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"Artistic Integrity" in a cover band? Come on...

Discussion in 'The Sound Hound Lounge' started by Scott Peterson, Feb 19, 2009.

  1. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

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    *Warning: This is a rant. The opinions expressed are only opinions. YMMV.*

    I've got to set the scene first.

    Last night I had an audition for a established cover band that plays bars. Pretty good local following; they play out a few weekends every month and draw a good crowd. It is one of those bands that have been friends for a long time; internal tensions, arguments and egos blew them up. All guys in their 40's-early 50's. They had been together for over a decade and lost their bass player and guitar player.

    They built their following with a lot of 90's Modern Rock. They did some older material; but the guitarist was more of a 80's rocker that dabbled in other styles, while ROCKING everything 80's style where ever he could.

    They want to shift up the material. What they want to do now ranges from Stax/Motown to some funk standards to rock standards and some modern rock mixed in. Your usual stuff. Drums, bass, guitar and a vocalist. I'm there for the guitar spot. Gigs lined up starting in March. They had been tilted in more a hard rock direction; now wanted to work in more of a blues/soul direction in material.

    Show up at this house, directed to the basement. Once I'm down there; they are actually in the laundry room. It's about 10' x 10'. I'm behind the hot water heater, on top of the drummer. Basssist is on a stool in front of the dryer, with his amp on top of the dryer. Vocalist is in front of the washer with some Behringer Keyboard/PA combo thing. No PA.

    Singer is pretty good. Bassist is talented, but over plays. Steps all over the vocals; it's like all he hears is himself and loves to hear himself. No ears. Drummer has no pocket, speeds up and massively overplays everything. Steps all over the vocals. No ears.

    We play "The Thrill is Gone"; "Sitting On The Dock of the Bay"; "Superstition" "Brick House" and a few others. Now, I'm not a rocket scientist. But what I hear/feel is a rhythm section caught up in flash and pushing tempos too busy showing off to lay down any groove. These are pocket songs; groove. The vocalist, who is pretty good, is sort of left on an island without any pocket. I'm looking at these guys and then comes the stuff that kills me.

    The drummer starts up asking if I can "rock" these songs up. I ask him to explain what he means. He wants more 'DISTORTION!' on the songs. More "ROCK!". He wants big shredding solos; and lots of 'DISTORTION!'. I sort of look at him and say, "Well, yea, but you have to pick your places. These songs are about groove and pocket, not guitar solos." He then goes on a near lecture that with a 3 piece I need to fill more space and make 'more noise' and more 'notes'.

    Now, this cat has rushed the meter of these songs, and left no damn room for space or anything. And how the h*** do you 'rock' up and add lots of 'noise' and 'DISTORTION!' to "The Thrill is Gone" or the others?

    He then goes on playing CD's of songs that they'd like to do explaining to me that they don't want to do typical bar songs like other bands. That they have 'Artistic Integrity' and want to re-arrange and 'rock up' the more groove oriented Stax and funk bar band fodder. That I shouldn't just play my 'part' but rock out all the time.

    So I politely pack up my stuff after listening to this guy go on and on. They want to do two rehersals per week and have 45 songs ready to go within a month.

    *************RANT Mode ON*************

    Now, I've been in a lot of bands and done a lot of bar gigs over the years. In this market in my region, basically all the club owners want the same things club owners have wanted for years. Put female rear ends on the dance floor so they get thirsty and drink more. The guys will show up for the females on the dance floor and drink more if the place is jumping. Bar owner happy - band plays another gig later on. Simple formula.

    Your fan base that comes out to support you comes out for simple reasons. They want to enjoy a night out and have fun. The women want to dance and the guys want to be where the women are.

    I'm 42. I've been here before. I've seen what works and what does NOT work in these situations. The band needs to groove and the vocalist needs to kill it. You need to get the crowd involved, interested and on the floor.

    If you have no groove and no pocket, the girls can't dance. If you over play because you are bored with the material and speed through the songs playing as many notes and fills as you can and step all over the vocals. If you take material and screw it all up to show what a great 'musician' you are (which is actually an oxymoron to what you are really doing).... ugh.

    Bar bands have no artistic integrity. You are a freaking juke box, there to serve drinks. If you want artistic integrity, you need to play original music and/or not play bars that simply put up cover bands to sell drinks. If the crowd wants "Sweet Home Alabama", "Margaritaville" and "Brown Eyed Girl" you give it to them and play the snot out of them. That's your job. If you do not like it then get out of playing in a cover band that plays hole-in-the-wall bar cover gigs.

