There are several mysteries in the rock ‘n’ roll world. Unexplained phenomena like Keith Richards’ longevity (my theory: heroin-induced living mummification), the accordion’s place outside polka (Beirut seems to have figured that one out, though most bands agree that it’s to the left of the stage for one song – that’s it), why groupies do what they do (daddy issues) and the appeal of leather pants (bitches love bulges) have all baffled experts for years.
None of those bother me, though. There is one particular phenomenon that annoys and perplexes me – fan disparagement. What is it that makes a band call down their fans?
A couple of years ago, I spent An Evening with CAKE to the tune of more than 50 of my hard-earned dollary-doos (I work for Willy Wonka and he calls his money wacky names). I entered the Edmonton Event Centre expecting an entertaining evening of catchy bass lines and awkward-yet-endearing lyrics.
I left feeling as disappointed and ripped off as everyone who paid money to see The Spirit.
I didn’t ask for much – just a good time. What I got, however, was an evening filled with useless banter and a lead singer (who was clearly disinterested, maybe even frustrated with the fact that he is active in so many causes but his music doesn’t reflect that) telling fans to:
- shut up
- stop taking flash photography
- stop “woo!”ing
It’s one thing to get annoyed at those things – they are annoying at any event, from concerts and funerals to anniversary dinners and hunting trips. In the case of concerts, however, they are just part of the deal. You don’t have to learn to love those things, but you can certainly tolerate them.
Anyway, the evening bothered me because I could not understand why a band would do something so dickish.
It’s not just CAKE, though. NoFX’s frontman Fat Mike, during a solo show at SXSW encouraged fans drink tequila mixed with his own piss – something he has never properly explained.
One of the bands I saw open for the excellent Fucked Up kept remarking, “You guys don’t even want to see us.” Well, yeah, of course we don’t, you’re the opening band, but you could atleast try to convince us we do.
I watched as the lead singer of Lagwagon, a punk band that has been touring forever and that I thought had a sense of humour, threatened to leave the stage when someone threw a lighter past the lead singer’s face.
It’s unfortunate, because no matter how good a band is, these primadonna actions forever tainted my view of the bands in question.
So why do they do it?
Theory 1: They’re artists, therefore they’re sensitive
It’s actually a scientific fact that musicians are more sensitive than others. But anyone who has created something knows how hard it is to open it up to criticism. Bands tend to put a lot of work into their music; the obvious exception being Nickelback, who mash together chords and fortune cookie lyrics and call it an album.
To play music to an audience is nerve wracking, I assume, but really have no idea due to my complete lack of musical talent. Your art is on display and the risk of failing horribly is omnipresent. The amount of work put into three minutes of rock is substantial and it is kind of understandable to want an audience to pay attention to your creation.
That feeling of vulnerability makes wankeresque actions understandable, but it sure as hell doesn’t make boorish behaviour excusable.
Theory 2: It’s a long and lonesome highway
Touring is tiring, I assume once again. Some bands put on well over 200 shows a year. Most of which are away from home, while they are stuck on a tour bus/plane/blimp (don’t act like a tour blimp wouldn’t be amazing). Being constantly on the road can wear on anyone, making them a bunch of Grumpy Gusses. Grumpy enough to take it out on the people who want to hear them play.
So, bands, don’t take out your road-induced frustration on your fans – stop by a McDonald’s and slap the clerk. Okay, scratch that. Perhaps just act overly enthusiastic when you order your food. That’ll creep him out and everyone will laugh.
Theory 3: Straight-up hatred
Of course, it is always possible that some bands truly, deep-down despise their fans or their jobs. I get the feeling this is kind of how Axl Rose feels while touring.
Tune in next week, where I make assertions about the effects of bands bein’ dinks.