If you've ever played in a band, you can spot an awkward encounter from a mile away.
Is the lead singer of the awful opening act making a beeline toward you to get your opinion of his set? Simply feign like you're receiving a text message.
Does the sound guy want your band to take the stage 30 minutes before anyone shows up? Time for a cigarette break!
To aid in the navigation of such sticky scenarios, we asked more than a dozen local bands questions pertaining to band etiquette. The responses we received proved to be both insightful and hilarious. Thanks to all who contributed, and if anyone hassles us for doing this story, rest assured we'll be making a beer run ...
What's the appropriate thing to say to a band that just totally sucked it up onstage and wants to know what you thought of their set?
• "Wow, you guys put out a lot of sound!" (Cameron Hawk, The Dead Girls)
• "You guys are really good at what you do." (Alex Ward, The Noise FM)
• "Man, the sound was great out front." (Austin Ward, The Noise FM)
• "That was fun!" (Eric Mardis, Split Lip Rayfield)
• "If you don't have anything nice to say, say, 'Rockin' set guys!'" (Hank Osterhout, Deadman Flats)
• "When in doubt, always say 'good set.' That in no way suggests that you personally loved their set, or that you have any interest in sharing the stage with them again. Also, avoid physical contact as much as possible. A handshake shows them you respect them as musicians, whereas a hug seems to say, 'I'll be here for you throughout this horrible, horrible journey.'" (Katlyn Conroy, Another Holiday)
• "I can see some promise in you all. You just need to tighten up a few areas and you could really bring it out." (Sean Hunt, aka Approach)
• "Your drummer killed it!" (Adrianne Verhoeven, Dri / Extra Classic)
What's out of bounds when it comes to self-promotion?
• "The biggest taboo is promoting your show for another venue in the same town while onstage, and unfortunately, many bands don't know this. It really pisses bars off!" (Osterhout)
• "MySpace comments are so lame. LAME." (Mardis)
• "When people send out the same bulletin every day or in many cases multiple times a day, that is overkill. People need to realize the impact is gone if the person receiving is getting annoyed." (Terry Taylor, Hammerlord / Hunt Industries)
• "If there are two of the same poster within the same 10-square-foot area, it's OK to take one down." (Hawk)
• "I would consider leaving fliers on cars to be overly aggressive." (Konnor Ervin, The ACBs)
• "One promotion technique that we have recently embraced but are certainly embarrassed about is the mass text-messaging to cell phone friends. It's rough to get the reoccurring 'nice mass text, bud ...' as a reply." (Austin Ward)
What's the etiquette on sharing equipment? What's not acceptable?
• "I've had people I don't know just hop up and get on the turntables. One time this guy did it but he reassured me, 'It's cool dude, I DJ all the time.' I don't care if it was Jazzy Jeff - he better ask if he can use my decks first or he's getting tossed out the front door like in Fresh Prince times. That's just etiquette. Much respect to Jeff!" (Danny Spence, aka Spence)
• "Tell them you are not trying to be a jerk but, this gear is all you have and you are going to guard it with your life. I have lost some major equipment by being nice." (Approach)
• "When The Dead Girls played a show with Evan Dando of The Lemonheads in Fort Collins (Colo.) a few years back, JoJo loaned his tuner to Dando, who walked out with it at the end of the night. It can get sketchy." (Hawk)
• "We were playing a show in Springfield, Mo., and the opening act asked to borrow our keyboard. ... Little did we know they were a hardcore screamo band with guitar spins and all. Song three concluded with a guitar spin that smashed into the top of our keyboard, busting off four keys. Nothing helps get over a smashed keyboard like knowing it came from an awful screamo band." (Austin Ward)
• "Just ... try not to do it. Showing up to a venue and giving the old, 'Ah man, I forgot my entire drum set, can I use yours?' is not cool. At all." (Conroy)
• "Asking to use my guitar amp is like asking to kiss my mom. ... The Waco Brothers blew up two of Scroat Belly's amps when we did CMJ in NYC ages ago, and we NEVER forgave them! Freakin' limeys." (Mardis)
Is tipping appropriate at venues that offer free drinks to bands? What kind of drink deal is sufficient?
• "Minimum respectable offer is one pitcher per band member. Preferred is unlimited High Life/PBR/wells." (Saladino)
• "Bands should ALWAYS get free drinks, NO MATTER WHAT. It is the band's job to encourage people to buy drinks, so keep the band happy, and they keep the drinkers happy." (Osterhout)
• "I always tip, including when our drinks are cheap or free. Not only is it nice, but it gets you a little goodwill with the bartender so that when you run out of your allotment of free drinks, they might just keep 'em coming." (Charles Calhoun, Cowboy Indian Bear)
• "If you're getting free drinks all night, you had BETTER be tipping the bar unless you are broke and/or out on tour and 'jamming econo,' as Mike Watt would say." (Hawk)
• "We're usually not getting paid much anyway, and they're giving us free Keystone ... no one deserves a tip for that." (Alex Ward)
Can you think of any other potentially awkward situations that require a certain degree of tact or etiquette?
• "I have kids come up to me with their band's CD and hand me a copy and tell me about their band and how much they love my band. Then as I walk away with the CD, they tell me it's $10. ... One of my band dudes had this same thing happen to him, only he was physically going to the bathroom and he got cornered while in mid-stream." (Taylor)
• "Trading CDs is a nice thought - but what if the band that wants to trade sucks? Some bands actually make CDs to SELL them. ... Nine times out of 10 we make the trade, and I have a large pile at home of CDs still in shrink-wrap from bands that are utterly unremarkable." (Mardis)
• "When there are multiple bands of equal draw on the bill and the venue didn't provide a lineup. Now you have three bands that all want to headline!" (Osterhout)
• "Bands getting frustrated with crowd response. The crowd is going to be as into it as they are, and at least they care enough to stand there and watch you. Don't berate them." (Spence)
• "People try to barter with you on your merch prices. You never want to be rude, but at the same time I don't think people understand the work that goes into being in a band." (Calhoun)
• "My biggest pet peeve is when a drummer either leaves the stage entirely or starts tearing down his kit onstage." (Austin Ward)
• "Opening up for your band with your side project can be uncouth. Also, wearing the T-shirt of your band onstage to 'promote the shirts.'" (Matt Saladino, The ACBs)
• "ALWAYS know your set time. It's one of those things that people always try to change up on you later, and if you have specific info from someone about set times, it's easier to stand your ground if someone tries to bump you to another slot. If that doesn't work and you know someone is going to try to force you to play earlier to a nearly empty bar, just have one of the band members go somewhere and 'get lost' for a while. 'Yeah, our bass player said he was just running to the liquor store, but he's still not back. Isn't that the darndest thing?'" (Hawk)