Guest Post: How to book your band.


I’ve posted advice for existing and aspiring bands before, and I thought this email from a pro would be useful.  It was sparked when I saw his Facebook status the other day: “Great way to start the day: my favorite venue in the country complimented my email skills in contacting them to booking a date. It’s the highest praise I could hope for.”

The status went on to some comments & basically the author said he’d share the knowledge with those who cared to learn.  I asked if I could post it in a blog, and here we have it.  If you’re in a band on any level, pay heed to the advice below.

As far as background on Bengt, he’s in a band (& been in many), he records bands, he’s booked bands, and he’s generally been in every part of the scene.  He knows what he’s talking about.

Action Camp

Action Camp

On to the advice & the guest part of this guest post:

♪♫♩♬♩♫♪

Alright, so here is what we usually send like 99% of the time. There always a bit of customization but this is the basic format:

1. Greeting, name the booker if you know it (usually listed on indieonthemove.com or their website)

2. Band name (with a link to the website), genre, location.

3. Date(s) requested in bold. They love that, it makes it easier read. If you can swing 3-5 dates that’s best, it gives them room. Do them a favor and check the website for those dates first, they appreciate that a ton. Also make sure to follow their booking procedure to the T. A lot of places have a specific way they like to work (Facebook message, Sonicbids, email format, etc). If you do it right it shows you listened so you’re already at the top of the pile.

Also, if another band that’s played there before suggested it, tell them so. It’s like introducing yourself to anyone else and starting with saying you have a mutual friend. It’s a job reference.

4. Links to music, video, press – let them decide if they want to book you. The more you talk about how awesome you are and why you should be booked, the more they think you probably suck and are trying to gloss over it. It’s like handing someone your demo and saying it’s not your best work.

5. If you played there or in the city before tell them. If you know what you drew and stuff be honest, they love that.

6. Offer to help build the bill, and specifically name bands you know or have contacted already.

7. Thanks in advance, Thanks for your time, etc.

8. ALL of your contact info including phone numbers. It shows you are easy to reach and you have your shit together.

One final thing: DON’T say someone famous produced your record, quote random blog reviews, list facebook or twitter numbers, anything like that. No one cares about that if they know what their doing in the working touring circuit. Steve Albini producing your record won’t make 100 people come out in Dayton on a Monday night, and facebook and twitter followers are ostensibly your imaginary friends that only you can see. Plus, even you have 4,000 people odds are only 10 of them are near the venue you are trying to book.

Here is exactly what I sent to Southgate House:

Hello Morrella,

We are Action Camp, an art rock duo from Pittsburgh, PA.

We’re looking to see if you have Friday February 15th or Saturday the 16th available to book in the Revival Room – both look open on your calendar but I wasn’t sure if you would do a full house those nights. Our music is pretty different from what’s going on those nights so I’m not concerned about audience bleed over. This would be our 4th time to Southgate, 7th time in 3 years in the Cininnati/Newport scene. We know plenty of bands so we’d throw a bill together with 2 or 3 locals to help support.

– You can hear our music at actioncamp.bandcamp.com or at our website below.
– Here is a recent video from our 2012 summer tour
– And some press from our Winter tour just a couple weeks ago.

If these are unavailable I’d love to work something out in the future. Southgate was/is by far our favorite venue on tour, I can only assume the new house is great. Sincerely, I (Bengt) booked a venue in Pittsburgh, and based many of my practices on the way SGH was run by Rick and his crew.

Previous dates:

Parlour 10/1/2010 (Gallery Opening, free show, 100+ attending)
Parlour 1/2/2010 (w/ Duppy a Jamba, 97 paid)
Parlour Summer 2009 (Flux Capacitors last show, well attended, don’t have stats)

Our most recent dates in the area were both in Cincinnati:

12/8/2012 The Comet Cincinnati, OH (100+, free show)
7/5/2012 Sitwells Coffeehouse Cincinnati, OH (smaller acoustic show, last minute add on tour)

Thanks in advance, can’t wait to see the new place,

– Maura + Bengt (Action Camp)
http://www.action-camp.com
actioncamp@gmail.com
###.###.####

So that’s it, pretty simple. Just be honest and to the point. I also should point out that this was 1 of 10 venues we emailed on Christmas, and he got back just a day later with this response:

“Thanks for writing. Those dates aren’t announced yet, but they are spoken for. How about Wed Feb 13, or Sun Feb 17?

“PS – very well done email, especially listing previous show turnouts. You’re way ahead of the curve on that one, and it did persuade me to jump on this, and get you in!”

