10. No smoking doesn’t mean you can’t smoke. This is one of my fondest memories of being in the band. We were sitting in the green room waiting until the first band went on. Jake and Josh were having some ridiculous conversation that I had opted out of. I couldn’t care less. I remember being slightly embarrassed by what they were they were even talking about. While this was going on, the sound guy was making small talk with me and Marshall. In the middle of talking to us, he takes out a bag of weed and starts to roll a blunt. He proceeds to smoke it, all while sitting directly under a sign that says, “No Smoking.” It’s a simple story, but I just thought it was so funny. This image of a guy smoking a joint right underneath a no smoking sign. If I could’ve snuck a picture of it, I would have.
Side story to this story: Nui’s roommate drove up from Provo with a girl to watch the show. They had an intense two-week relationship. Not three months later, this girl was engaged to another man. Married a total of four months later. Wild.
9. Make sure everyone is 21. With Local Chump, we got a gig at Urban Lounge in Salt Lake City. They sent Marshall an email confirming that everyone in the band was 21, or we wouldn’t be able to play there. Marshall responded that everyone was. Later, we realized that one of our guitarists, Eric, was in fact, not 21. (And they check your ID at the door. It’s Utah. They’re paranoid about this stuff.) We scrambled to find another guitarist who could help us play a couple songs where two guitar parts were necessary because we didn’t want to give up a chance to play at Urban Lounge. We found someone. We played. It was great.
Later on, Marshall admitted to me that he knew Eric wasn’t 21, but he really wanted to play at Urban Lounge, and he wasn’t going to have our rhythm guitarist who wasn’t totally essential to a lot of our songs stop him from playing there.
8. You’re not the worst but you’re far from good. Chances are, if you get a couple good shows with decent local lineups, you’re definitely not the worst. I have seen the worst. Have you ever been in the Battle of the Bands at The Wall? OH. MY. GOD. I almost wish I didn’t have ears. I’ll even give you some names of local bans I had the unfortunate opportunity of playing with: Blix10, City Animals (look up @wearecityanimals on Insta), and there was one more, but I can’t find it.
And look, I’m not saying we were good. We sucked. Remember, this is called Lessons Learned from Being in a Shitty Local Band. Not a good one. We would do all sorts of shenanigans to distract the audience away from the fact that we were not good. We would bring up a friend in a Donald Trump mask during one of our songs, we would throw out fruit snacks to the crowd, all to just distract from the fact that we sucked.
7. When a gear head approaches you just nod and try your best to smile. I don’t know what else to say here that’s not already in the title. Every once in a while, someone in another band would come up to me in soundcheck or after our set and want to talk gear, and I just wouldn’t know what to say. I know absolutely nothing about gear. I hardly knew how to play bass. You know, the instrument that people play because they can’t play guitar (not true but trying to rile any other bass player that might read this). It only has four strings because they can’t handle two more. So when someone tries to come up to me to talk about my gear, I’m not going to have a freaking clue what you’re talking about. Take it from the penguins, smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave.
6. Own your stage presence whatever it is. Stage presence is key to being a captivating local band. If a local band isn’t great, they can make up for it a little bit with a good stage presence. They can at least be entertaining. It’s almost in the “fake it till you make it” category. If you act like you belong up there, then it can make up for some of the mistakes. And you know what? It doesn’t even have to be energetic. All you need to do is own it. You do you. If you’re awkward up on stage, embrace it. There are so many weird, awkward indie bands out there that are made up of even more awkward individuals, but they make it work up on the stage. A local band can do the same.
5. If you’re opening no one is there to see you so stop acting like it. Being an opener is a tricky job. You want to take advantage of some people that are there early for the other bands playing that night, so you can’t just blow it off. But look, don’t act like all of these people are there to see you. Try to engage the crowd, but don’t overdo it. I was once at a concert for The Wombats, and the lead singer of the opening band kept saying, “Thank you so much for coming out tonight! We love you guys!” He said it so much, that me and Shawn still joke about it five years later. He would say it at least twice in between songs. Like bro, no one is there to see you. Hardly anyone is listening to you right now. Also saw Brogan Kelby (this guy is textbook case of the next lesson learned) open for Cage the Elephant. The only reason he was opening is that his dad is the host for the local alternative radio station. He honestly acted like everyone was there to see him and only him (not even his band – just him). I get it, it’s a fine line you have to dance to take advantage of the situation and being out of touch with reality, but just stop it. Please. I’m here for the other band.
All of this applies to local shows. The friends/fans (if any) that are there for you want to hear you and no one else. Stop acting like anything else is true.
4. Don’t take yourself seriously. If you haven’t caught on by now, no one fucking cares. Literally no one. As I’ll talk about more in the next two points, your friends don’t care, and girls sure as hell don’t care. Not even your parents care. In fact, chances are if you’re young enough, your parents might actually be against you doing this (side note: if you do have supportive parents, rock on. That’s dope.) Like, seriously, no one cares. No one gives one single shit.
And if by some chance you do come across someone that cares, they will fall into one of two categories. They are either a one-in-a-million person and you hold on to them as well as you can, or they’re crazy. And you know what? It’s actually pretty likely that they are both. Actually, you should probably just accept that they’re both. They’re both.
