Call me unsupportive, but I do not enjoy all of Josh's shows. This has nothing to do with the music, but is usually more to do with the setting. There are lots of factors involved, any of which could sweeten or sour my mood. Josh told me this week that he had a frat party to play on Friday. In a barn. Then he told me that he had another one Thursday, but it was indoors. I think he told me about the outdoor one first so that the indoor one wouldn't seem so bad in comparison. I've been to an fall outdoor frat party before. It was not a good time.
Last year (or was it two years ago?), the band played in a field out near Turkey, NC. I am not even making that up. It was someone's dad's farm, and people had tents set up for camping. It was dusk when we got there and started setting up the equipment on the back of a flatbed truck. They had rented huge lights and a bonfire was already going strong. Once all the carrying is done, I don't have much involvement in setting up. I don't know how the drums go together and I can't tune anything. So during the setting up stage, I start looking around and gauging just what sort of night I'm about to have. I check out the people, the location of the restrooms and beer sources, any possibilities for food.
There are a couple advantages to playing at frat parties. One is that they have their ducks in a row with regards to payment. You play in a bar, you sometimes have to hassle a couple of people to get paid, and even then the band might get screwed over. But frat boys pay in advance at an agreed rate. They pay with checks. You can make your own joke about whose bank account it comes from.
But the big advantage as far as I'm concerned about frat parties is that they are always catered. You probably already know this about me, but it bears repeating: Getting free food makes me way happier than it should. After a big helping of NC barbeque with lots of fixins, I was starting to think that going to frat parties in fields wasn't so bad.
It started getting cold fast. I wasn't really prepared to spend all night out in the cold, but luckily, we were dealing with some particularly resourceful frat boys. Seeing the fire die down, they threw a couch on it. Whose couch was it? I don't know. Did the owner of the couch approve its being burned at the stake? I don't know that either. It sure did burn, though.
But I find that there is one major disadvantage of frat parties: sorority girls.
Give me a chance here. We all know that I can be very catty and judgmental, but I'm not going to complain about girls in tiny outfits in the middle of winter. I'm not going to complain about pretty girls talking to my boyfriend. I'm not even going to make any math-is-hard-let's-go-shopping jokes. I feel like I have a legitimate complaint here with regard to sorority girls, and it's all about how they treat the band.
Here is the progression. First, they start dancing. And that's fine. Some of it is kinda dirty and maybe I'd rather not see it, but whatever, that's fine. They dance some with the guys, but even after a few beers, most guys aren't really into dancing. So they dance with each other. It gets pretty silly. I start to wonder why these girls are so popular.
After a while, they decide they really want to dance to a particular song. I'm sure this is generational, but for the girls at the parties I go to, they want to hear stuff from the 80s. They want to hear "Billie Jean." Really, they'll settle for anything they know. If you started playing something from the mid-90s, they will only pout for a second before they start dancing with their girlfriends again. But note that at the end of the song, they will ask for the 80s again. I feel that I should note that most of the girls have no memory of the Reagan administration. I, uh, remember it a little bit.
I should pause and explain that it's really frustrating for people to request a band to play covers. Some bands only play covers. They are called, appropriately enough, "cover bands." They are incredibly popular and probably make enough money touring college towns that they can give up their day jobs if they are careful with their money. They fill the bars with happy people having nostalgia with their margaritas and so the bars like them. But they never get famous. And if you are a non-cover band, people will get frustrated by the fact that they don't know any of the songs that you're playing. And they will ask you to play songs that they do know. They will get mad that you don't happen to know a particular song out of millions of songs that they favor. You will get mad that you worked hard to write a song and they're not even listening because it's not "Billie Jean."
Okay, back to the sorority girls who want to hear 80s songs. The requesting of covers is annoying, but it's common and not particular to the girls at these parties. At some point, the band gives in and plays something the girls will know. They play Tom Petty or Weezer or even "Billie Jean." This is when the girls start to get really irritating.
They get on stage. It's like a rule, or maybe some sort of law of nature that they are attracted to the spot where they will garner the most attention. They've been dancing the whole time, and it was fun, but now it's time for them to seriously start being noticed. The stage calls to them. "Come dance upon me!" it cries. And they, feeling the call of the stage, must oblige it.
I do not understand this at all. Granted, I'm kind of a wallflower, but even so, jumping up on a stage uninvited during a performance seems beyond the pale. When you go to a play, do you jump up on the stage and sit on the set? You don't go to an art gallery and start touching the paintings. I suspect these girls, being young and pretty and popular, are used to getting their way, particularly from males. So if they decide that they want to be on stage, they do it.
Maybe you don't think that's annoying. You think I'm just irritated that these drunk girls are up there next to my boyfriend. What kind of a prude doesn't like dancing girls on stage? But just wait, it gets worse.
So you've got half a dozen girls on stage now, dancing, shaking what their Mamas gave them. It's not usually a huge stage, so it's a bit cramped. And then, I kid you not, they start taking over the instruments. Obviously, the microphone goes first. They start screaming into the mike or calling out to their friends or singing. They have totally forgotten that someone has been paid to sing into that mike, and it wasn't them. Then one of them starts hitting the cymbals with a finger. A couple of them play air guitar before trying to strum the actual guitars with their manicured fingernails. This is while the band is playing.
Are you shocked? You should be shocked. Think about that some more until you are thoroughly shocked. This is completely unacceptable behavior. The band is here to perform for your enjoyment. They are not a complicated karaoke machine. They are not here to give you music lessons.
And yet it is allowed. Because the band is here to live up to the agreement of playing a show. And the people that hired them want the girls to be happy. They want them to have fun and drink more. And if having fun means playing with the expensive musical equipment, then by golly, that's what they shall have.
But I am ever the optimist, and there is a glittery silver lining to this drunk and screaming cloud. When the girls start taking over the instruments, it becomes pointless for the band to play. So they stop. The girls might try to play with the instruments for a while, but they soon get bored with it once they remember that they don't actually have any sort of ability. Once the music is gone, someone turns on a stereo, and the band is pretty much done for the night. And having been paid in advance, we are free to leave.
That was the way it went last year (or was it two years ago?) in Turkey, NC. And that was the way it went last night. I am not particularly looking forward to tonight, but at least I know what to expect.