3rd or fourth quarter. We never even actually know if the variants are likely to have an result on us. Time will even now explain to wherever we need to have to go with that.”

Study additional: SXSWhen?: No Age’s Randy Randall reflects on a yr without the need of reveals and live music’s unsure long run”