Tuesday, June 5, 2012

House Bands

Within the confines of a favorite pub, bar, watering hole or whatever you would like to call it, one expects certain things.  As an example when one frequents a sports bar you expect televisions full of sports and not the Oxygen network.  But are bars the only place where you expect something and then were so disappointed at the product you were seeing?

If you actually believe that sports bars would be the only location... well if that's the case you should really shave your beard and leave the Amish.  We have all been in a restaurant where we are bombarded by terrible mariachi bands and incessant table traveling troubadours in such a fashion that you slip them a five dollar bill just to get away from you.  While I'm fairly confident that their job stinks so bad that those five dollar offerings are really a gift of mercy.

It seems that every establishment that serves the general public has to have some shtick that resembles that mercy five dollar tip.  From steak restaurants screaming at the top of their lungs just to announce that Matilda is celebrating her 84th birthday (who because of the screaming has had what could be identified as a massive coronary), to bars having a "house band".  The house band is the "wing-man" of bars that cannot find any other bands to play that specific evening.

Look this is not an attack on musicians, it cannot be an easy to play in front of any amount of people but for these bands there is some sort of issue and this isn't an indictment of a single act, performer or band.  What I am merely saying is that there is a reason a band becomes a "house band" and to compound that there is usually a reason that they are available at a minutes notice.  I have always had a certain amount of trepidation regarding  "house bands".  I think that the straw that finally broke the camels back was following a comedy performance I had recently attended.

After the performance (which was funnier than all get-out) we rested a bit and watched as a band came out to play the instruments that were like props for the comedian (they shared the stage).  The band had this uneasy feel to it, it was as if they had never played together before (and they had, the lead singer said they had performed together for four years).  In all honesty this band reminded me of a garage band and not an act that has it together.  And as I an staying honest I have to tell you that I saw this band TWICE that weekend (the comedian was that good), so I can tell you with great vigor (vigor?) that both nights this band played exactly the same.

It really isn't the fault of the band (well not entirely), some of the fault lies within the venue for booking them so often.  Think about it, the venue must know the band isn't the best but they keep booking them.  It is also the fault of those that stick around, continue to buy drinks and I think its safe to say that a playlist that includes the first two songs by Johnny Cash followed by a Beach Boys song and then Van Morrison can help fuel the contempt.  Just a bit ambitious wouldn't you agree? 

Johnny Cash songs albeit not sacred BUT should only be tried by musicians that can pull it off.  Cash's signature sound works when it is played properly but to make it muddier than a Redneck's "Wed'in" reception down on Slow Skunk Creek is just a bad, bad thing.  Instead of trying to do anything like Cash, it became painfully obvious that they would play music however they wanted but use Cash's lyrics.  Hey I get trying to put your own spin on something but just plain STOP!  The songs "Ring of Fire" and "Folsom Prison Blues" should at least have an attempt to sound right.  It's Johnny Cash not Lady Gaga (butcher the crap out of her stuff, it will probably sound better).

So as I disappeared into the smog of the casino in which I was visiting that evening I began to hear Van Morrison cut its way through the second, third, forth and fifth hand smoke.  Much like Cash, Van Morrison songs have to be done the correct way or you risk the chance of sounding like a terrible house band.  Based on the lyrics I could hear it should be noted that I BELIEVE that the song was "Brown Eyed Girl" but by that point I couldn't handle it further so I made my successful escape.

Following the comedians set the next night I decided to stick around just to see if it the set the night before was simply a bad night or a complete abomination and much to my surprise (Not) the attempt was exactly the same.  Unfortunately at this juncture they decided to do two Van Morrison songs, TWO...  So following the butchery that was indeed"Brown Eyed Girl" and "Moondance" (its too painful to talk about further) and what was seemingly a Willie Nelson song I had to leave.

House bands can be a great thing if the band is talented, disciplined and what's the other word... oh yeah, good.  Unfortunately for those individuals that remained from two excellent sets by the comedian, the band did not deliver.  I do believe that as this is an election year I will try to get a referendum on the ballot that will in essence ban every bad house band (hey dumber, much dumber things have been passed now haven't they).  Come to think of it, forget I ever mentioned the whole ban thing.  The Constitution has been pillaged enough already!

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