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The Column

Your Band Sucks
9/5/04

I don't care how shaved your head is. I don't care how faded your t-shirt is. I don't care how many friends you have whose names are also nouns. Your band sucks.

Maybe you're reading this, and happen to be a member of a great band. Maybe you're a Leader of the New School or a Lord of the Underground or a Pilot of some sort of Stone Temple. Or maybe you're just in a great garage band that doesn't even get gigs but has a nice sound. But odds are you are a bald, dollar-store t-shirt wearing guy with 37 friends named Moon, whose parents mistakenly bought him a guitar for his 12th birthday and have been apologizing to the world ever since.

You know who I'm talking about. The guy you meet at the bar, who gives you his number on the back of a flyer. The guy next to you on the bus, who sees you with a discman and tries to sell you a CD. The guy at the music store or the restaurant or the copy shop, who has to work there because his band sucks.

As a comedian, I know that artists get better with stage time. But as a comedian, I don't lie to people about how good a show will be to get that stage time. When I perform at Caroline's, I tell everyone to come. When I perform at a crappy open mic, I tell everyone that it's a crappy open mic. I don't want people to see me bomb and think that's the best I can do. It's basic pride math.

This phenomenon of ego-driven honesty, however, does not exist among most bands. The front man, typically named Travis or Skeeter or some other name that we made so much fun of in high school that he formed a band, will desperately try to get people to come to every show he has. And he'll lie to do it. When he tells you that "It's gonna be a rockin' show" and "make sure to get there early so you can get a good table," he is certainly lying. Very few rockin' shows have tables.

If someone wearing thick black non-prescription glasses and a tattoo with an esoteric reference to a cartoon approached me and asked me to come to his show, I would quickly decline the offer. Unless he was honest.

"Look," Skeeter might say. "My band sucks. But we're trying not to suck, and the only way for that to happen is to practice in front of a real crowd. Please help us to not suck."

I'd go to that show immediately. I'd even ask them to save a good table.

I used to want everyone I knew to come to every show I did because I was excited about being a comedian. But I learned quickly to stop inviting people to everything, so that my friends would only see me at my best. Why can't bands learn this? When I was in a band, I didn't invite anyone to see a show. That's right – A band and A show. Because we only had one of each.

I was in a band when I was 18. We were called "Damn the Core" and we were awful. We were funny, but awful. We performed three times – twice for Safer Sex Week on campus and once at an actual show. I did invite people to those first two shows, but that was only because I was involved in the planning of the whole week. When we had our real show – a gig in front of eight people at Nassau Community College – I only told others about it afterwards, while I drank myself stupid. I passed out no flyers. We recorded no CDs. I never got a job in a copy shop. I knew we sucked.

After the show, the friends of my bandmates came over to "congratulate" us with the kind of fake happiness previously limited to a Sears catalogue. I laughed and started drinking. I didn't ever want to hear another round of "well, you guys seemed really confident." My band days were over.

And I request the same thing of Skeeter and Travis, and anyone else currently fronting a band whose biggest gig has been the Lieberman Bar Mitzvah. You have no angst. You have no social unrest. And you have no room for three bassists. All you do have are two choices – quit or practice. Until then, stop inviting people to your shows. When you're trying to sell a product that's all enthusiasm and no substance, you're just wasting everyone's time.

Though Sears might tell you otherwise.

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