Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sorry I Didn’t Catch Your Band:

When I was a youngster and on the rare occasions we’d land a show with a national act, I had this notion in my mind that maybe the headliner would see us, really dig our band and help us out in some way. When this didn’t happen or if one of the members came in the room for a few songs and then left, I used to get pissed off. I thought they were being rockstars or they sold out and didn’t care about the local scene. Regardless, with the benefit of hindsight, whatever I was thinking was probably wrong in most situations. 100 + shows a year later, I have a different perspective on things and I have a different answer for the guy that pulled me aside and said, “I noticed you didn’t watch much of our band’s set, why?” 
[Redd is beat tired after loading out at 3 AM]

Well, what I’m going to say may not make me the most popular person but like I’ve always said, I’m an acquired taste like Wild Turkey... So here goes. Truth is, “discovering” a new live band is very low on my priority list when I’m out on the road. With that said, I am super stoked when I do catch a new band that’s on the bill with us that truly blows my mind or inspires me. Talking to some of my touring musicians friends and so forth and thought it’s often only said behind closed doors, this rarely happens. A buddy of mine from a big band you’ve probably heard of said to me one time, “Joad, it’s like this, 99% of the local bands you’ll play with suck.” I think he may be a little extreme but definitely at least 95% of them are uninspiring or pretty middle of the road. 

Now there will be some folks that will say, “Who the fuck do you think you are... your band sucks anyway.”  OK, I accept that, but there’s a few things to consider before you write me off as a tool bag. First, we’re good at what we do, we’re always pro and we’re out there in the trenches doing it. If you’re annoyed by this conversation already you probably aren’t really out there in the trenches. It’s like this, playing paint ball on the weekends, no matter how good you are, it doesn’t mean that you know jack shit about being in the infantry front lines in a real war. There’s some similarities, but it’s two different things. Apples and oranges. I don’t like to just leave a bold statement like 95% of the bands we are playing with are uninspiring without explaining a bit so stay with me here. 

I’m sure if you’re on a national bill the show is a big deal to you and if its not , it should be because it’s a big opportunity a lot of really good bands don’t get easily. Still, you are probably more excited about it than anyone else is. Bring the enthusiasm into your show and into your promotion though. If you play it awesome they will come doesn’t really happen so get that notion out of your head. If you’re a local band and you only bring 5 people out to see you, stop wasting people’s time. You either A) aren’t ready to be on that stage or B) too lazy to promote or C) the last time people came to your show it sucked. In either of these scenarios, neither the national, booker or anyone else involved in the show process will be very happy with you regardless of how good you are. 

Some people have said, “It’s a style thing, you just don’t like our style or you don’t get it.” Yeah, that’s probably not true either. In our touring rig, the driver picks the music and depending on who’s in the captains chair, you will hear an eclectic mix of new bands, classics and live stuff. What I want to hear is something that’s good and pro. You should be good at your style. People should say, you know, that’s not my thing but I had a good time and you guys are good at what you’re doing. In most cases, what you’re doing I’ve probably seen done better and with more originality. My friend calls it the “Smokestack Lightning” quoting Howling Wolf. He calls the smokestack that intangible quality that goes beyond talent and just somehow captivates people. It doesn’t have to be one person, it can be a song or it can be the synergy between band members. Even if you come across pro and are competent at playing, it doesn’t mean I’ll see the smokestack. Two songs in I may say, yeah that’s a solid street punk band and leave the room. I may hear one song and realize that if I don’t escape I will be subject to incomprehensible cookie monster rantings by a singer in flood pants who’s double kick drummer will likely beat us over the head with blast beats for the next hour playing the same song with breaks in between every 5 minutes.
[I'm trying to get some sleep an hour before we go on]

Sometimes I know if I’ll watch your band just from our first meeting. When I see your band come in, I do make judgements. I look at the members, how they act, their equipment, their merch, how they soundcheck and everything and I learn a lot. Sometimes I’m dead wrong and I probably shouldn’t do this, but I”m usually right. For example, if I ask the kid in a perfect hot topic outfit what kind of music he plays and he says, “Well, it’s really hard to say, you can’t classify what we’re doing, it’s completely original so make sure you catch us” I’ll know he’s in a shitty metal band that probably has a keyboard player. If a band member comes in the room, starts taking charge and telling me how the backline is going to work as he takes his Yngwie road case out with 3 heads and enough “do dads” to control a satellite, I’ll know his band will probably be very boring and tasteless but technical. If you tell me “Just wait and see, we are going to melt your face with giant choruses and high energy,” I’ll know you have an overinflated view of what you’re doing and your band will probably be a jambalaya of shit that should never be put together. 

On those rare occasions when someone does blow you away, it’s magic. Remember, I’m always a music fan first and a performer second. It happens a few times every tour. A person I’m a fan of who we had the honor of opening for once said to me, “You know, I’ve been out for 3 months and you’re the second band that impressed me we’ve played with.” So anyway, even if I’m the only one publishing shit about it and spouting off at the mouth, it’s not just me thinking this. To mention a few bright spots I can think of off hand, MF Ruckus, Red Stone Souls, Beelezebubba and Pete Berwick really got us excited when we played with them. They were bands we knew nothing about going in and then bam!, for very different reasons we got really excited and inspired by their own “Smokestack Lightning.” Obviously there’s more and some bands we already know before we get to a show so we know what to expect. 

It’s like this and I’ll be honest and realistic, it’s possible I was downstairs on the phone or sleeping in the van and I missed your band and you are primed to be the next Led Zeppelin and shame on me. Yup, it could happen, I could also get struck by lightening, eaten by a shark or win the lottery. A lot of times I get to a venue and I”m just tired. I haven’t seen my family in a long time, I haven’t been in my bed for weeks, I”m hungry and I”m just worn out from the road. For most people, everyday in their life isn’t a concert and if it was, it changes your perspective and enthusiasm for it a bit. When I get to a show, I have one priority, that’s to get ready to put on the best show possible for 6 or 6,000 people. I”m there to honor my contract, represent myself, my family, those who came before me and my craft the best I can. I owe this to everyone that paid their money to get in the room. If I miss your band because I was focused on that, I don’t care, my priorities were in the right place and like the SH song says, IF THAT DON’T MAKE SENSE TO YOU THEN YOU ARE NEVER GONNA UNDERSTAND ME. 

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