The importance of musicianship, and supporting the musician community

Last night we had our Andolini’s show, and it turned out to be a pretty interesting experience.  We went into the show with a lot of anticipation.  We did a lot of promotion at School of Mines the prior weekend, and Andolini’s was a new place to play.  When we took the stage, we ended up having a great show, which turned into a great sound mix and video.  However, getting there was another story – and an example of poor musicianship and getting screwed over by another band.

A few weeks ago our band formed an “alliance” on Craigslist with a few other bands in the area.  The intention of this was was to allow us to collaborate, offer advice and help on bookings (we actually got a tip on a few festivals coming up).  One of the most important opportunities is to invite each other to booking opportunities.  We had a chance to contribute with this Andolini’s show.  When we booked the show, there was an opening for another band and we offered to get it for them. In comes one of the bands from “the alliance”.

Things looked great on paper.  An email got sent out and a band quickly filled the slot.  We were good to go.  Prior to the show, they asked if they could play first, with which we had no problem.  In hind-sight, that turned out something that came back and bit us.

We had a really good feeling when we got there.  The other band brought well over 30 people to the show.  The room was abuzz with energy.  They were really rocking out the place, and we were pumped to get on stage.  However, it would be a while before we actually took the stage.

The rule of thumb when playing multiple-band gigs is that when you finish your set, you need to get your gear off the stage ASAP to let the other band set up.  Too much time in between bands simply drives fans away.  This is especially critical for the drummer, who has the most gear. Somebody should have mentioned this unspoken rule to this band.

As soon as they other band stopped playing their drummer left his drum set behind and ventured into the crowd.  Talking to virtually everyone in the bar.  While he was doing that, his drum set sat untouched, leaving me burdened with anticipation and nothing to do.  I tried to send the hint by moving all of my drum equipment right next to the stage, but he didn’t get the hint.  When the guy finally returned to his set, he sat there and took his set apart piece by piece, packing it up.  This goes completely against the “unspoken drummer code”, that you move your as much of your equipment off the stage and worry about it apart later.

I can understand the need to reach out to your fans, but to spend 15 minutes going around the room when you have another band waiting for you!  These guys went around with a swagger like they were playing a 4 hour set, not sharing the stage with another band (and 2 more for that after).  This move was completely classless, a slap in the face to our band.  We started 45 minute after our scheduled start-time, and as one would expect all of the fans left, leaving only our most devout.

Speaking of being disrespectful to other bands, here we are getting the gig for them, and not only did they screw us with the delay – but they didn’t even talk to us prior to the show, stay afterwards, or even offer a mention/plug at the end of their set.

This caused me to reflect on the musicianship, and the honorable way to treat other musicians in a shared-stage setting.  This band taught us a lot of what not to do, reinforcing lessons that were are important to us:

  • Be professional about changing bands, get your gear on and off quickly.  Move as much of your gear off stage as you carefully can, worry about packing it up when you’re off.
    • It’s not unreasonable for the sound-engineer or club owner to penalize you by taking time out of your set if you take too long.
  • Don’t go over on time.  If you are told you have an hour, take an hour.  Going over by 1-2 songs may make the band feel good, but in the end it leaves a sour taste in a lot of mouths.
  • Offer support to the other bands, which them luck and be courteous.   A good way of doing this is sticking around for part of their set.  Bands before you may not have had the choice to see you, but they watched you regardless.  Show them that respect.
  • If you can, offer plugs to both the band before you and after you, especially after you

On a personal note: no drummer should break 5 sticks during a show.  I understand that sticks get broken (and it should happen over time).  If you’re breaking five sticks in one night, then your technique is simply bad.  What it tells me is that he’s either hitting the rim with the neck of the stick, or the bead of the stick is completely missing the head (with the neck striking the head directly).  Ultimately, throwing a broken stick directly into the crowd is a bad idea on any count.