Saturday, March 19, 2016

Why I Will No Longer Play Dive Bars

Why I Will No Longer Play Dive Bars

Last night was the last of something for me, it was the last time I’m ever going to play live music at a dive bar. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and already quit performing my own music at them for over a year now, but last night I was playing drums for a friend of mine’s solo music. I reluctantly agreed to play the show about a month ago, but after last night respectfully declined playing any more. I do plan on recording and making videos with him, but no more shows unless it is something that really seems worth it to me. This decision has nothing to do with my friend's music, which I really love. I just honestly think both of us are too good for these kinds of places.

He is still relatively new to the live music scene, as where I have literally been playing live since I was a 12 year old child. He was pretty excited about the show, but I couldn’t share his enthusiasm in the days leading up to last night. I could already envision what it was going to be in the weeks before the show took place, and sadly, my entire prophesy was fulfilled in a completely unrewarding shitshow that pretty much went exactly as I thought it would.

Let's first talk bout the so called “Venue”. NYC is a much safer place than it used to be in the 90s, but there’s still some places you wouldn’t want to really hang out too long after dark. The venue, which I will spare calling by name, is in one of those neighborhoods. The house equipment is garbage, so I was naturally required to bring my own drum set. I already let my friend know about my requirement of playing my own drums, so thankfully he took care of the transportation for me, otherwise I’d been looking at about $60 to $80 in car service transportation fees for my drums. The venue (like all of them these days) does absolutely no promotion and relies 100% on the bands to bring people to their crappy bar to drink and stand around silently gawking at bands.

They put zero thought into the acoustics of the room. It’s a large open cement floored and walled space, with no acoustic support whatsoever so even if they had a good sound system (which they don’t) the room would still sound like a mushy mess of low end frequencies and reverberated highs bouncing all over the place. The “Sound Guy” was completely clueless as to what he was doing and spent 5 minutes arguing with me that guitar was coming from a monitor (which wasn’t even on at the time) during our sound check. After he realized he made the mistake, he spent another 5 minutes trying to make it work, finally switching out a cable, to make it provide a faint signal, though I could still hear the front stage monitor louder than the one next to me when it was said and done. After making my kickdrum mic feedback for another 5 minutes we finally started checking a song to hear our levels. We were about 1 minute into the song when he cranks up house music on the PA louder than we were playing and walks away from the board to the back of the building!!

In my heyday of playing live with original acts (the mid 90s), it was a very different landscape. I rarely played bars. Most of the time I would play house shows, festivals, VFWs, or any other place that would allow kids to put on All Ages Shows. The crowds were lively, enthusiastic and really there to see some music. Fans were passionate, kinda crazy and LOUD! Millennials are a far different type of music viewer than the GenXer. They are generally quiet, reserved, timid, and quite frankly awkward. They seem to fear being too close to the stage, clapping too loudly, or showing any type of emotion whatsoever, so it’s really hard to gauge how much they are actually enjoying what they are hearing/seeing.  Maybe it’s the fear of something embarrassing showing up on social media looming in the back of their minds since high school has left them in a total state of paralysis? I don’t know what it is, but generally they suck as an audience. Even if there’s a lot of them there, it can still be completely silent in between songs after a short stint of clapping, which is just bizarre to me.

Believe it or not, bands in NYC actually WANT to get shows at this shithole I played last night. It has a reputation of being a hip spot. I find this incredibly hard to believe since this was my 3rd time playing there, and every time was a similar experience. As I mentioned before, clubs rely 100% on the band to bring the people, they even go so far as to make the door guy ask everyone who enters who they are there to see. Then they base how much they pay all the bands (if anything) on that information. This is a completely ass-backwards way of doing things. Places should be booking bands based on skill, not draw. Then everyone who walks through the door would be coming to see everyone, because they’d know the shows at said venue would be of high quality. The place would naturally start drawing more people based on reputation. This is better from a business standpoint as well since people would be coming to ALL SHOWS, not just ones their friends are playing. I know none of this is going to happen, and I also know a lot of it is just the circumstances most club owners are put in with a pre-existing system of overly high rents, inflating costs and an overabundance of shitty bands.

You may be reading this and thinking it sounds like the rants of a bitter old man, maybe that’s half true, but I really don’t think so. This is just reality. I get immense pleasure from creating live performance videos on my youtube channel, which is where my focus lies these days. The people that subscribe to my channel, watch, and comment on the videos, and buy or download my music as a result are far better supporters of music than the silent permanently bored hipsters that frequent trendy dive bars.

Anyway, that’s it.... I’m done.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome... Lol.

    My only solution was to lampoon The whole process. It worked. Almost too well.

    Enjoy the new mediums-based-venues.

    ROK ROK aun.