No one likes a try-hard, especially one that’s holding a guitar. So go have some fun with it. Do it because you like it. Sure, be genuine, but stop trying so hard. Anytime you take yourself seriously, you end up either looking or acting like a very hairy asshole, or both. Looking back at it all, the times when the band stopped being fun was because one or more of us was taking it way too seriously.
I would even go as far to say that the only reason any band ever really breaks up is because one or more person starts to take themselves way too seriously. Queen? Freddy Mercury taking himself too seriously. One Direction? Zayn. Oasis? My god, are you kidding me? The Gallagher brothers are the kings of taking things way too goddamn seriously. Blink-182? Tom took finding aliens way too seriously. And look where that got him. Oh, wait. That might be a bad example. He is largely responsible for everything that was just recently released. Okay, but The Beatles? You betcha. Fleetwood Mac? Well, that was probably because of all of the band incest. Again, not a great example, but I think I have made my point. Stop taking yourself seriously. Stop it.
3. Your friends will only support so much. Like I said, at the end of the day, your friends really do not care that you are in a band. If you tell them you are starting a band, they will assume that that you are going to be very, very bad. If you’re anything but, they’ll surprised. Sure, they’ll support you at the beginning. They’ll show up to your shows and be supportive, and if you surprise them, they’ll even say things like, “Wow, you guys were actually good,” confirming your suspicions that they thought you were going to suck ass. But this support only goes so far, which it should. A local band when they’re first starting out will play quite a few shows. You can’t expect your friends to be at all of them, and I think some local bands forget this. After a certain point, you can only expect your friends to show up for the bigger shows. If you have friends that show up to literally every local show you do, hold on to them; they’re the real ones (shoutout to Nui’s boy, Fish).
Related to this is the fact that you need to build an organic fan base. An organic fan base comes from playing really well at your shows, not pestering your friends to buy a ticket to your show. I am not going to pretend I know how to do this because we definitely fell into this pitfall of pestering our friends constantly.
2. Girls aren’t that impressed by it. If your friends don’t give a shit, imagine how little random girls care about the fact that you’re in a band. They do not. I have not met a single person of the opposite sex that was impressed by the fact that I was in a band. To be fair, I was the bassist. That’s like the lowest of the low. There are memes about how no one loves a bassist, and they’re all true. If you want a great explanation on why bass players get no love, see the Mark Hoppus video below. We do it to ourselves. We deserve the criticism.
A subcategory of “Girls Aren’t that Impressed by It” is “Do Not Ask Out the Girl in the Other Band.” I did this once after a show. I thought I was being clever. I think she had pity on me. It ended with her ghosting me. Rightfully so. It’s been three years, and this incident still haunts me like it was yesterday. Don’t do it kids.
1. It’s worth it for the people you meet. Trigger Warning: I’m about to get a little sentimental here. I mentioned it in my post The 27 Club, Music, and Me, but I started the band because I needed something to do. My friends were off busy doing their own lives and being in a band was something I had always wanted to do. Before this, the only experience I had playing in a band was the two times I got together with Ed (Patrick on the first) and company for our high school talent show (both experiences make my top ten most embarrassing-yet-still-kind-of-proud things I’ve done in my life). The only other experience I had playing with other people was playing with Patrick and Ed in their bedroom. We were less than stellar. I remember one time, Mr. Hunt said to me something along the lines of the bass really tied the whole group together, and I knew that he was just being really nice and that in reality we sounded awful.
So starting Local Chump nearly five years later gave me something to look forward to in a year where it seemed that I had nothing else to look forward to. They kind of became family. Marshall is one of my best friends today, and the group of friends that I met because of Marshall and Tim are definitely the closest group of friends I still have.
And it goes beyond that. When I think about this time in my life, and I think about all the really cool people I met along the way. We would go to shows, and we had this semi-punk rock attitude that, between that and the fact that we weren’t that great, made the venues not like us very much, but the bands we met liked us. I think about recording of first EP with Montana and Adrian from Cinders and going on late-night Taco Bell runs. I think of meeting Michael Barrow & the Tourists during our first Battle of the Bands at Velour and how great it is every time I see those guys at other shows.
Every time I go to a local show, it’s so great to catch up with all of these people. It’s great to see them continuing to pursue their dreams of music. And for me, it’s these relationships that have made all the difference. I remember one point in my life where I was feeling really shitty, like I really didn’t fit in anywhere, and Marshall and I went to a Battle of the Bands to see some of our friends play. We were there, cracking jokes and catching up in between sets, and it’s honestly one of the happiest moments of my life. Like top 5 candidate of memories that I would use when casting a Patronus spell. It finally felt like I belonged somewhere.
All of these lessons I learned from being in a shitty local band are part of the reasons I went to law school. I knew I wasn’t going to be in a band anymore, but I also knew I wanted to keep this a part of my life. And I intend on doing that by helping bands in some way or another through my legal career. At the end of the day, we were really bad, but I wouldn’t have traded my time in Local Chump or My Dear Watson for anything.
So, come here often?