Practice, party, don't hook up, repeat
The musicians’ guide to the dos and don’ts of the local music scene
We all love a good gripe fest.
We here at SN&R are not entirely sure what we expected when we asked a bunch of Sacramento musicians for dos and don’ts of the scene. Definitely “Don’t have sex with a bandmate.” And we did get that tidbit of advice, but plenty more practical, worthy words of wisdom for any fresh up-and-comer as well. Take notes.
1 Do remember that a show is a party. As Dean Haakenson (Be Brave Bold Robot) says: “Mama Venue has let you use the house, your friends pitched in for the booze and you promised entertainment. You might want to just zone out that day, but tough shit.”
2 Don’t perform too often. Once every other month is just dandy. “No one is going to come see you and you won't make any money,” says Noah Clark (Noah Clark and the Homewrecking Crew, Brilliant Red Lights). “Unless you really love performing and don't give a fuck, then do whatever you want.”
3 Do practice. That was singer-songwriter Sandra Dolores' sole advice. Many others expressed the same thing, but why use more words?
4 Don’t break down on stage when another band still needs to load in. “No one finds a drummer taking their cymbals on and off the stands entertaining,” says Danny Secretion (the Secretions, the Knockoffs).
5 Do be nice to sound engineers, “because they have the suck knob and can end you,” says Joe Castro (All About Rockets, Drop Dead Red).
6 Don’t be too loud. Drummer extraordinaire Tony Ledesma (Odame Sucks, Autumn Sky, the Pressure Lounge, Drop Dead Red) shakes his head at bands who play at full volume in intimate settings. “That's great if you're 16 and you wanna rock out and have a good time,” he says. “But no one wants to go out and try to listen to a band and have to leave halfway through because you can't fathom the sound.”
7 Do go to lots of shows, even if you’re not playing. “To truly be networking is to know about everything going on in your scene,” says rapper Chuuwee.
8 Don’t just play for your scene, though. Chuuwee: “Always represent Sacramento but have an understanding that there's an entire world out there for the taking. Don't limit yourself or your sound.” Similarly, from Warren Bishop (Blame the Bishop): “The scene is always in transition, therefore the scene is not your audience. Find places and people elsewhere and make them believers.”
9 Do bring backup gear. This is just practical. “If you can have two of something, have two of something,” Castro says.
10 Don’t have sex with a bandmate. This is also practical. “If you do, keep it chill,” says Carly DuHain (Drop Dead Red). “Know what it is. I've seen some bands just decimate, hate each other, start writing songs in new bands about each other. That's ugly.”
11 Do give shout-outs to other bands on the bill. “It makes people smile,” Secretion says. “Smiling is a good thing.”
12 Don’t take it personally. A band is like an exercise in group management, and bandmates need to pull their weight for the good of the biz. “[It's] an oddly emotional, friend-oriented, not-really-businessy-feeling sort of business, but business just the same,” Haakenson says. Business also means negotiations.
13 Do be punctual. This is self-explanatory. We're not even going to quote someone.
14 Don’t take yourself too seriously, or feel entitled to any special treatment. “No one owes you any show slots, and just because they know you in Meadowview doesn't mean they're supposed to respect you in Oak Park,” Chuuwee says. DuHain: “The best way for people to remember you is to be their friend.”
15 Do keep playing, no matter how old you are. “If that spark still burns through myriad band breakups, failed relationships, shitty day jobs, horrible tours … if it still is there after all that, never stop,” Bishop says. “You're a lifer and you have to play—you do not get old, you get vintage.”
16 Don’t look at other musicians as competitors. “You all exist on a music highway but in different lanes,” says singer-songwriter Autumn Sky. “Challenge only yourself to one-up whatever was your last strong piece and look to other performers for camaraderie and community.”