My band Failure Machine has reached a position in which we can tour semi-comfortably up and down the West Coast. It’s not much, but we’ve worked hard to carve out our niche, and we’ve met some amazing people in other bands along the way.
We’ve gained little pockets of family from Los Angeles to Seattle. A family which inside jokes are the norm and everyone knows the importance of having a sound guy who’s not a dick, or to have the chance to play at a venue that actually helps promote shows. We understand these things because, as cheesy as it sounds, we’re all in this together. After a couple years of harvesting these relationships, I just wish I’d learned these things sooner.
As a teenager playing in clubs and getting the opportunity to open for touring bands, I didn’t take it as seriously as I wish I had. I thought of a band as a group of guys partying on a 24 hour road trip. Now that I’ve been in that position, I know that, yes, sometimes that’s actually what it feels like, but it’s mixed in with the recurring pangs of self-doubt playing to a nearly empty club. It’s also mixed with the constant cricks in your neck from sleeping in the van and the passive-aggressive squabbles among band mates. But these obstacles are all a part of being a musician. This shit isn’t easy and it’s nice to go from town to town knowing that there are people who understand.
Bands that will toss you their share of the cover for gas money and offer up their couches make this life infinitely easier. But more than a full tank of gas, reliable gear or a great set of songs, a strong sense of community among bands is more important than anything.
What needs to be understood is that the more we keep an eye out for each other, the more successful we will all be. We need to avoid canceling on each other. We need to treat touring groups the way we like to be treated on the road. Even if helping out a traveling band costs us a few bucks or keeps us from taking a better local show, it’s worth it because it will help to make your circle of the local scene a destination for other artists. That means more exposure for you, more exposure for your city. And if that isn’t incentive enough, just think about the gossip. Most bands are better at talking shit than they are at playing music, and they essentially turn into a group of sixth-graders when exaggerating about how awful or amazing the previous town was the night before.
If you can manage to fill a club for a group that just drove nine hours from Bakersfield, you can bet they’re going to be raving about how much fun they had when they’re in San Francisco the next night. Bands have big mouths, and those big mouths can do a lot for your scene and your reputation.
It’s not just important that we’re all in this together but why we’re in this at all. It’s simple: we’re all trying to get our art out to the people. Well, and to drink beer and get girls and travel and have fun. But mostly we want to share our art with the people and one of the best ways we can do that is by playing to packed bar in our city and abroad, this falls on ourselves and the bands that we play with. It’s as easy a concept as the golden rule and does nothing but strengthen us as a community, a family.