Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Good luck in the band, dear nephew

THERE'S A LOT of things I want to tell my nephew, Riley, about playing in a band. Riley is a drummer. He's a sophomore at Arizona State University and plays in the Sun Devil Marching Band. He's pretty darn good.

Recently he hooked up with a band in the Phoenix area called No Lungs. They are self-described as "Indie Rock" and it's kinda cool. It's original songs and very fast and very aggressive rock, the stuff kids love today. I think. They've played a couple of shows in the Phoenix area and next month they "headline" a show at one of the local venues. They are very excited. They should be!

Riley posted a video on his Facebook page of a practice session, and it was awesome. They are all sitting around and tinkling with guitar riffs. Riley hits his drums a few times. Then the singer says "GO" and they crash into this riff-heavy and driving song. It's a glorious cacophony full of energy, and you can tell these are guys just dying to unleash their music to the world.

Go, Riley, go! Playing in a band is a dream come true and when it clicks, there is nothing better. But .... Uncle Rot Knee has a few things to point out. Just so you know.

I think Riley has a girlfriend. I'm sure she is very nice and I'm happy for Riley. Hopefully Riley doesn't show this to his girlfriend, but bands and girlfriends can be a dangerous and toxic mix, and inevitably somebody will go Yoko Ono on the band and things will implode. Perhaps his girlfriend is awesome and loves No Lungs and wants to be the merchandise director. Right. Good luck with all that, Riley.

Also, somebody will be late to practice. Usually it isn't the drummer. Also, somebody will forget the words to a song, or forget their pedal board, or plunk the wrong riff on the intro, or use the wrong cable to plug in the head to the cab and screw up the ohms, and it will start smoking. During the show.

The band will get a festival gig and be super excited. Then they will show up and realize that they are on the "Pepsi Rock Wagon" stage, which is a rickety hay wagon in a field a mile from the main stage. And there's no power. And the promoter couldn't give two shits about you.

Then you'll get a gig at the local dive bar and it will be glorious. People will go nuts and start talking about the band and you'll start getting really excited. You'll sing a song about the drummer's ex-girlfriend who stole all the band merchandise and people will go crazy. They will sing along. Singing along to your original song! Wow. It's a rush you can't create.

So you'll book another gig at the dive bar. And two people will show up. It's called "playing to chairs" and it's a bummer. You are a professional so you'll still kick rock and roll ass, even though you won't get paid and nobody cares. But now the song about the ex-girlfriend who stole all your stuff doesn't have the same zing.

Also, the "musical direction" changes, and before you know it you are playing Skynyrd covers and "Cheeseburger In Paradise." You won't feel bad because people love it. But you'll miss your days of playing your own stuff and suffering for your own art.

Also, you'll get stiffed at a gig, or you won't get paid, or your bass player will use a bad check to pay for band T-shirts, or some PA equipment goes missing and you find it months later at the singer's ex-girlfriend's house. Along with all the missing band T-shirts.

Hopefully I'm not bumming Riley out. I'm encouraging him and his rock and roll dreams. I love it when young musicians get together and everything is exciting and new and full of possibilities. It would not surprise me if No Lungs gets noticed and are all the buzz in sunny Phoenix.

Rock on, Riley. Call if you have questions or want advice. Stay true to your rock and roll dreams.

But never play on a rickety hay wagon.

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