I saw trash cans overturned, beers flying, middle fingers hoisted, fires burning, naked bodies, evidence of drunken hostility and, at the end of the night, a completely trashed bar. That, my friends, is what a battle of the bands should look like. The Florida's Dying folks threw together a band showdown Nov. 5 at Back Booth with the winner scoring a spot on an upcoming compilation. However, there were a few unusual rules. The first: The bands had to be fake, assembled purely for the event. The second: They could only play two songs. The third: No covers.
Although the first requirement got waived for a couple of clearly misguided acts, the combination of those three rules made for some truly moronic mayhem. It was so bad that the two "serious" bands (who were just kids trying to get a foot in the door) were brutally eviscerated by the crowd and the judges (of which I was one), because they just didn't get it. That's not to say that other bands didn't get their fair share of extravagantly negative criticism, but I have to wonder what those kids with their store-bought instruments and lofty dreams of professionalism must have thought when it was clear that the more off-key, out-of-practice and drunkenly belligerent bands were the ones that were taking the night. It probably didn't help that we, the judges, were complete assholes.
It was totally fun and a model for how all battles of the bands should be run. (OK, maybe not the fires-burning and bands-whipping-their-dicks-out-onstage stuff.) For hastily put-together acts to hold themselves up to withering verbal assaults showed true balls, and the bands that managed to impress were, indeed, impressive. I'd like to see what "real" bands would do in a situation like that, one in which they are not surrounded friends, where they stood a good chance of getting their ass handed to them by the crowd and by the judges, and where it might actually mean something to win.
ROCK BAND 101
It's been awhile since I attempted to impart a little knowledge to striving bands, but the utter, lovely chaos of that Florida's Dying fiasco inspired me. I loved the unprofessionalism of the event, but when I started thinking about those poor "serious" bands and how clueless they were, I figured it might be time for another installment in my patented training series on how not to have your band completely screw up.
This week's lesson is about sending e-mail. I know it seems like the easiest thing in the world, and if you're sending e-mails to your friends and co-workers, just keep right on being stupid about it. They won't care. However, if you apply the same sloppy casualness to band e-mails, you might as well be sending out missives with "Nigerian Penis Enhancement" as the subject line.
Here are the things you always need to include in a band-related e-mail: No. 1: All the facts relevant to the subject you're e-mailing about (CD release date, location/date/time of show); No. 2: all available contact information (telephone, websites, alternate e-mail addresses); No. 3: a brief summary of your band's sound/history, along with a few short quotes from any press you've gotten.
Here are the things you should never include in a band-related e-mail: No. 1: attached files (mp3s, photos, etc.); No. 2: long-winded introductions/explanations; No. 3: "clever" pitches to a magazine/booking agent; No. 4: attached files (yes, I know I already said it, but there's no quicker way to get people to hit the "delete" button than by attaching some 8-meg file to your e-mail.) Be brief, be informative and don't be cute.
I recently got an e-mail from a band giving me an update on their activities. In addition to info about an upcoming show and record, it had four links to the band's site, to a Myspace site, to their Pure Volume site and to their Sonicbids electronic press kit site. Between the four sites, I could get pictures, listen to music and get all the other information I needed. That's the right way, kids.
There was something simultaneously reasssuring and depressing about seeing the lead vocalists in Kindred the Family Soul pushing their own merch after a stellar performance opening for John Legend at House of Blues on Monday, Nov. 7. (Legend, by the way, needs to ask his drummer to turn it down; all a really high-in-the-mix, by-the-numbers R&B drum pattern does is make you sound less like Donny Hathaway and more like Eric Benet.) While it's nice to see a group actually willing to get out and mingle with the people, it's a drag that an excellent soul group on their second major-label album (with a hit single in the bag, no less) has to pimp their own merch and still not be recognized by the people who were just cheering for them.
GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS
So, I open my mail the other day and get two surprises. (I'll let you figure out which one made me smile and which one made me retch.) The first was the soundtrack to Walk The Line, in which Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon take it upon themselves to not just act like they're Johnny and June Carter Cash, but they also sing their songs. The second was the new album by Kate Bush. I knew she was about to release a new disc, but "about to" in Kate-land could mean anything from "next year" to "next decade." Yet, there was Aerial, not one disc, but two, of new songs from Kate Bush. Including (I kid you not), a lyrical recitation of "pi."
This week's make-your-own-podcast:
Pitchblende: "Here's to the Losers"
Boredoms: "Moonsidal Cendencies"
Lush: "Nothing Natural"
Nouvelle Vague: "Psyche"
The Wailers: "One Foundation"
Dali's Car: "The Judgement is the Mirror"
Spoon: "My Mathematical Mind"
Ester Drang: "The Greatest Thing"
Lyrics Born: "Bad Dreams"
Mudhoney: "Magnolia Caboose Babyshit"
Funkadelic: "This Broken Heart"