I always email every venue that would work for us in a city, it’s better to have choices than no show at all.

Hope this all helps,

– Maura + Bengt (Action Camp)
http://www.action-camp.com
actioncamp@gmail.com
###.###.####

♪♫♩♬♩♫♪

So, there you have it.  Got it?  Good.  Doing research in advance before you ask for dates seems like a no-brainer, but apparently it needs to be said.  I guess some bands naturally put more thought into stuff.

I’m not sure how you’d approach this if you had no previous gigs in an area… perhaps we can get Bengt to comment further for new bands, first time tours, etc.?

Check out the Action Camp video here:

Band Names: The List


Is your awesome idea for a band name already taken?  Assuming you read my other blog about this & have learned to Google potential names, and you’re stuck for ideas… Don’t give in to the temptation to just name your band that anyway.  Be different.  Be original.  Let me (& hopefully the eventual comments on this blog) help you out.

88 MPH

88 MPH

I might pull some of these from an older ever-evolving list at a website that’s a virtual ghost town any more.  I haven’t checked to see if any of these are actual band names.  You need to do that.

As always, I’m begging for input.  Please, add to the list.  It can be serious, scary, intelligent, funny, but make them catchy.  Include a reference/inspiration if you like.

Dianoga

Dianoga

I didn’t come up with all of those, but they’re all from that goofy list.  Let’s add some more.  Make them better than band names that have already been used. Make them memorable and creative.  Make them something that you can register on Facebook, Band Camp, Twitter, MySpace, Google+, Reverb Nation, Pure Volume, or buy the .com (or at least .org).

Put your potential band names in the comments below.  Go!

(If you use one, and we need to cross it off of the list, let us know that too!)

Psst… It’s a bar, not a stadium.


Sound Mixing deskI’m always amused when I’m out at a bar gig (whether playing or just attending) and I hear bands spitting directions to the person at the soundboard.  Let the sound guy do his or her job.  (Is there a feminine or neutral  form of “Sound Guy” that doesn’t sound dumb?)

Sure you can ask for a level adjustment if something’s drastically off, but don’t demand.  It makes you look like a pompous ass.  Then again it’s rock and roll, and it’s a bar.  There are monitors at all?  What a luxury!  If you can’t plow your way through a set on instinct with your band mates & sound somewhat in-synch, it’s time to find a new band.  So shut up, grab a beer, and play… Rock Star.

Super old music scene rant… Unprofessionalism [2005]


I just mentioned this in a blog, and then I found it.  I think this was on my MySpace blog, but I can’t find it there.  It’s an old rant from 2005 that I emailed to myself for some reason.  I don’t know if I ever posted it anywhere?  Maybe I did then deleted it?  It’s incredibly whiny and laced with profanity.  I sound like a little crybaby.  That’s what happens when you go on the internet & rant, I guess.

Русский: Jim Dunlop - Original Crybaby (GCB-95)

Wrong kind of crybaby...

I felt like posting it since I did reference it.  It wasn’t exactly on the same topic, but it is a guy in a band whining about stupid show-related problems.  When it all comes down to it, I just have fun jamming.  None of this trivial BS outweighs that.  I can’t express that enough.  I’m glad to have a current band that rocks & is a continuance of such fun.

Maybe I made this private or didn’t post it because I named names.  None of the band names or venues exist, or are at all relevant any more, which I guess says a lot.  Maximum effort, minimal results.

-✍-

Unprofessionalism

Is that even a word? Well, now it is. Everyone’s always complaining about the Pittsburgh “scene”, and stating what the problems are or what-not… Okay… not everyone… just people involved in it who like to complain I guess. Well, I have another complaint to add to this mysterious master list that bites my ass… and I don’t know how to put a tag on it other than “Unprofessionalism”. Really, before you pick the term apart… I realize that most bands on the local level & most bands that we deal with aren’t doing this “professionally” per se… they’re not making a living at it, they’re doing it more as a hobby or fun activity. Well, good for you… I do it because I love it too. Sometimes, some people (musicians & booking people) make it hard to love.

People, unintentionally or not… can be assholes. Now, I’m a very laid back kinda guy (ask anyone). Although, I guess I get uptight at certain things… like when I can’t get straight answers… and when things that my name (or my bands’ name as an extension of that) are attached to go otherwise than according to plan.

Two ball-breakers hit for this weekend’s double header.

