Playing in a Traveling Band

November 11, 2008 | Comments (0) | by The Hundley

It's a dream that many people have. It can start nearly anywhere. You could be a child growing up in the early 80's, seeing a band like KISS on the TV. Maybe you grew up in the late 80's and you watched The MTV and its New Years Eve "Live and Loud" concerts. Hell, maybe you even went to a local town fair or Battle of the Bands. Regardless which scenario someone experienced, many people get inspired seeing a musical performance, and dream of becoming a rock star.

Let's keep in mind the term, "rock star". It can take on many meanings. You can be a rock star on local, regional, national, or global setting. Some get by on glitz, glamor, and stage presence. Some excel by using actual talent, which can offset the fact that they're a social retard. The common denominator is that someone, no matter how insignificant, sees said rock star and is inspired. Like I said, the rock star could be the kid playing an instrumental version of "Back in Black" at a high school variety show, or it could be someone like Jay-Z leaving it all on the stage at a music festival, though different, both are the same.

For the sake of this article, I'll divulge that I have been lucky enough to be part of an extremely limited and extremely local rock band. As for my own contributions to the band, I would err much, much closer to the variety show example rather than HOVA's level of fame. Like many others (and probably 99% of all bands), it's little more than a hobby to us. More often than not, it's a time to get together with some buddies, drink a few beverages, play some of your own favorite (cover) songs, and oh, we actually get paid a few bucks? Sweet, man. And as if that's not enough, maybe, just maybe you get one person out of the twenty five people who came to the local tavern (and aren't related to you) to see the band come up and tell you how great that fourth song you played was. For a simpleton like myself, and in our band's scope of the industry, it doesn't get any better than that.

It's a great experience playing live music in front of an audience. Imagination is a powerful thing. Maybe the corner bar in a small town isn't Wembley Stadium, but I'll be damned if we don't feel like a pretty big fucking deal up on stage, or on the floor, as is the case more often than not. And it doesn't matter how many people - we've played from anything to 500 all the way down to 5 or 6, playing on a legitimate stage at a ballroom or the front porch of someone's house. We've heard fair-to-decent applause and we've experienced absolute and utter silence. We've seen dance floors spontaneously erupt as much as we've seen people treat us like we have a communicable disease. As long as you're having fun, it really doesn't matter.

I'll also tell you that being in a band can be a colossal pain in the ass. It's not like watching a DVD of your favorite band. For most bands, and keep in mind, we're operating at the lowest level, there is no such thing as "roadies". Maybe if you're lucky, you can find someone to hold a door open for you. You just want to go home, but you know that you've still got another half hour to load up all of your gear. Booze, drugs, and debauchery, right? Nah, sorry. Along with the no roadies thing, more often than not, you're driving your fifteen year old Toyota Celica to and from the show, wondering how in the hell you're going to fit an entire drum kit in there along with the bass player's amp. Maybe you had a carb-heavy dinner so you drank 6 or 7 beers and could still legally get behind a wheel. "What? The band's drinks were not covered? Damn, that means I only get twenty bones and I still need to put gas in the Celica." This is why it's best to keep telling yourself it's a hobby and not a job.

Then of course, there are always plenty of That Guy in the crowd. Always. It's always the same stuff:

- Hey, can I play a song with you? I have a (insert instrument here) and I've been playing for (insert number of years here).

- Do you guys know how to play (insert obscure song here)?

- Oh, you don't know that one? I can tell you guys the chords. I'll write 'em down and then I can sing it.

- Hey, on (song x), you guys switched the second and fourth verses from how it is on the album.

- Play some Skynyrd! (Even if it's a joke, it get O.L.D.)

Well, there you have it. An inside look at being in a low, low level rock band. Peaches and cream it ain't, at least not all the time. It's a hassle getting there, you struggle to find time to practice when you and your band mates all work over fifty hours a week, and you're getting too Goddamn old to stay up past 2am on a week night. All that and more, until someone you don't know comes up and tells you, "Dude, you really hit the drums hard! That's so cool, man. I've always wanted to play in a band." Then it becomes about trying not to blush, and try and mumble something humble to the kid.

Yeah, I'm a fucking rock star.

Sort of.