Signed, Stuck In Mobile, AL With The Hump Day Blues
Dear Humpy McGee,
One sure-fire way to break out of the mid-week doldrums is to NOT SUCK. Before re-lining your bird cage with it, take a look at the club listings in the latest issue of The Reader or Illinois Entertainer. Do you see that endless sea of bands? That's what you're up against. Imagine what it must be like to book bands for a club. Places like Reggie's, Metro, Empty Bottle, Schubas, the Hideout, and dozens of others are being constantly besieged by bands with barely enough material to fill a complete set suddenly wanting their shot at the big time.
It's enough to make a talent booker start blindly handing out mid-week slots because there's truly no other way to tell whether a band deserves that shot without them proving it in-person. The least you can do when faced with such an "opportunity" is to show up and make it so that every last person in that room stops what they're doing and devotes their full attention to you. This can be accomplished many ways: by sheer spectacle (Iggy Pop slicing his own chest with broken glass is an extreme example) or by musically kicking ass and taking names.
There is a third option, but it is not without its risks: find yourself a woman and put her in your band. Heck, get two or three if you can. Heck, I know a guy who is literally the only guy in a band full of women. Can you imagine what that must be like on the road? Absolute drama-filled Heaven, baby.
Sexist to say or not, women in music are still seen as exotic. If four bands show up for a Tuesday night cattle call at Quenchers and they're all musically similar, the one with the cute female keyboardist is the one most will remember. It's just a fact that women are easier to look at than dudes. Especially dudes with beards who look like they just got off work at the typewriter repair shop.
Thing is, even though every person in that band is a good player and the band as a whole is well-rehearsed and professional, they're still playing to the same 50 or so people they played to when the band was loaded with dudes.
This could be due to not playing often enough to build up their audience or it could just be that, musically speaking, the band is still pretty unremarkable. So unremarkable, in fact, that even having four women in the band can't put asses in the seats, so to speak.
Which brings us back to my original suggestion to NOT SUCK.
Dear Velvet Elvis, I play in an Iron Maiden tribute band and we've started writing our own material. Thing is, the only way we could play it live would be if Iron Maiden records it first. Do you know how we would go about getting our songs to Iron Maiden?
Well, that is certainly one way to go about inserting your own music into your Iron Maiden tribute act, but perhaps a much simpler way to do that would to just start playing those songs and just say "This is from Dance Of Death!" or "We'd like to play something off of Brave New World" because most Maiden fans have only listened to those albums once if at all. See, the chances of you actually getting your songs to Maiden are hilariously slim. Even so, if you did somehow get your tunes into their hands, the chances of them recording them are, according to my calculations, zero, zilch, nada.
P.S. Did I mention that we're an all-girl Iron Maiden tribute band? Signed, Charlotte The Harlot
Hey baby, why didn't you just say so in the first place? In that case, just put a tape of your songs in a manilla envelope with a couple nice glossies and send it to:
Then just wait for the next Maiden CD to come out and start adding whatever songs of yours that they recorded to your live set. Keep in mind that you might only impress them enough to be invited to tour as their opening act, which would mean playing major venues all around the world, which would be great and all, but will still not remedy your desire to perform your own material in your tribute sets. Sorry.
Dear Velvet Elvis, I'm kind of pudgy and, as a result, I'm very self-conscious when I'm onstage performing. What should I do? Signed, Portly In Portland
Are there any women in your band? If so, don't worry, nobody's looking at you. With a gal in the band, you could light yourself on fire, start toasting marshmallows on yourself, and not a single person would notice. The downside to that is that if you start choking on a chicken wing in the middle of performing, you run the risk of nobody noticing until its too late.
As for being pudgy, did you see me in the '70s? Not only was I not self-conscious about it, I started wearing these rhinestone studded white jumpsuits to draw even more attention to my svelte physique and the shows just kept right on selling out night after night. Have you ever seen Meatloaf perform? Not only is he a chunky fella, he's usually absolutely drenched in sweat halfway through the first song, yet he holds that entire room in the palm of his hand. I mean, every last person in that room paid good money to watch him, after all.
So embrace who you are and, for the time you are on that stage, you have a license to be as proud of who you are as you have ever been and to lose yourself in the music. Do so and every last person in that room will follow you wherever you want to take them.