    If you want to play original arrangements of established songs, then fine. There are places to do that. But not in the places this particular band plays. Their crowd shows up expecting "I Alone" and "Interstate Lovesong" and Pearl Jam and gets heavy metal versions of Otis Redding instead? I have a sneaky suspicion that it won't go over very well. ;) :D

    Following is typical crap drives me crazy:


    1. Drummers that overplay, have no meter, no groove and no musical sense should not tell guitar players how and what to play. Suggestions are fine; but more 'DISTORTION!' in "Brickhouse" and "Sitting On The Dock of the Bay" just is not appropriate.
    2. Musicians that play to listen to themselves play do not make good band mates nor does it make good music.
    3. Pocket and groove drive certain musical forms; without it that music is simply masturbation and showing off.
    4. Musical "Integrity" is fine; but 40 year old guys in cover bands preaching about it in a laundry room after you've all but buried your talented vocalist with your overplaying in groove based songs absent of any hint of groove isn't my personal definition of musical 'integrity'.
    5. I cannot stand rushed tempos. Drives me bananas.
    6. I hate musicians that noodle incessantly when folks are trying to talk. Hey, I'm glad you dig your amp, but STFU when folks are talking.
    7. If you don't know when to play and when NOT to play by your 40's; have no sense of groove or pocket; and play to hear yourself play... there's really no way to teach it past that point.
    It's a shame too for the vocalist. He's got pipes, he's a good showman and he's tied to these guys out of friendship and loyalty.

    Sigh.

    Sorry for the rant. Had to get that off my chest.

    ****All opinions expressed are my own. YMMV.*****
     
  2. Mayflower

    Mayflower Supporting Member

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    Scott, I agree with everything you have said.
    It is not about "me" or "us" when you are doing a cover gig.
    This is a line I will not forget and plan on using it someday.
    Good luck with handling this or making a decision.
    Been there.
     
  3. Gas-man

    Gas-man Unrepentant Massaganist

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    LOL. Great rant.

    I have no artistic integrity and am proud of it.

    I'm played more than my fair share of originals to ashtrays. I'm interested in entertaining the audience and that's where the fun is, for me.
     
  4. sausagefingers

    sausagefingers Supporting Member

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    I can certainly agree that drummers who can't keep even, regular time, have no sense of swing (even on non-swinging songs, you need to have that feel sometimes), miss beats, etc, can really drive an otherwise good ensemble into the ground. :BITCH


    I can sort of appreciate what they want to do, lots of bands want to put their own stamp on tired material....but if the underlying musicianship isn't really there, then they are completely deluded. :NUTS

    Good luck!
     
  5. phatdave

    phatdave Member

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    Hey Scott?....How do you really feel?
     
  6. mprvise

    mprvise Member

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    So, you takin' the gig? :)
     
  7. gproud5150

    gproud5150 Member

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    WOW! Were we separated at birth (not really, cause I'm a young and snappish 35 going on 36)? You just scratched me right where I itch. I played with a bass player who was a former guitar player. So you can imagine how he played the bass. He told the drummer that he (the drummer) should be locking in with him. Which would have been fine if he actually played the bass parts even remotely like he should have. You're right too about cover bands being a juke box. That's exactly what we are, and it's our job to make the bars money. I do it because I love guitar, and I'm at a stage in my life where doing originals around town hoping to be a working musician is no longer feasible. I play because I love playing, but I play what I have to in order to get the gigs. That's a wonderful commentary Scott, and I just might print it out and present to other band members as our rule book.
     
  8. nnick

    nnick Member

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    Who wouldn't? Sounds like a dream gig to me. :roll:roll:roll
     
  9. Bankston

    Bankston Member

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    Dude, you are preaching to the choir. Those guys sound like real jackasses.

    When you're playing covers, "artistic integrity" means playing the songs right. Not saying you can't play around with the tune a bit, but it has to make sense. And a heavy metal version of Otis Redding makes zero sense.

    You should feel out the singer and see if he wants to dump those guys.
     
  10. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

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    FWIW, I'm going to talk in person to the singer alone and break it down for him. It's a shame, because he's a nice guy without an ego that has all the skills. Guys like him are one-in-a-million.

    If I had the time and gumption, I'd attempt build a project around him. But I just do not have the time and gumption to do so right now.

    Sigh.
     
  11. mikem

    mikem Senior Member

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    I kind of have a flair for the inappropriate when it comes to cover gigs. I have no qualms at all about rocking up certain tunes (for example, a punky version of Dead Flowers or a chugging version of Folsom Prison). As long as folks can dance to it here, they don't give a ****. No one cares if I don't play the solo from Proud Mary exactly or jam out a funkified Miss You or add a crowd participation part to Roadhouse Blues. People have heard these songs thousands of times and sometimes appreciate a little variety. It's a bit of an art trying to balance what the crowd likes with what the band likes. Chances are, if the band is having fun, so is the crowd.

    However, you do need a drummer that can keep time and grooves a bit as well as guys who don't get completely carried away with fills, licks, solos, etc. I absolutely agree with you on guys who don't listen to the band and listen to themselves. That's a major drag and when it happens, I usually back away from embellishment altogether and lay down a solid rhythm. I try to get a good groove going with the drummer without stepping on the bass player. Experience is a big part of this. Listening is mandatory and respect for the other guys in the band goes a long way. You can't play good rhythm without a solid drummer or bass player. The singer must be heard. Jamming can be cool, but don't stray too far. Have fun- it's contagious.

