By Bobby Benedict
A band is a band. Local, regional, national, and international mean something to us all in terms of how we perceive a band. Too many people believe in the power of these words and some completely disregard their importance in signifying the milestones a band has gone through. Once a local band takes a weekend or two out of their year to head to cities and build their fan-base they are “regional.”
Sure, they may not be headlining their hometown and selling out the biggest venue, but they are reaching beyond the walls of their comfort and earning those miles. Maybe you think a band sucks and doesn’t deserve their fans, well, tell that to the miles they’ve traveled and the money they’ve sunk into their craft. Where am I going with all this musician-pandering sentiment? Well, I’m here to dissect the “5 bands for 5 bucks” ethos and attempt to use my logic stream to defend local bands and national bands alike.
I’ll come right out and say it, some bands aren’t even worth the five bucks that a local bill may cost. That doesn’t mean that someone on that Kinko’s poster doesn’t deserve that cash. Take it from someone who has been on the receiving end of many an empty show, sometimes the support isn’t at the show for a reason. Bands need to poster for a show, it’s a tried and true method to get the show out there. People see a poster more than once and it will stick with them and they are more likely to hit up your show because someone took the time to go out and give some indication that people should go to your show.
Having good music is another part of getting people to your show. It doesn’t have to be the fanciest EP anyone has ever seen, maybe you only have those cardboard sleeves from Walmart with sharpie on it, fine. If your band couldn’t be bothered to practice your songs enough to nail them even once for a record why should people want to see those same songs live? It doesn’t have to be shiny, studio quality, just make sure you can hear all the instruments and that the drummer didn’t unintentionally switch to 5/4 time in that last drum fill. On the flipside, just because you booked a weekend of studio time it doesn’t mean the album is gonna hit Billboard, practice doesn’t make perfect but it makes better than unpractice.
Now, I know it may just seem like I’m out to bash on local bands for not trying hard enough. This is not the case. I love a bunch of local bands, but I know their struggle. I once lost real bad in a battle of the bands to Tennessee Murder Club and I was all salty about it. I was refusing to look at myself to acknowledge that maybe they practice more than me, maybe they had better stage presence, maybe they didn’t throw in unpracticed vocal harmonies, maybe they tried harder and deserved their win. There’s always going to be someone better than you as a musician, you just have to respect the grind and put in your hours and hope that people dig you for you.
National acts frequently get flack from local musicians. I’ve seen many a meme roll through my Facebook feed, “people will pay 70 dollars to watch someone lip sync from 100 yards away but not 5 dollars for a local band.” I’d watch Toby Keith at the Premier Center, not because he’s my favorite artist in the world (though I do know a great deal of his songs), but because he’s bringing a show. It’s a whole night of entertainment crafted by technicians with amazing sound, lights, flow, and he’s helping the local Cattleman feed needy families as well. I think of it like McDonald’s: It’s proven itself in all the good and bad ways and it’s all out on the table for us to judge. Which is why to me, local, regional, national, international, they are all important distinctions in a band’s career and are more indicative of how much time and effort a band has put into their craft. This is why the “5 bands for 5 bucks” ethos can be damaging for those trying to break into becoming a professional musician, but a helpful buffer to those starting out.
Three Bands Who Have Been Through More Than You Think
This Chicago punk outfit is considered anything but the words I just used to describe them to many punk purists. You’ll hear choruses of people decrying Rise Against’s “punkness” and that they’re nothing more than an alternative radio rock band nowadays.
For a band that started off leaning much harder into hardcore punk than radio rock it has been hard for people to remember how long it took them to get this far. Even if we ignore the band’s collective experience in punk bands through the 90s with Baxter and 88 Fingers Louie we are still dealing with a band whose first album was released in 2002.
Anyone who likes Rise Against loves their first two records at a minimum, their major label debut is where many people turn up their noses, so 2004 is when they initially “sell out.” Some songs on that album rip though, “State of the Union”, “Paper Wings”, and “Life Less Frightening” are some of my favorites and the band toured on this album for three years. The next ten years of the band are where most people find some place for them to slip in their minds, but that is 10 YEARS. An entire decade as a band of touring hard, attempting to push their songwriting ability, and still putting on high energy live shows.
I’m not sorry that I love Amanda Palmer. Many people decry her as a scene-girl fake-goth garbage musician who is no more than a beggar because she’s not good enough to get people to buy her albums.
Well, it’s hard to defend on so many fronts, but I’ll start with the begging. Many have seen Palmer’s Ted Talk about “The Art of Asking” and her book of the same name. The simple idea that if you are an artist and you want something from your fans be it money, support, or just an ear, then ask for it and be ready for people to say no. Palmer spent years on the road living off of the kindness of her fans in her band The Dresden Dolls making music that no one else could but her. Scraping by with only the help of friends and family sounds terrifying unless you have a lot of friends and Palmer did just that. Many people don’t like the idea of having a symbiotic relationship with their life, their fans, and their music and because of that they hate Amanda for being successful at doing just that. Crowdsourcing your entire existence is a fairly new and unexplored way to live and it endears me to Amanda Palmer.
Fall Out Boy
This band gets a lot of hate for every point in their career – for being some Hot Topic-bait Myspace band that got signed to Fueled By Ramen for no reason and for their new fake Michael Jackson soul-pop nonsense.
Well, I’m not here to defend their sonic choices no matter how much I disagree with them I will defend their effort. Patrick Stump has always had a soulful way of singing and this led to their distinct sound early on, pop punk had never been about singing well, hell, punk has never been about singing well either. It took a while for the world to warm up to Fall Out Boy but after spending a good deal of time touring off their first record they found success with their single “Sugar, We’re Going Down.” The band was able to crank out at least one radio hit off of each record they made and despite their bassist, Pete Wentz, cranking out a few nudes on Myspace they were able to keep their success steady. They went on a hiatus in 2010 and Patrick Stump plopped out a very weakly received pop album that would set the vibe for their newer sound. While I’m not too well versed on the bands strengths and weaknesses from then on I admire their constant push toward whatever their future might hold despite being a very strange sounding band.