Ok, has this happened to any of you recently? You turn up to a gig to see a band that you really like. You know that there’s a support band and you’ve checked them out online. The videos on YouTube are dire but what do you expect? The lens on the cameraphone has been rubbed up against the greasy pocket lining of someone’s unwashed 501s for several months and the microphone’s about the size of a pinhead. And they keep waving the damn thing around. Come to think of it, it’s really annoying when you’re at a gig as well; why don’t you just put the camera away and enjoy the gig?
Where were we? Oh yeah, support bands. So you get to the gig and find out that there’s an extra support band. It’s great for the venue because the punter thinks they’re getting something extra. The only thing Milton Friedman ever said that I agree with is “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”; it’s particularly true here. You know why those extra bands are there, don’t you? They’re either playing for nothing, or, even worse, they’re paying to get the gig. Why would they do that? They do it because they’re desperate to be on stage; they’re the same kind of delusional wannabes that live music fans get so smug about when they talk about X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. They do it for nothing because they aren’t good enough to get paid for it.
So why do venues put on crap bands; that doesn’t make any sense, does it? Well, people don’t get that delusional without an extensive support network and all the family and friends who are bigging them up will go along to watch them. Admit it, it sounds cool at work to say “I went to watch my mate’s band last night”, doesn’t it? Next time someone says that to you make them squirm by asking if they were any good and watch them check who can hear before they answer. Anyway, to get back to the point, the venues get all of these hangers-on coming along to support their mates. They make the gig look busy and, more importantly, they buy drinks at the bar; makes sense now doesn’t it?
And these bands come in different flavours as well. I’ll give you two for starters. How about a young, good-looking (male or female) leader who couldn’t carry a tune in a rucksack, surrounded by reasonably good musicians who should know better? They sound great until the lead vocal comes in with all the sonic beauty of polystyrene being scraped down a patio door. It’s even more worrying when you know that you’re going to get a brave but foolhardy attempt at vocal harmonies from the rest of the band when you reach the chorus. But at least they’re young and they’ll probably grow out of it.
What’s even worse is the band made up of middle-aged men who are lawyers or bankers or middle managers who have enough money to buy really good kit and enough time on their hands to meet up to practise blues standards once a month. They wanted to be rock stars when they were young but they weren’t good enough. Guess what guys; a Les Paul and a Marshall stack with a dozen stomp-boxes and a pair of tastefully ripped jeans doesn’t change that. But they bring the entourage along with them and they all get enthusiastic and cheer and whoop for their band. And that’s another thing, this rent-a-mob only listen to their band. As soon as their (hopefully short) set finishes they either ignore the rest of the bands or try to out-shout them.
And they get away with this because we’re all too polite. We clap at the end of each song that they’ve ritually disembowelled instead of showing how we really feel. That’s the mistake we make; these people have the hide of a titanium-plated rhinoceros and absolutely no self-awareness; the only way to make them stop is extensive and repeated humiliation. Next time you see one of these bands and their posse of braying followers, boo them, hiss at them, wince visibly when they play or sing out of tune, turn your back on them, go to the toilet but, whatever you do, don’t encourage them. Go on, you know you want to.