First one, not so big of a deal, but annoying as all hell in my eyes. We’re put on a last minute show. Okay. No biggie. No notice? Someone pulled out? Okay. All I ask is that I get the details, as I guess I’m the self-appointed show-pimper(-nazi). When I mean details… I mean time, cost, address, website and/or phone # of venue, name of venue, name(s) of band(s) playing, and said bands’ website url’s. Not particularly toilsome information to provide, right? Well, apparently this is the most difficult task to ever assign anyone who calls themselves a musician, booking agent, or club owner. No one ever knows the ☠⚡☣☢ing answer to anything. The ‘confirm the date and I’ll get back to you’ shit is stupid… they get back to you the week before hand, and expect you to have a place packed with your fans and friends. People need to know what the hell is going on before they commit to something. People (me) need to know what the hell is going on before the show… a month before… so they can advertise, flyer, talk about it, get the word out.

Why are the other bands important? Well… people are more likely to go out to a show if there’s 3 bands they like vs. just one. Which brings me back to the point where I think I was going before I got to a rant inside of a rant inside of a rant…

The early show at the Spider Lounge… we were given a list of bands that’re playing. I start promoting on last minute notice that there’s a show going on, we’re playing, & this is who else is playing… The Abbitoir Murders see said advertising… and they’re like… “Hey, we’re not on that…” Apparently, one guy is even going to be out of town, so there’s no way they could. Turns out they were asked the vague ‘wanna play a show’ question, never heard anything as far as details, and assumed it went kaput. Now, this is not their fault. It’s the fault of whoever set up the show. Who did set up the show? I dunno. I thought we had set up a central booking guy in order to keep all of the shit in line… so all details & info could go through him and he could ask the right questions… but apparently no one passes show info to him other than me. There was a reason for my madness that apparently no one else sees here. The way I see it though, I’ll play anywhere… so I go along with this, even though I have no idea what the ☠⚡☣☢ is going on. Don’t blame me if we can’t bring any people out because I can’t answer any detailed questions. One thing I hate more than other people being dumb, is looking dumb myself. I get word out on everything I know… then everything changes, and I look like an idiot that doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground.

In with this gripe goes websites… I ask for band or venue urls.., and I’m surprised at how many have none or incredibly out-dated information. It’s 2005. Everyone knows someone with the internet. There are free sites out there, like this one, that can get information about your place up & out. Message me if you want help with this. I’ll do it gladly. That way… when people are like “I don’t know”, we can go to the website to check out times, directions, schedules, lists of bands, etc… but even at that, the shit changes so often because bands are pulling out, or people are saying the so-and-so band is gonna be there when what they meant is that they were thinking about asking that band to maybe play… so what’s the f’n use I guess? Then I get the band’s “too new” to have a website. Well, if you’re too new to have a website, you’re too new to play a show. Get the word out there before you play. Start some hype. Tell people about yourself.

In with all the above is what I call the AMC/Club Angel’s Phenomenon. This includes some strange practices indeed… the AMC part is where you book three bands after telling the club you’ll take care of it… then you get there and 3 more bands have been added to the show, yet it’s set to start at the same time as previously advertised… and somehow, the bands that were added go on 1st, take way too long to set up, play for 45 min., and the bands you’ve booked & your bands get ☠⚡☣☢ed into short sets and playing after PA’s teen-driving curfew time so no one’s left to watch you anyway… not even the fans that were pissed that they came out too see you & had to leave before you went on, or face the possible wrath of a bored state trooper, or irate parent. The Club Angel’s side is where they call you and put you on a show… tell you the names of 2 other bands that’re playing… so you advertise those bands… get there, and find there’s five other bands on the show… none of which are the two you’ve been advertising.

Wow… all of that ranting and confusion from one little show?

The next show… we’ve had planned for how long? I dunno… a long time. Us, Moment of Tragedy, & the Have Nots. This show? Jason booked it so we have all the bands set, all the details set, things were confirmed, flyers were made & put up, and all is good to go. No problem, right?

Well, today… (the day before the show) We’re informed that the Have Nots are no longer a band. Okay. The Have Nots are a great band. They’ve put us on shows before. I love to watch them play. They all seem like nice guys. But, seriously… WHAT THE ☠⚡☣☢? I know, shit happens. You might not get along anymore. You might not have practiced a lot lately. All things that don’t happen overnight… so this falls under “Things that should have been brought to our attention prior to yesterday” (to paraphrase Robbie the wedding singer). And… again… this show has been planned for a while. Is there no such thing as being honor-bound to play, or finding someone to take your place? We still haven’t gotten “official” word. Were they just gonna be a no-show tomorrow had Mike not talked to Ed?

