When I was 18 I worked at a venue in downtown Toronto at which my band also had the pleasure of playing many times. It was a great period in my life, during which I met some of my closest and best friends. I also learned a lot about my personal drinking tolerance and even more about the mating habits and tribal rituals of terrible, terrible bands. Because I am generous, benevolent and well endowed, I have decided to use my soapbox this week to inform the public at large of my effective, time tested method of sniffing out shitty bands before they’ve played a song. That being said, let me be your guide through this endless trench of mediocre crap as I present:
Five ways to spot a terrible band before they’ve even played
5) The Dadager
The Dadager is the father of one of the band’s members that is vicariously living out his failed musical ambitions through those of his child. While not always a guarantee of bad music, it is certainly an early red flag in the vetting process.
Joe Simpson; Dadager, Creep, Red Flag.
You’ll find him in the parking lot, loudly remarking about how he bought all the gear, or arguing with the promoter about set times. He doubles as a roadie, in addition to being the band’s self-appointed manager, hence the name. He’ll be outspoken about how his kid is going to change the music world, even if he’s 12 years old and holding his unnecessarily expensive guitar over his head making light-saber noises. This is rarely a true statement.
While often well intentioned and supportive, the Dadager is evidentiary of a sub-par act simply because his presence obviates the need for the band’s actual members to grow as artists and learn to be professionals in their own right, instead having their battles fought for them, leaving them sheltered and oblivious and as such rife for mockery.
It’s a good practice for any parent to never stop supporting their child in following their dreams, just be mindful not to embarrass them or make a righteous ass of yourself in the process. It’s demeaning to both you and your progeny to experience something for them. Maybe you think you’re just nurturing them, or perhaps you simply want to see them make it big so you can point at a TV in a crowded bar and scream; “I MADE THAT! BEHOLD MY SUPERIOR SPERM!”
Either way, all of your help is in fact a hindrance, and at some point you’ve got to cut the patch chord, pops.
4) Their gear is too nice
Anyone who’s worked in a venue will know this scenario; A band nobody has heard of shows up to play a show, and wheels in gleaming, chrome-clad painfully priced equipment for the job. Every gearhead and tech in the place’s jaw drops in unison as they begin to set up their polished, shining array of brand new instruments and unfairly beautiful hardware. An unknown act that rolls out of nowhere with a level of gear normally only obtainable by singed, established bands. The crowd is awestruck, and everyone waits patiently while they carefully arrange it all, flip the switches for soundcheck and:
They can’t play a fucking note. It’s around this time that it becomes obvious that all those pretty guitars and intricate drum kits have little to no wear on them, as if they’ve spent much of their time in cases or on decorative stands. The strings sound stiff and unused, and the knobs on the top-of-the-line heads are either all arranged to be symmetrical, or simply cranked as high as possible.
They aren’t a band, they just bought one. You’re looking at rich kids, or in some cases adults, who couldn’t be bothered to learn to play a guitar, but nevertheless know that they look pretty cool holding one. Often a creation of the previously mentioned Dadager, they’ll prance around holding thousands of dollars in glorified outfit accessories, preening to the crowd like Bon Jovi while struggling pathetically to play the most basic of music.
Naturally, this rule has exceptions as well, but in most situations it’s a fairly reliable gauge for measuring the depth of the sewage-ditch in question. Much in the same way that not all people brandishing jagged objects in dark alleyways are looking to perforate you, but it’s generally best to pick another route home just the same.
3) They’ll tell you they’re great
Not to sound like a star-struck fanboy here, but I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with quite a few well known and remarkably talented musicians. You know what they all have in common? Not a single one of the lot would ever be caught dead espousing how awesome their band is in a public forum. Obviously anyone with the drive to continue making music has to believe in what they do, which is absolutely cool. Confidence is great, and in a lot of cases can be the most entertaining aspect of a band. However, it takes a very special kind of anthropological waste to go around shouting in people’s face about how his band is “The shit, brah.”
Unfortunately, these people are everywhere. If you’ve got some time to spare and an incessant urge to immediately regret a decision, stop by a weekday show at local venue that starts at around 5pm, and make sure you don’t recognize a single name on the bill. It’s amazing. Every band there is the greatest band ever, at least as far as the respective bands themselves and their three loyal best friends are concerned. Don’t have a surplus of time/will to live? Save yourself the price of admission and look for a recently formed unsigned act’s Facebook page, now search for their obligatory bio blurb. Chances are it goes something like;
“Formed in late 2011, Wayward Boner is a musical win-fest that is so awesome it will impregnate your ears with yes so that 9 months later you give birth to excellence incarnate and all the girls love us too and our hair is so sweet and we have really nice guitars and we spend a lot of time on our hair. Please look at our hair. We’re great. Seriously, We’re the musical equivalent of a handjob from Jesus Christ”
Sure, this isn’t the worst thing in the world, and it’s easy to look past considering the entire music industry is a precarious tower of unbalanced egos and inflated self-worth, but when Billie Joe Armstrong throws one of his masturbatory narcissism tantrums, embarrassing and humiliatingly childish though they may be, he at least puts in the years of work taking shit as a nobody to earn that deluded sense of entitlement. Like it or not, he’s a celebrity, and when you shower years of attention and fame on an individual, a fair amount of megalomania is almost excusable.
