Bar band etiquette

No, ‘bar band etiquette’ is not an oxymoron. We know you want to really let your hair down on the weekends, catch some grub and local band and maybe a few drinks. Maybe you’re the laid- back type and you mean well. We know you do. That said, there are some things all patrons should know when it comes to how to address a local band.

First of all, being in a band is not all fun and games. I’ve done it a few times as a vocalist, and at the moment I’m a "roadette" (my husband is a roadie) and volunteer band photographer/ videographer. It’s hard work to get everything and everyone working together. Most bands practice at least twice a week. That equipment is often a lot more expensive than it looks, and of course there’s the matter of people pouring out their hearts, dreams, and souls all over the little bar just for your entertainment. Believe me, it’s not like they do it for the money- a lot of money goes into being in a garage band, but not a lot of cash comes out. So let’s have some respect, shall we?

This past weekend was a big deal in a little place called The Other End in Heber. We stayed in a hotel for two days so the band could jam on Friday and Saturday evening. Friday night was great. Everything sounded great, the crowd was enthusiastic but chill, and everyone had an awesome time. We hoped it would be just as good the next night.

Unfortunately, when we came in with the equipment on Saturday, we immediately knew things would be a bit more complicated. A group of people sitting near the stage were already plastered and couldn’t wait to meet us. That wasn’t too bad, except that one of them wouldn’t shut up about how he’s from Montana, and politely listening to him lost us valuable set- up time.

Our lead singer, Amber, has one of the most amazing voices I’ve ever heard, and I’m picky. She’s powerful and feminine and sexy without being slutty, and the crowd tends to appreciate that. Some people appreciate it a bit too much. "Yeah, Amber’s always got some guy trying to ask her out or something," Brandon (a.k.a. Spanky), the bass player, told me once. I could relate to this from my own experiences, and let me tell you something guys- she doesn’t want to hear about your intentions while she’s on stage trying to jam. She doesn’t want to hear about it afterward, either. Think about it, folks. She’s in a band. She’s incredible. 2 + 2= she’s taken, and usually by another band member- in this case John, the lead guitarist.
Perhaps more appreciative of Amber than the hormone- laden men are the women in the crowd. She speaks to them. It’s hard to get the ladies to listen to you when you’re a girl in the band, because usually they assume you’re competition for the guys. You’re going to get male attention whether you like it or not, and the female patrons want their attention, too. But Amber accomplishes nicely what I’ve always tried- and sometimes failed to do- relate to the audience. She gets all the girls in front of the stage singing into her mic, and they love it. But Saturday night, people were getting a bit too rowdy. It wasn’t just appreciative fans approaching the stage, or even guys wanting to ask her out. It’s great that people were way into it, but at the same time they were getting to the point of causing injury.  At one point, some guy who was rather large and of the hairy variety stomped right up to Amber and started accusing her of trying to get him thrown out. I just about jumped up and told him to get out of her face, but noticed the band guys closing ranks and the bouncer fast approaching, and thought I should just stay out of the way. Thankfully someone else took the fight outside with him and we were free of violent incidents, but that made me mad.

The sound board was set up on the right side of the stage at a booth. This area is off- limits to anyone but the band, the people they brought with them, the roadie, and the roadette. I can’t tell you how many people came inches from spilling their beer all over it. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen it happen, and the last time I saw it, the drunk knocked over the desk it was on THEN spilled his beer on it. A sound board may look like just a bunch of knobs and switches to you, but it’s the nervous system of all the band’s equipment. Not to mention, it cost them a couple grand or so. Try to keep your drinks and chili cheese fries away from it.

A few more tips on how to address a band at a bar or party:

1. Don’t yap their heads off. It’s cool to say hello and tell them you appreciate them- in fact, it’s encouraged. Bands love knowing they are appreciated. But they’ve got a show to put on for you and your fellow patrons, and they’ve got work to do.

2. Know your limits. This is just general etiquette. I personally don’t think there’s an excuse for getting too drunk, unless it’s the first time you’ve drank in your life. After that, you can pretty much figure out when you’ve had enough and it’s time to quit. I can do it, so can you. Once you’re wasted, you’re an annoyance at best, and a possible threat. The more trashed you are, the more distance you should keep from the band and their cherished equipment. Rule of thumb for the lackeys- if you’re spilling your beer, you shouldn’t be drinking it.

3. If you really want to ask a band member out to a duck pond park or ice cream social, please wait until they’re on break and they’re not preoccupied with more important matters.  Then politely ask if he or she would like your number. If he or she declines, don’t take it personally. Like I said, they might be taken. Pay attention- did they bring a date/ husband/ wife? Are they snogging with anyone between sets? Even if they’re not, be nice. Don’t assume they’re oversexed just because they’re musicians.

4. Please don’t yell "Free Bird!" They normally have a set of songs planned out (in the case of Spanky’s Garage Band, four sets in a night) that they’ve been working on for some time.  Sometimes, if the crowd is really persuasive, they might play something unrehearsed, but that’s unusual unless they ASK if anyone has any requests.

5. They probably aren’t going to hire your buddy who is "the best drummer on the planet, dude!" If they have a drummer, there’s a reason he’s on the stage and someone else isn’t. If they’re looking for a new drummer/ guitarist/ keyboard player/ etc., they will advertise. Usually musicians happen to know lots of other musicians and can find one well enough on their own. Especially if it’s a drummer. If they’re keeping a drummer, they must like him, as drummers are all over the place.

6. Unless you’re Steve Vai, Danny Carey, or some third renowned musician, don’t ask to play the instruments. They are as children to those who own them. You wouldn’t just hand your kid to a random stranger, so don’t expect them to.

7. Get up and dance! It’s the best way to let the band know you like what they’re doing. They’ll sign things for you, let you take pictures with them, even hold the mic to the audience and let you all scream into it. And as you dance, be nice to the people dancing around you. Don’t knock them over or mosh when they’re playing "Every Rose has its Thorn." Have a good time, and let other people enjoy the night, too. In the end, that’s what being in a band or being in an audience is all about. It’s symbiotic. They’ll have fun if you have fun, and everyone goes home happy.

That’s not too hard, is it?

Leave a Reply