I’ve only ever backed out of a show one time… that’s when Boner & Ben quit AiXeLsyD the morning of a video shoot that we were to have at Angry Johnny’s for “Stand Up” in order to appear on Pittsburgh cable show The Venue. There was a whole lot of chaos going on that day, so it was understandable IMO. Other than that, any time shit arose… we either played w/o a band member, got someone to replace a band member & learn a set within weeks (Thanks Jake, now of the Last Hope, for helping form the Fismits and opening for the Undead when AiXeLsyD couldn’t do it!), and An-Die and I have even played acoustic sets when a drummer bailed. The Rally Ally loved that shit. Even that day we cancelled… I called around like a mother-☠⚡☣☢er trying to get someone out who knew our drum parts… and then, eventually called everyone putting the show together and told them we couldn’t make it. I’d never just bail & not pass the word on.

Is there no code of honor among musicians? No common bond? No feeling of being on the same team or striving for the same goal? Get some convictions, people.

The whole booking thing before… I could get involved in our whole deal with Shadrag’s Entertainment, but I digress… and we’ll save that story for another day.

So… in conclusion (you were following that I was making a point here, right?) maybe all the Pittsburgh scene needs is for all of us to get our shit together. We need to plan, organize, and follow through. It’s not that hard. Well, I know it’s hard for artists of any type to do anything so regimented… but if you stay regimented in this facet, maybe it will push you to be even more free on the artistic side. Who knows? Try it, you might like it. If we all got our facts straight before we answered questions, if we all advertised the same shit for the same day & time, if we all stuck to our commitments, and if we all communicated better… we’d have a hell of a lot more fun in a less stressful environment.

The night view of Pittsburgh skyline from Moun...

Yinzburgh

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Onlywatchthebandwithaguy(orgirl)thatIknowinit-itis


This ties in with an earlier blog post.  I’m just trying to figure out how to reach people.  When people who have never heard of us catch us play, we generally have people coming up to say they dig it. It’s a good feeling.  I’d like it to happen more often because I think the band is doing a fun thing, and I’d like more people to share in the fun.

Getting people to come out in the first place is one struggle.  Getting yourself in front of an audience that’s already there is another struggle.  Getting people to watch you once they’re there seems to be an entirely different struggle.

We'd like to thank Bobby for coming out tonight!

Has this ever happened to you? Yes, it has.

Lately I’ve seen a trend of bands telling people saying “hey we’re 1st, come early” or “hey we’re last, come late” then their fans show up for just them & don’t bother to check anyone else out.   I generally tell people to come for the whole show & check out the other bands.  We try to book shows with bands we dig, just for this reason.

Spider-\m/an

Spider-Man :: This has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that I found it hilarious.

I hate to come of as a whiner, and I know I will to some readers.  I’m just trying to express my frustrations, and this blog is a forum for just that.  In fact, it’s my forum for just that.  I’m trying to work it out for myself & to possibly get some insight from other local (and some not so local) musicians.

In fact, I think I have ranted about this very topic online before, maybe just a similar one… but I can’t seem to find it anywhere.

I also don’t want to dismiss the people that come see us at just about every show.  Your presence is incredibly important to us, and we value it.  We just want some more people there to watch with you, and we don’t want things to get stale where you’re seeing the same show over & over.  Even if you’ve only caught us once, or if you’ve bought a T-shirt, or told us you liked a video online… you are awesome and we truly appreciate your support & attendance.

I recently saw the worst case ever of this crazy only-watch-the-band-with-a-guy-I-know-in-it thing going on.  We played a show where people watched the band they came to see, then just absolutely bailed.  Not even the bands stuck around to check out the other acts, one of which was a touring act & the reason we were all playing the show.  It’s disrespectful.  I get that stuff comes up, & sometimes you need to go.  It happens.  Sometimes there’s burnout.  Sometimes there’s arrogance.  Sometimes there are good reasons.  Sometimes you’re just being ignorant.

I know personally that a bunch of people from my wife’s family came out to a show at a bar once where my wife & I absolutely love the wings.  We had told everyone how cool the place was, they all decided to come to the ‘Burgh to eat some legendary wings & watch my band play… killing 2 birds with one stone.  They sat through one band that everyone liked, then through a 2nd band that was just absolutely awful… one member was so drunk and/or high that he would strum the guitar and look down at it dazed for a minute or so while apparently hearing stuff that none of the rest of us could.  This was all endured just to see us play.  The place was packed all night, the bands & their fans watched each other, and everyone had a good time.