    Mike
     
  12. TNJ

    TNJ Gold Supporting Member

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    This is the thing that confuses me, Scott.
    If they have a good local following, and draw a good crowd...HOW do they do it? If they have a loyal fanbase who actually LIKES the kind of music they play....distorted versions of this and that...do they have a formula that works for them?
    I cant imagine that, with the practice scene you described. Something must be working for them, if they have a loyal crowd.
    For the rest of it, I agree with all of your rants, as I too am a cog in the cover band machine in our area. We are a ragtag group of misfits who somehow make the thing work. We have very little, if any, integrity though. :D
    We'll do Kid Rock, Wild Cherry, Van Morrison, Journey, Bon Jovi, ZZ, you name it...if it means getting asked back.
    We do it to the best of our ability, and the crowds so far dig it.
    Thank God our drummer is an anchor and a groovemeister. Because our bass player is a trainwreck. And our lead singer fancies himself a guitarist...you may have heard him on the Clapton Shreds YouTube clip. :D So, we aint perfect by any stretch. Even with all the talent, I'm looking elsewhere because the personality/ego crap is getting old.

    Same as it ever was...sounds like you couldnt get away fast enough...I'm sure I wouldnt have stayed either.

    Get a bass player and drummer...and buy that Lead Singer a box of chocolates. :D
     
  13. Flyin' Brian

    Flyin' Brian Member

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    First of all your rant is dead on in its target.

    I think part of it is an age and maturity thing as well. Your priorities change and in fact you are looking for integrity from a different place as you get older.

    I would disagree with the broad brush statement that "bar bands have no artistic integrity".

    Part of what we need to do as "artists" (that word always seems self aggrandizing to me) is do the job. Like you said if you're playing Brown Eyed Girl for the 25,000th time, you play the snot out of it or don't play it. That's where the integrity comes in.

    Sounds like those guys are mistaking feeding their own egos as integrity.

    Then again I'm:

    A sucker for a minimalist pocket
    A sucker for R & B (can you say Stax-Volt?)
    Old and cranky
     
  14. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

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    What worked for them was modern rock. Not the stuff they want to do now.

    The problem is that the drummer isn't near right for this sort of material, IMHO. That's not to say someone else might not dig the heck out of it.

    The bass player is new to this band too; but I found out last night that he had been in a prior band with the drummer and this cat is one of those 'know-it-all' types that just will not stop playing and if he isn't popping and slapping every 16th, he's not happy. Think of "The Thrill Is Gone" with flurries of 16th notes popping and slapping on and on and the drummer hitting cymbals and fills CONSTANTLY. It's simply freaking annoying. To me.

    Now, if that's their bag and that's what they were doing that their crowd came out and that's what they want to do... great. It's not my thing though.

    In my case, it just felt like a round peg in a square hole.

    They want to keep their gigs, so they found a guy (me) that can play the songs. But how they do these sorts of songs is just not in line with the way I want to do these songs. It's just not a match.

    And if you had that drummer telling you how to do this and that your first day in the room with him; imagine him after a few months of gigs. I shudder to even think about it. Just a clash of personalities.
     
  15. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

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    My 'Artistic Integrity' is sarcasm applied to how the drummer was using it preaching to me about how things work.

    As a guitarist, I've no problem playing the bar-band fodder straight or dressed up or any way, if it works. No problem. This wasn't working. I just didn't feel it. To be lectured to about 'Artistic Integrity' while in a 10x10 laundry room sitting behind a hot water heater is simply a slap to the back of the head IMHO.

    It's like a clown car and I don't want to get in. Again, just my opinion.
     
  16. mikem

    mikem Senior Member

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    Sounds like a freakish parody act. I guess this would work for me if they wanted to do parody, but if they're serious I would do what you're doing and take a pass on it. People probably won't like a bass player overplaying and not grooving and a drummer that tries to throw Neil Peart into a Motown groove. Sounds interesting, but doesn't sound like it will work for a crowd trying to get their groove on. Done very sparingly, it might work. These guys don't sound like they have the ears to pull it off.

    Mike
     
  17. sanhozay

    sanhozay klon free since 2009

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    Solo for 8 - 12 bars is kinda the limit and the best rock bands just live for the song. I love to hear ideas over 72 bars but I play guitar, basically an idiot.
     
  18. DocRock

    DocRock Supporting Member

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    Yikes, I'm right there with ya Scott. I just cannot for the life of me find something to do that's actually worth doing. It really sucks. I haven't had a steady live gig since last summer. I relocated to change day jobs, but have had no luck finding a band with paying gigs on the books that's actually worth playing with.

    Ugh. :(
     
  19. WildeStarr

    WildeStarr Member

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    I would never waste my time playing in a cover band. Other then that... I have no opinion.
     
  20. therhodeo

    therhodeo Member

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    Theres nothing worse than playing with a drummer like that. We have one right now in our worship band who is the nicest guy you'd ever meet and a really good drummer when his heads in it but lots of times he gets really into the song and becomes Terry Bozzio in a Phil Rudd sort of song. He knows it too so there isn't the attitude situation but its still frustrating.
     

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