On Monday, an artist that is hard-working & a great singer-songwriter "had a moment".. The way I see it, we all have our "moments". He makes some great points... and that's why I'm sharing it with you.
This is one of those rants that, on the surface, will seem like a jaded musician throwing a tantrum; and some will actually make that assertion. But my firm belief is that those who are in this scene for the right reasons will not only understand my position, but also fully support it as well. There are also a multitude of musicians out there who feel the same way I do, but choose not to voice their frustration. How do I know…because they’ve said so to me. So without further ado:
I’ve always been a quality-over-quantity kinda guy. I’d much rather have one tender juicy steak, than have three boot-tough pieces of nastiness. I’d much rather have 3 truly good friends, than 300 people I can’t trust. The same goes with music. I’d much rather have 100 fans in the crowd who are there for the music, than 1000 people in the crowd who couldn’t tell you a single word from your previous song. And believe me; I’ve played to both kinds of crowds. Now don’t get me wrong, we love the hell-raising, beer chugging crowds… as long as they’re raising hell to our tunes.
That being said, it’s very important that we make a sharp distinction here. There’s a difference between a bar that does music, and a music venue that serves alcohol. If I’m playing a beer joint that rarely has live music, my standards and expectations of the crowd are vastly different. I don’t profess to think that EVERY set we play is going to be to music lovers. At the same time, when we play at a live music venue, those expectations change. There’s also a difference between a “gig”, and a “show”. We play several gigs a year, and when I use the word “gig”, I’m referring to the beer joint places. We do “shows” at live music venues. I think most musicians know the difference, and so I’m hoping to help those of you who might not be as knowledgeable on the subject.
Some…no…MOST people possess the ability to completely let a song, a lyric, or a melody entirely overtake their soul. They close their eyes and let the words surround their world. Sometimes, it’s a fast song with a beat, or a lyric that makes you feel like you can run through a brick wall without a scratch. Other times, it’s that one line in the song that makes you cry because you miss your hero. To those people, music is more than just $5 at the door. It’s more than just that 75 mile trip you made to see the band. It’s about that connection you make with the music, the song, and the band. Those people, regardless of their gender, are the reason I wrote Red Dirt Girl. They come to the show early. Why? Not to meet the band, not to get the early beer special. They come early to make sure they don’t miss a thing; to make sure they can get front and center and FEEL every note, every beat, every word of every songs. This rant is not about a musician who wants a different type of crowd. It’s about that person who drives a hundred miles, pays their cover and soaks up every second, even though they have every song you’ve ever recorded and sing along with every word. It’s about the person who knew him when he was Stoney Phillips. It’s about the person who has that Live @ Roosters cd (as horrible as it was). It’s about the people who remember when Wade and Randy opened for everyone. It’s about the TRUE music fans. It’s about the people who have been offered to be put on the guest list, but say “no, it’s ok. I wanna support you guys.” What they don’t know, is that their existence at the shows is way more support than we could ever want.
If we play a gig at a beer joint, sure I’ll be a lil frustrated that we’re nothing more than a jukebox with a trailer. But that’s the price of poker. That’s what they call “paying our dues.” But when we pull up to a music venue, for a show, our (most bands) expectation is that we’re gonna be surrounded by people who are there for the tunes. One of my favorite people in the world, “Mama” PJ Berry was one of those folks who would drive with her husband Ron, for HOURS to see a show. And you can bet your ass she knew EVERY word to every song we played. How’s that? Because she came to music venues and LISTENED. “Bo, you can’t expect us to just sit there and say nothing, like little drones” Why not? There are countless musicians out there who sacrifice EVERYTHING to pursue an art that isn’t subsidized by a government grant. They pour their souls into every word, in the hopes that someone out in that crowd can relate to their sadness, their elation, their pride. And yeah, it’s frustrating as hell when guys put ten thousand dollars worth of equipment into a two thousand dollar trailer, pulling it with a thousand dollar van, to split their $500 paycheck 5 ways AFTER eating, rooms, gas, and potentially broken gear. After all that, they pour over a yellow legal pad with a borrowed pen and gush their emotions, one verse at a time. For what? So a bunch of drunk dudes can ask for Wagon Wheel?
Music is a passion. It’s not something people do in order to make it rich. In the big scheme of things, the likelihood of financial success from music is extremely slim. Financial success for most musicians is breaking even by Sunday morning. Occasionally, there’s a little left over to buy some groceries. With any passion, you feel anger and resentment when people don’t appreciate your passion; and music is no different.
Here are a few little nuggets of etiquette that FANS have pointed out that THEY appreciate when at shows.
• Don’t steal music on Limewire, Kazaa, etc. (those are just examples folks). A well-produced cd costs thousands and thousands of dollars to do. Every $10 cd you illegally download or share cuts into that.
• Don’t video the whole show. It’s annoying as hell to everyone behind you, not to mention illegal in most venues.
• When the songs are over, clap and raise some hell. If the song sucked, give a small courtesy clap, but really let loose if the song rocked your socks off. Silence is a musician’s worst enemy. It’s like sex, folks. You gotta let us know when we’re doing it right, or we’re just gonna blindly stab at it.
• Don’t chat on your phone right in front of the stage. If you have to take a call, mozie outside. It’s a win-win
• If you heckle the singer, chances are you’re about to get burned. We do this for a living.
• Only sing along to the songs IF YOU KNOW THE WORDS (not my rule, folks)
• When you meet the band, understand that the band truly appreciates you, but they can’t devote 30 minutes to every person.
• Asking for the artist to sing a fellow artist’s song is usually considered bad form.
• Don’t try to ask the singer a question in the middle of a song. They’re kinda busy.
• Smokers, yeah it’s a bar, but please be respectful of where your cigarette is.
• We all gotta fart, but don’t do it right there. We ALL know it was you.
• SIT DOWN (when there are chairs)
• SHUT UP (It’s impossible to learn new songs if you’re chatting while it’s being sung)
• LISTEN (don’t just hear the songs…. Feel them)
Keep in mind, these were not developed by musicians, but by OTHER FANS who truly care about this passion we have called music.