Not to judge a book by its cover, but I all kinds of judged books by their covers the other night and I hit the nail on the proverbial head.  A quick scan of the room revealed some crazy demographics.  More specifically a bunch of old people trying to look cool and standing on tippy-toes watching their kid play with no general comprehension of what was going on up on the stage or around them.  If I’m calling them old, you know they were old.  We knew these were parents, aunts, uncles, and neighbors… and they were going to split as soon as their kid’s bands was done.  Boy, did they ever.  If it was a cartoon, there would have been a cloud of dust & a cartoon noise.  Whoop!

It must be happening everywhere because the touring band had it written into their contract that they weren’t to be slated to play last on any of their shows.  You can’t blame them.  You tour to build support for your album, and if no one sees you play, no one’s going to buy your album or you merch or come see you the next time you roll through town.  We took the cleanup/closer spot because none of the other bands would.

Do you know what it's like to be on the bill and to play for fifteen minutes and the only people there to see you are the other bands and their girlfriends? Don't talk to ME about Rock n' Roll!  I'm out there in the clubs and on the streets and I'm living it!  I AM ROCK N' ROLL!

Do you know what it's like to be on the bill and to play for fifteen minutes and the only people there to see you are the other bands and their girlfriends? Don't talk to me about Rock n' Roll! I'm out there in the clubs and on the streets and I'm living it! I AM ROCK N' ROLL!

We didn’t help their cause because we apparently weren’t a draw either.  We watched the touring band, & they watched us.  The handful of people that came to see us were there for all of the sets that night… and the show started an hour or so later than it was supposed to.  It was awesome that the touring band actually stuck around to see us play.  I’m sure on the road they’ve seen crappy band upon crappy band night after night… but it was an unparalleled show of respect for us, and assured us that the sound guy & doorman had to stick around until we were done.  Ha ha.

My boyfriend's lame-ass band... live at the Radisson

Playing their new hit, ''Girl Girl Girl''!

Well, there were more people there to watch us… since it was a rare all-ages gig for us, we had an under-ager and her mom eager to see us… we were told we’d be rocking about 8:00pm.  We eventually went on much much later, way past the under-ager’s bed time.  So, two people who bought tickets & came out expressly to see us had to leave early and were unable to see us because of all the ridiculousness and shuffling.  Then the dozens of people who came out to see the other bands watched them then left.  Immediately.

The Sitter

Try as he might, Jeremy could just not meditate in front of a stereo. Live music is the only way to go.

It would be nice to say that whoever sold the most tickets had to go last… but then again, they did sell a lot of tickets, so that has a certain amount of pull as far as when you want to go on.

I didn’t hear any of the opening bands even mention the touring band… the headlining band that (again) we were supposed to be there in support of.

Before you say that my band sucks (you’re certainly entitled to your opinion), I’ll say that no one who left early would know, because they didn’t even give us a chance.  I’d rather clear the room myself than have it cleared for me.  How do you expose people to your live show, if the people in the place don’t even stick around for one song?

New music from Snuff and Ann Beretta!


I’m expecting two killer albums from two incredible bands this year.  What do these bands have in common?  Well, almost nothing I guess.  (It’s 11 whole steps at BandToBand.com!) They’re both punk bands, but they really sound nothing alike.  They are, however, in my all-time top favorites.

My wife tells me all the time that every band that I talk about is my favorite.  But that’s how I am, I guess.  If I like a band, I really like a band.  I try to acquire all of their music.  I get into side projects & related bands.  I sometimes even look for live stuff & bootlegs.  Snuff & Ann Beretta are bands that have that hold over me.

I got into both of these bands right around the time I started playing in my first real band, AiXeLsyD.  I was really into buying punk compilations some time after 1995… and whenever ’98 or ’99 rolled around and AiXeLsyD was writing and playing shows, I was absorbing everything and these bands just lit me up.

Snuff

Snuff

I had purchased Fat Music Vol. II: Survival Of The Fattest for the Me First and the Gimme Gimmes cover of “Country Roads”, and was instantly drawn to Snuff’s “Walk” & “Nick Northern”.  I’ve blogged about them before.  I was hooked immediately.  They really blend pop, punk, metal, thrash, ska, soul, & anything else they feel like at the moment absolutely seamlessly.  It’s crazy.  One minute they’re blistering through riffs that could be on a Metallica album, and the next there’s horns or an organ or they’re covering the specials and there’s no “what happened?” feeling.  It’s just natural.

Snuff has been dropping updates via their Facebook Page, and it’s all great news so far…

Happy new year to all. UK tour in april and new songs on the way. oi oi

Excellent rehearsal, great start to the new year, new songs sound stonking, dead excited now. Looking to record at least 8 new songs by the end of the month.

