In Part I, we discussed possible theories about why some bands are sometimes dinks on stage, from being sensitive artists to being tired weenies – both excuses I’ve used in the bedroom. In this sequel, we discuss why being a jerk to your fans is such an egregious offense and the effects of it.
Why being a jerk is so shitty
This may seem like an obvious point, but it’s one worth exploring, because I’m certain there are some musicians (looking at you, Ben Weasel – although there are a million other reasons you’re a Chris Brown-level wang) that don’t see a problem with being arrogant, dismissive prima donna. So this is really for the Ben Weasels of the world.
Some people – actually, I think it’s fair to say most people – don’t make their way to a ton of shows. I do, but that’s because I love it and I listen to a ton of music. In fact, tomorrow, I’m going to watch Bela Fleck rip it up with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, then I’m going to watch Gaslight Anthem this weekend and Bouncing Souls and Dave Hause next Friday. But I’m the exception (and I didn’t write that last sentence to tell you how awesome I am, I swear, but in case you were wondering – very).
So when you see someone at a rock show, it’s usually one of maybe five shows they are going to that year. Perhaps the only one – a special night, one that person has been looking forward to for quite some time and spent a decent chunk of change on. Maybe they’ve left the kids with a babysitter or drove a few hours to watch your show. By acting like a confused angry ninny, you’re ruining that person’s one night out. Which is completely unacceptable. Unless, of course, your band’s name is The Confused Angry Ninnies.
So what about the rest of the crowd? The family, friends and conjoined twins of fans? Those who know only a couple of your songs? To hell with ’em, right? Wrong. It’s still a night out for them, so the least you can do is put on a good show for them, too. Last September, I watched as CAKE’s lead singer, clearly disinterested, screwed up the words to their biggest hit, “Short Skirt, Long Jacket.” I was shocked. Really? You couldn’t even bother to sing the right words to the song you know the biggest percentage of the audience knows? Get bent.
Now, there are musicians who are dicks in real life and are not dicks on stage. Metallica, Kanye West and Van Halen are a few that immediately come to mind. These dudes are millionaires for a reason (aside from smart investments) – they know the importance of putting on a good show. They know that the only way they are going to afford their next Bentley is by touring and making it worth the outrageous amounts fans pay for tickets.
Take notes, CAKE.
The effects of being a rock ‘n’ roll dick
As a musician, no matter what you do in life, you are forever associated with the music you created and vice versa. So if you act like a spoiled nelly on stage, your music will forever be associated with your antics. In short, your actions forever taint your music.
I’ve been pretty hard on CAKE through both of these posts, but it’s fair. I’ve seen lead singer John McCrea act like he’s going through a rage-filled midlife crisis twice and that’s all I can think about when I listen to their (admittedly excellent) music. All I think when I hear “Meanwhile, Rick James” is how he reminds me of a sad father pissed at both his children and his lot in life.
That goes for any band. Think about it – how many times have you heard your friend tell that story about how That Band was totally jerks that one time he saw them? And he tells that story every time “That Song” comes on, because that’s all he can think about.
But it doesn’t just affect your fans’ perceptions. Word travels – pissed former fans tell others, you sell less tickets, perhaps a few less albums, then you don’t have enough money for cocaine, so you settle for crystal meth, then bam! You become just like Travis Meeks from Days of the New.
There’s a reason you haven’t heard from them in a decade.
The lesson here: don’t be a dick.
We talked a lot about jerks in rock, so how about a video of some of the nicest guys in rock? Enjoy, as Rise Against gets Wayne Kramer (MC5), Brian Fallon (Gaslight Anthem) and Tom Morello (seriously, I don’t need to tell you) to help them cover one of Springsteen’s best songs. It’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad” and holy crap it rules. Enjoy.
Next week, we’ll talk about how to not be a dick as a fan and how I once watched the lead singer of The Bronx punch a guy in the face.