Thursday, October 03, 2013

A Cautionary Tale: The Really Good Band

I was told this story by a musician friend a couple of weeks ago. Of course, I've changed names and so on, but it's something like 70% true. It stands as a warning to those of us (myself included) whose offspring play in bands.

There was a really good band, once.

Ned was 15 and was an amazing bass player. He had learned from his uncle who'd been in... well, I can't remember their name but they supported U2 on one of their tours back in the day.
Yes, he'd learned from his uncle, and he'd also had a great teacher at school who really encouraged him. This teacher had taken him under his wing and had told Ned's parents that he was really, really talented.
Tommy was the drummer. He was 18, a bit older than the others but he'd bought his kit himself- saved up from his job helping his dad in his haulage business on Saturdays and also from his inheritance from his Grandparents (he was saving the rest of that for a flat). He had already had some success; he had played with his school at the Royal Albert Hall for an event that featured talented children from all over the UK and he had auditioned for an earlier version of Chvrches, before they changed musical direction (but he didn't get the job, although he reckons it's because they changed direction).
Sam was the guitarist. Like Ned, he was amazing- practically a child prodigy. Sam's dad had always wanted to be a guitarist but wasn't musical at all so he'd poured all his encouragement into Sam. Sam's sisters were a bit naffed off that their dad had spent so much money buying guitars and amps for him, but Sam's dad told them that Sam really had something, and when he made it and became famous, Sam would buy them all clothes, ponies, cars: whatever they wanted.
So just be patient!
Lastly, but not leastly, was their singer Damian. Damian had a proper rock voice, raspy and loud: not unlike Rod Stewart's, his dad's friends said, and he got a bit annoyed having to do Sailing and Maggie May at all their karaoke parties. But the book his mum gave him, How To Be A Success In The Music Business, said that you had to think about everyone as a potential audience member, so he always wheeled the songs out when he was asked to sing.
He really rather liked Charlotte Church, but he kept that quiet.
People had told them they should go on the X-Factor and they had actually auditioned but not got through (please don't tell anyone I told you that!).
They had everything they needed- a van (from Tommy's dad), equipment (parents had pitched in and bought what they needed), photos (Damian's girlfriend's aunt was a professional wedding photographer and had taken some moody shots down by the canal), and now they had a proper gig!
A local promoter had booked an artist that he'd liked since he was at Uni, and he knew that at least 150 people would come to the village hall to see him play.
Would the band like a support slot?
You bet they would!
Playing in front of 150 people was an opportunity that They Could Just Not Miss.
It was the school summer holidays and they spent days rehearsing in the Scout Hut, getting quite grumpy when the Scouts actually wanted to use it themselves and making some of the Guides cry (in fact the Guide Leader complained to Ned's mum when they were both having their hair done).
The night of the gig came round.
The promoter let them into the venue early (Ned's father had a word with the promoter because he owed him a favour) and they set up and rehearsed in situ to make damn sure they sounded good.
The sound engineer had been at school with Tommy's big sister and he took ages making sure everything sounded just right.
It was a bit annoying when the headline artist rolled up and tried to get on stage for a sound check. Didn't he realise that they were a Really Good Band, and not only that, they had A Lot of Local Followers?  (well, all their mates said they'd come along if they could be on the guest list and between them they had eleven family members coming along, if they could be on the guest list).
Eventually the headline artist gave up and went off to get something to eat, which meant that they could just carry on playing as the hall filled up and play their entire set of 20 sh*t-hot cover versions.
They cranked it up to the max, and the family asked for encore after encore. The audience loved them so much that they played for an hour and a half, even though they were only supposed to play for 30 minutes and the main artist was supposed to be on after that.
The main artist was standing by the stage looking a bit naffed off. Couldn't he see how Good they were? They must be, because the audience (or at least their family at the table at the front) were asking for more and more and there wasn't really any point in stopping between songs as a medley seemed like a good idea, building the atmosphere and getting the crowd going, especially when Sam played the solo from The Boys Are Back In Town absolutely note-perfect (and it's not easy!).
Eventually, when they were completely exhausted, they played their last encore.
Sweaty, laughing and triumphant, they left the stage, waving at Tommy's girlfriend at the back of the hall.
The mums and dads were standing up clapping frenetically- a standing ovation!
The main act went on. He'd had to set up in front of their gear but he'd said he didn't mind even though he looked a bit cross.
To be honest, although the audience seemed to like him a lot, he wasn't half as loud as the Really Good Band and when the mums and dads were having a laugh during his set, you could hardly hear him at all. He seemed to get quite annoyed at one point when Ned's father was telling them all the story of Ned dropping his guitar in front of a lorry in the High Street one night when he'd had his first ever pint or two. Hilarious! They couldn't stop laughing. It was a pity that it was during a song that the main act seemed to think was emotional: his audience were singing along with him but that didn't necessarily mean anything, did it?.
Some of the songs the main act played sounded quite good and the audience was clapping, but he wasn't as good as the Really Good Band, not by a long way. What was the point of playing songs he'd written himself? The people who had come to see him seemed to like them, but that was all. All the guys in the band were pretty sure they'd blown him off stage and the mums and dads agreed.
Finally, it was all over. It was dead annoying that they'd just had to sit there while the main guy was on, and wait to get their equipment off stage, because it was behind him.
Damian's dad had gone up at half ten and stood by the side of the stage. Between songs he'd asked if the guys could get their gear off , but the main act wasn't having any of it, which was a bit mean of him really. The band was knackered: didn't he understand?
But no- they had to wait right till the end.
Yes, that was dead annoying, but all in all it had been a good night.
Goes to show that by playing a set of standards really, really well (and I mean well), a Really Good Band can blow even an experienced solo artist off stage and show the guy's audience just how Good they are.
You might want to know the name of The Really Good Band because you might want to catch them if you're in their area.
They are called The Cuckoos.

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