However, acting like king shit of fuck mountain while lacking both mountain and crown is not at all excusable. It’s irritating, and an effective divining rod for fishing out bands that aren’t worth your time.
2) Perfect Hair
A lot of artists worry constantly about their image. It’s pretty common and kind of goes hand in hand with the whole concept of celebrity. It’s another one of those things that has been going on for so long that nobody even thinks to question it, and it is in no way an infallible hallmark of a bad musician.
Okay, so this one isn’t without exceptions either. The most talented person I’ve ever known has spent an astronomically inordinate amount of his life on his hair. Let’s just go ahead and say this whole list is subjective to the situation and atmosphere in question. It’s possible to be an incredible entertainer and possess all of these annoying traits, because creative ability has absolutely nothing to do with being a decent or even remotely tolerable human being.
So yes, hair is a big part of the whole “rock star chic” and I guess that’s acceptable. The thing is, it’s not the only part of it, and the reason this can be a warning of a cringe-worthy act is that right off the bat they give the impression that they’ve spent more time straightening their hair and re-applying their guy-liner than they have trying to avoid sounding like Fran Drescher getting gang-banged by velociraptors.
The next time you come across a band that collectively spends enough money on hair product to fund a medium level holy war, look one of them directly in the one eye that doesn’t have a multicoloured hair-swoop over it and just shake your head in sad disapproval for a few seconds. Then walk away. Better yet, grab a lock of their coif, lean in uncomfortably close, and in your best gypsy-curse voice whisper;
1) White Skinny Jeans
A few months ago I went to a music festival called Heavy T.O, after being unapologetically raped by the good folks at Ticketmaster and robbed of my food and water provisions by some smug, surly gate-goons, I actually got a chance to enjoy the show between sips of my eight dollar Dixie cup of beer.
Then a band called Dance Laury Dance took the stage. I would later learn that this collusion of human garbage and musical ineptitude was the creation of Gene Simmons, world class douchebag and master of the mediocre. I knew by the name that they weren’t going to be a good band. But before that even tipped me off, I saw them coming from miles off by their fucking white skinny jeans.
Above: All of my rage, ever.
Every single one of them was wearing them. Not the one pretty boy of the band, not two attention whores that have a coordinated outfit theme going on, every goddamn one of them. Personally, I haven’t been more put off by something since 2 girls 1 cup made its internet debut, and I’d still argue that it had more taste than a collective of sweaty, post-pubescent man-children strutting around in ivory leggings like a bunch of polished ceramic dildos performing a dance routine.
I might not even be right about them being terrible. I honestly don’t recall a single note or lyric of the performance, and I watched their entire set from the Jagermeister tent, making snide remarks the entire time. Now I’ll never know, because the image of those tour-filthy robin-williams-hairy adult men squeezed into those uncomfortably tight, unforgivably ugly pants has completely and irrevocably sullied my opinion of them.
You might be thinking something like: “What kind of cynical, misanthropic asshole judges a band by their pants, hair, attitude, gear and parents?”
Well, there’s me for one. But that’s kind of to be expected, given the kickass banner at the top of this page that reads “The TrendShredder” and all. I’m not alone, though. There are many others like me so disillusioned with humanity and surfeited on it’s fathomless depravities that they’re jaded enough to dismiss an entire band’s creative efforts based on the fact that they were harder to look at than a solar eclipse in an ice storm.
Maybe that makes me a bad person, or at very least a remarkably superficial one. No, there’s no maybe, it definitely does. But it’s not my fault, you see. I didn’t choose to think that these people look like idiots. I didn’t ask to arbitrarily resent them simply because we have wildly divergent opinions regarding fashion, existential philosophy and social etiquette.
Maybe we don’t choose what to be, maybe we simply become what we are. It would seem that in this particular situation, I’ve become a curmudgeonly, abrasive prick, and the majority of the music scene has become one colossal mound of oblivious, obnoxious weirdos that I wouldn’t want to stand next to on the subway, let alone pay to see.
End of article.