Two more new riffs up at last nights rehearsals. One mod/thrash/pretty thingy and one dangerously retro 82 hardcore beast. oooooof!

I’m incredibly pumped for this, or anything that Duncan Redmonds puts out.

Ann Beretta

Ann Beretta

With Ann Beretta, I can pin it all down to one song.  I heard “Bottlecaps” on  Fueled by Ramen‘s Year of the Rat comp, and that was it.  These cats are incredible.  Hearing their songs is like being dropped right into the middle of a story, situation, or town that you know every inch of despite having never been there.  I’ve seen them more than once in the ‘Burgh, and have even road-tripped to Cleveland to see them.  I helped make buttons for them, and they crashed at my buddy (& fellow AiXelsyD bandmate) Andy’s place after a show one time at the Rex.  The music is not unlike Rancid… without so much ska & snarl, but with honest Willie Nelson-like storytelling.  These guys wear RVA on their sleeve, and certainly make their hometown proud.  Their cover of All‘s “Long Distance” is incredible.  (The original is of course flawless in its own right.) “Love’s Easy Tears” is one of the catchiest songs ever, and I love the chaotic ending.  “Russ’Song” always gets me going, too.  Inquisition, Sixer and Foundation are worth checking out too.

The major update on this front comes from the driving force behind Ann Beretta and Foundation, Rob Huddleston…. via Twitter:

https://twitter.com/#!/robhuddlestonva/status/156134190595842048

https://twitter.com/#!/robhuddlestonva/status/156513501798612993

https://twitter.com/#!/robhuddlestonva/status/156367138507063296

https://twitter.com/#!/robhuddlestonva/status/156788477420253185

Get it before it disappears!

And there’s some stuff on their Facebook page:

Drums for 8 songs tracked so far with @RobHuddlestonVA of Ann Beretta. 5 so or more over the next few days. Go like their new FB page www.facebook.com/AnnBeretta

Back in the studio today!

First round of mixing begins today!

3 months of bronchitis & finally back to the studio w Pedro Aida – Producer/Engineer/Songwriter to get back to some vocal tracks.

Fantastic.  This is going to be a great year for music.  Black Sabbath, another Slash solo album… maybe some Aerosmith, new DLR Van Halen.  Now we just need Nerf Herder, The Bloodhound Gang, The Teen Idols, The Eyeliners, Peelander-Z, Bars, & The Unseen to start making music again.

What do you think about Snuff & Ann Beretta?

What music are you looking forward to in 2012?

Bar Band Show Timeline


Dive Bar, Plate 2

Here again?

So, I recently posted a link to Guitar Squid’s quite humorous timeline of a bar gig.  Whether in a band, or going to see a band, we’ve all been through similar situations.  Here’s how it usually goes IMHO…

  • 8:00pm | Arrive at gig early to load-in because the flyer says 9:00pm.  (Assuming your GPS/Phone/Google Maps has brought you to the right place.)
  • 8:30pm | Finally get into the bar, because all the lights have been off & no one has been there.  Bartender looks at you like you’re a vagrant.
  • 8:32pm | Notice that there are no posters or marquees at the bar telling of the gig.*
  • 9:15pm | Band wives/girlfriends begin to get annoyed that no one’s there.
  • 9:30pm | Promoter comes in looking quite rushed, says that they want to start bands at 10:00pm.
  • 9:32pm | Start setting up.
  • 9:47pm | Get told some other band is playing 1st, so & so in 3rd band has to go work night shift, so you’re playing cleanup.
  • 10:00pm | Hear bartender or promoter tell band #1 to hold off, to wait for more people to arrive.
  • 10:03pm | Band wives/girlfriends have perfected the stink eye.
  • 10:23pm | Band #1 plugs in, and tunes… at full volume, no pedals/tuners.
  • 10:32pm | Band #1 gets the go ahead.  Vocals inaudible.
  • 10:41pm | Equipment malfunction on 3rd song.  Someone scrambles to change a string, get a new amp head, get a new kick pedal, or borrow a guitar.
  • 10:50pm | Band #1 resumes after finding a solution while someone form the band or the crowd sees the chance for an open-mic night comedy routine.
  • 10:51pm | Vocals now audible.  Wish they were inaudible.
  • 11:15pm | Band rocks on, stopping after the 3rd “OK this is our last song” song, to remark “oh, we didn’t play ‘such & such’ yet!”
  • 11:23pm | Band #1 on 37th verse of “such & such”, heading into extended solos.
  • 11:35pm | Band #1 is done, starts “tearing down”.
  • 11:52pm | Band #1 finally off stage.
  • 12:15am | Band #2 up & ready to go.  Inexplicably sets stuff down & walks off stage.
  • 12:16am | People who have come to see you have asked for the 497th time what time you’re going on.  Wives/girlfriends give them the stink eye.
  • 12:29am | Band #2 comes back, double-fisting beers… ready to apparently rock.
  • 12:35am | Band #2 has successfully cleared the room, they bill themselves as “performance art” and “experimental”.
  • 12:42am | Despite the experiment gone horribly awry, you realize so & so that was supposed to leave for work hasn’t done so yet.
  • 12:51am | “This is our last song…” starts out, with a story about the last song.
  • 1:01am | Last “song” finally ends & tear-down begins as your band is placing stuff on the stage.
  • 1:10am | Sound guy yells at you for taking too long to set up, bar owner says you have to be done by 2:00am.
  • 1:15am | You’re set up, plugged in, & playing.
  • 1:16am | Realize no one from band #1 or band #2 is in the room.
  • 1:30am | People looking at their watches… except the old guy who is almost on stage with you & is so drunk he thinks you’re his favorite band from the 70’s.
  • 1:45am | Old guy professes his smelly drunken love for your band as you decide which songs to cut from the set list & what to end on.
  • 1:55am | Tear down/clean-up.
  • 1:59am | If you can find promoter, he tells you he gave all door cash to band #1 or band #2  because they “drove in from B.F.E.”
  • 2:15am | Head to a diner to get some breakfast… because you sure won’t be awake during normal breakfast hours.

