I’m 34 and Your Band Sucks
This weekend I had the pleasure spending my birthday lounging on an island eating fresh shellfish and drinking beer. Ok, so I didn’t lounge all that much with a toddler running around, the island was in the Puget Sound, not the Bahamas, and we didn’t catch any crabs so we ate frozen lasagna. Oh, and I backed my car into another in a grocery star parking lot and got to experience my first “accident”. The beer part was true, though. I still had a great time and I’m thankful for the friends and family who were there.
Later that night, we decided to go out and drink some more and listen to some live music. After babysitting was secured, we headed out to a great little local club, the Skylark, to hear some unknown bands. Nhak does a pretty good job of frequenting the local music scene (he’s single and has the time *shrug*), but even he didn’t recognize any of the bands that play there. I sort of like that, though. A small club, unknown bands with the potential for greatness. It’s like going to a musical casino and playing slots. ‘course, people lose most of the time at slots…
The first band, Go Slowpoke, was a 3-piece straight outta Bellingham. A little bit reminiscent of Bright Eyes (per Nhak’s observation), they were pleasant enough to listen to but I wasn’t driven to buy their cd after the show. The lead singer/guitarist also played the ahem…kazoo..on a few songs, which was gimmicky and distracting. While not great, their simple songs with overly heartfelt vocals were actually the most tolerable of the night. Heck, I even liked some of the songs, but like most small, local bands, they could have benefited from a producer or at least an interested friend, to help them work out some of the kinks. At least I could hear the lyrics and they weren’t all horrible.
But next up we had Elba. Holy shit, they ate balls. It’s difficult to describe what shape and form their suckiness took, but I’ll try.
- Vocals. There were vocals, but we couldn’t hear them. Drowned out by the overmixed instruments, all those hours handcrafting lyrics and wordsmithing, trying to find the right way to express that important thought: wasted. As Nhak said, he could have been repeating the word “possum” over and over for all we the audience knew.
- Drumming. Their drummer apparently went to BeatTheShitOuttaMyDrums Institute and graduated with honors. Way too loud and without any interesting variation, it was robotic and ultimately unnecesary. Just get a drum machine, fellas, and clear up space on the stage.
- A keyboard and a trumpet. These were used on one song to no real effect. Leave the one off instruments at home.
- Bass turned up so loud it shakes the drum kit. Christ, I know you hear that shit on the stage. Is that working for you? Do you hear the shimmy of the cymbals and go “Perfect!”. It sounds like ass in stereo to the audience.
- Stage presence. I’m not sure they were aware they were playing a show for an audience. This whole indie-rock failure to acknowledge the audience shit needs to stop. If you want to play music and make noise, have fun in your garage, but the second you decide to share that shit with me and a room full of strangers, at least pay us the respect of communicating with us. And no, your songs will not speak for themselves. See the above points to understand why.
Now, to be fair, maybe the shape of the room determines the quality of the sound to a certain extent, but I remain convinced that better choices could have lead to a (marginally) better performance.
Frustrated, slightly deaf and a bit buzzed, we decided the last band (possibly the headliner?) would get 1 song to convince us to not leave. The Shrinks took the stage with a keyboard front and center. Not a good sign. After some sound checking, they launched into a song and when they finished, two of the band members left the stage. Weird, but we were already headed out. They sucked. Or I’m just old. Probably the latter.