The year was 2004, and local Austin band FREE with RSVP were on top of the world. Made up of Do512 staff/musicians Ross Bennett, Matt Bradshaw, Jimmy Stewart, Lawrence Boone, Matt Mandrella, Courtney Goforth, Drew DeGennaro, Jamie Jett, Ashley Gregg, Jordan Hughes, and Matthew LoCoco, they seemed poised for worldwide fame. The band was also really giving The Polyphonic Spree a run for their money in terms of membership.
Hot on the heels of their RIAA Certified Triple-Bronze album, the group had embarked on a staggering 719 date world tour of the southeast United States. They had it all. A 1995 Dodge Van with a mostly functional AM radio, matching haircuts, and upwards of 15 fans at every show. But like all insanely successful rock and roll fantasies, the dream was destined to become a nightmare.
After years spent indulging in a collective devil-may-care lifestyle, the cracks were beginning to show. The bands lead vocalist Matt “My Man” Bradshaw insisted on a strict “vegan” diet of old corn dogs, claiming it helped him communicate with angels while on stage. Efforts to convince him otherwise were met with a cold, steely-eyed indifference.
Manager-turned-groupie-turned bassist Ross Bennett and guitarists Matthew LoCoco and Matt Mandrella had begun yelling “FREEBIRD!” at puzzled audiences for the majority of their shows. Elsewhere, problems were abundant for the band; was it the obsession with tacos that Lawrence began to fixate on, or the mere fact that each and every one of them was addicted to children’s aspirin? By the end of the year, the band had called it quits.
In 2014, something remarkable happened. The band’s former members all happened to run into each other while eating at Thundercloud Subs. Some might call it fate, others might call it 10 people who all had coupons for a free meatball sub. Though they saw each other at work everyday, getting the band back together had never really been discussed.
BUT, because they are long-time supporters of the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM), the hard-working benefactors who provide local musicians access to affordable healthcare services, FREE with RSVP decided to reunite for one last show at Corporate Battle of the Bands.