Baby steps…

Taking baby steps back into the fold here. I sent this to a dear friend earlier today:

5 things that signal to people that your band sucks and you are a clueless douche:

  1. 1) You wear Hawaiian shirts on stage
  2. 2) You hang a banner with your band name & logo on it behind the drummer.
  3. 3) Your lead vocalist is the drummer.
  4. 4) Your press photos were taken in front of a brick wall, on or near train tracks or in a public restroom.
  5. 5) Someone in the band plays a Keytar.

What precipitated this wave of hate was a photo he posted of his band taken in front of a brick wall.

The last band who got to do this and get away with it was The Ramones. They sort of made it their trademark for a while. And it was novel and interesting in 1976. Same with Cheap Trick posing in a public restroom for the cover of their Heaven Tonight LP (which they had originally intended to call American Standard.

I’m not sure who first had the idea to do press photos of their band on railroad tracks, but I’m sure it’s of similar vintage. If I were to add something to the press photo rule it would be to ban all sad and dreary photos of bands standing in the snow or next to lonely trees in wasteland-like settings. U2 took all the energy out of that particular image decades ago.

I’ve repeated these rules to people dozens of times. I’ve even had to explain them to my own bands from time to time. The ones people seem to have the hardest time with are the Hawaiian shirt + musician = suck rule and the no banners rule. Lots of guys have about as much fashion sense as a deranged poodle, so not understanding that wearing a Hawaiian shirt makes you look like a tool when you’re playing an instrument is, I suppose, understandable. I simply do not get the appeal of a banner.

Sure, you want people to know who you are, on the off chance they like you and want to come see you again. It helps them remember who they liked. Of course, so does talking to the audience between songs and repeatedly saying your name, which is inherently more friendly, and mostly won’t make you look like a douche nozzle. A banner, however, can be hung crooked, hung sloppily and just plain be designed poorly. It also makes one think of being at a trade show, and that’s not a feeling you want to stir in the hearts of your audience… ever.

Having the lead singer also be the drummer is somewhat more complex.  Pop music history is littered with bands who have been massively successful with the dread singing drummer. Genesis, The Eagles, The Romantics, to name a few. The thing is, two of these three bands knew it was a bad idea, so when their drummer was singing they hired someone else to play the drums so he could stand out front, where the singer belongs. The Romantics didn’t get this clue, and thus got consigned to the cut-out bin with the rest of the one-hit-wonders. No one wants to watch your drummer sing.

Lady Gaga has recently severely messed up the obvious uncoolness of the Keytar. For those of you who need to be reminded of how icky one of these things is, I suggest you Google Jan Hammer or Jonathan Cain.

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