*This being said… it is not the bar’s job to promote your show.  Bands need to learn to advertise.  Promoters need to advertise too.  Take posters to the bar, I bet they’ll let you put them up, or even do it for you… but a marquee or dry erase board would be nice.

So, what does your timeline look like?

If it’s too loud, you’re too old!


☢ BOOM! ☢

Phallic-Atomic Wall Art

That’s what I used to think, anyway.  Over the years I’ve come to appreciate things like volume & tone… and dialing in a bit of control to the chaos.  Recently the following open letter/plea to local & touring musicians was posted in a semi-private Facebook group for the bands that rock out at the Fallout Shelter.  I asked permission to re-post, as it seems like a cool discussion starter.  As a dude in a band, I’m always up for talking about such things.  Permission was granted, and so we’ve arrived at:

PLEASE READ – An open letter to the bands in our musical community from Rick at the Fallout Shelter –

July 27, 2011:

The Fallout Shelter in Aliquippa is well into its fourth year of providing local bands in Beaver County with a venue where they can hone their skills, develop a following, and join a sincere and optimistic musical community. We are very proud of that. We also are committed to bringing excellent quality sound and professionalism to the music patrons who attend our shows. And we strive to help the bands that perform become more professional and polished as they gain experience in front of the crowds. With all of that in mind, I feel compelled to write this letter to everyone who has contributed so much to our journey.

Rock music is traditionally expected to be performed at loud volumes. Although we welcome all musical genres at the Shelter, we have tended to present rock, punk and metal acts more regularly. As such, volume frequently reaches levels that would severely damage the sensitive ears of small animals. So, the question becomes, can “loud” be too loud? Despite your inner rock god’s rabid denials, the truth is that, yes, it can be too loud. On more than a few occasions, I have witnessed young rock fans leave the Shelter shaking their heads and declaring that “it is too loud down there!” How can loud be too loud?

The Fallout Shelter ☢

The Fallout Shelter ☢

As an old rock musician and former fine arts major who grew up in the 70’s listening to bands such as Zeppelin and the Who, let me offer my view on the matter: When the individual sounds of the instruments become too loud, they tend to meld together into what can essentially be described as a “mush” of sound emanating from the stage. As the on-stage musician, you no longer are providing the sustenance of musical nectar to the fans, but are instead dumping the digested excrement of the combined sounds upon them. Individual sounds are completely lost and thus, so are individual expression and critical accents of each musician which can significantly enhance the musical presentation. Some of you might argue that certain genres are intended to be presented as musical mush – and I cannot disagree because musical taste is indeed individual. But musical mush is not what we desire to showcase. The occasional unusual act that uses noise or volume for musical or artistic effect is welcome, but we do not wish to bombard our patrons with unnecessary volume. By beginning your performance at maximum volume, you lose nuance and dynamics, which eliminates your flexibility in making your performance so much more powerful. Being able to increase volume for that soaring lead, or for that key phrase, and using those skills, will make you better musicians and more polished performers. Dynamics is a natural emotional expression of the music, and its importance cannot be over-emphasized.

As a young bassist, I recall performing many times and falling into the same bad habit of turning up during performances – or leaning over to place my ear near my speaker so I can hear my bass. The sound was essentially blowing past my legs so I could not hear myself well enough. The temptation to turn up in such a case is inescapable. This problem can be solved by either asking the sound man to increase your instrument volume through the monitors, or by raising the speaker to be closer to your ear level. We provide one amp stand that leans back to direct the amp speaker to the performer for this purpose. We also intend to build crates to keep on stage which all amp speakers must be placed on to raise them up. Hopefully, this will solve some of the volume problems. We also provide a drum shield for those drummers who play very loudly. When our sound man asks you to use it, it is because he is trying to make you all, as a band, sound the best that you can. Please do not refuse to use it. Trust our sound man – he is working in a very small venue with a powerful sound system. If you maintain the volume that he requests, he will make you sound spectacular. Doing a sound check to establish an excellent level, and then turning up, just creates a cascade of each musician turning up, one after another, and destroys the effort that went into doing the sound check. When you turn up, he has to fight the instrument and drum volumes to bring vocals up to be heard and the result is often feedback and “mush” coming from the stage.

Please help us present the best local performances to your fans and experiment with volume for maximum effect, not just maximum levels. We will not continue to book bands at the Shelter who cannot realize that learning to use volume properly is as important as learning to master their instruments. Personally, I feel that such bands are either incapable of learning what it takes to perform meaningfully, or are simply fulfilling some narcissistic rock star fantasy.

Once again, thank you to all of the fine musicians and people who make the Shelter such a special venue. Let’s continue to work together to make it, and our bands, the best that they can be.

Rick

Ernie and one of the Berts

Ernie and one of the Berts...

You can pick up on the frustration in Rick’s message.  I get it.  There’s a good discussion already going if you’re part of the group.  Rick, Randy, & everyone at the Fallout Shelter have always been really cool to us.  The sound guys have been great…  I’m absolutely terrible with names or I’d mention them here.

My focus/attention span has been crazy lately, so I think the best way to organize my thoughts on this is a completely random bulleted list.

  • I used to want a wall of Marshall cabinets…  I don’t anymore.  In a stadium?  Sure!  But, the reality is that I play mostly bars…  Bars that are small, and sometimes too small to host bands but do it anyway.  Lately I have been digging using Erin’s little Fender Hot Rod Deluxe amp or Dave’s killer Egnater Rebel head with my 4×12 Mesa Boogie cabinet.  (My Crate Power Block is oddly “OK” live, but absolutely terrible when being recorded.)  Not only do we have to provide entertainment, but we have to carry our own crap in & out.  An amp that’s a quarter of the size & has twice the balls of most other amps?  It’s a win every time in my book.  Try it out!  (Especially if you’re playing a place downstairs like the Fallout Shelter or upstairs at the Smiling Moose.)
  • Let the sound guy do his job.  The sound guy at any given venue has been hired to make you sound good.  Don’t piss him (or her) off.  Don’t insist on turning your stage volume up until you hear the mix from the monitors, or go sit in the house yourself to hear the mix.  Want to have the most rock n’ roll attitude in the room?  Just play, and don’t give a crap what it sounds like.
  • Suck it up.  Shit happens.  Monitors screech, cut out, blow up, sound like mud, or are entirely non-exsitant at times.  There are still people sitting there waiting for you to play.  Play!  Don’t ask the sound guy to adjust a different level after every song.  Once one or two songs in?  No problem.  All night long?  Just deal with it.
  • Use the drum shield.  I think I’ve only ever played at one place where the drummer sits behind a shield.  They asked, so we did it.  I even put a sign on it that says something like “don’t tap on glass” that I think is still there.  It gives the sound guy further control over the room… and the monitors.  As long as you have a monitor in there for the drummer, it shouldn’t be a huge issue.  It might feel & look weird, but if Dave Grohl can do it, you can do it.
Please don't feed the drummer.

Please don't feed the drummer.

That’s all that comes to mind right now.  I’m sure there will be more.  For their part, it looks like the Fallout Shelter is open to suggestions in improving their monitoring system & the overall sound for the room.  I’d suggest some kind of acoustic wall tiles to keep already loud noises from reverberating, but that’s just me.

I’d like this to start a discussion about sound at smaller venues all around Pittsburgh, & well… everywhere.  In the comments section below, post your thoughts!

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