11 Things You’ll Learn When Your Band Goes On Tour

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Artist’s rendition of what you’ll be hallucinating from sleep deprivation after two weeks on the road

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It may have a waterbed and a bitchin 8 Track Stereo, but a 40 year old van might not make the best tour vehicle.

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Also probably not the most practical tour vehicle choice.

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The “Rocker Stare” is important to cultivate. It stuns groupies, fans, and promoters trying to bleed you dry.

Your band Death Hippie has been paying its dues locally for awhile, and the time seems right to take the act on the road. Almost any musician that’s ever played live has wondered what it’s like to go on tour. It seems like the next logical step toward world domination for any band bold enough to head out on the highways in search of fame.

Like many things involving playing in a band, there are lessons to be learned about planning and executing your own tour, and some of them are tough lessons.

1. Your Tour Vehicle is Very Important. Choose Wisely (You Probably Won’t).

Whether you’re just playing a week’s worth of cities in your own state, or going across country for three months at a time, any touring band will be depending on their vehicle. In rock music lore, there’s the legendary “Tour Bus,” but no one starting out is going to have one of those rolling clubhouses sitting in their garage. Tour buses and the professional drivers that shuttle larger bands around are very expensive.

Most bands end up touring in some form of van or a similar vehicle. It’s a good idea to buy a dependable one, and renting might be a better option.

That thirty year old Chevy van that’s for sale down the street might seem like a great deal at $2,000 with its wizard mural and waterbed, but it will quickly lose its appeal when Death Hippie finds itself broken down in a mountain pass 700 miles from home, drawing straws to see who gets to eat the others to survive.

It’s also important to try to find a vehicle that’s not uncomfortable to ride over long distances. Four or five (or more) people forced to be around each other for long periods of time are going to get on each other’s nerves anyway, so any features that make those journeys less pleasant will quickly lead to the singer stabbing the drummer with a salad fork (all bands travel with a full set of dueling silverware, it’s a requirement of the “rock code”).

2. Your Band is On Its Own.

This may seem obvious, but any band members hitting the road for a tour are leaving behind most of their individual safety nets. We may be more connected than ever – I’m sure a band that’s sitting by the side of a country road watching their surrounded van get closed in on by cannibalistic mutants will have time to post a status update on Facebook or Twitter before merciful death finally takes them, but the only people you’re going to be able to count on to help in an immediate crisis are the people you’re with, i.e. your bandmates (and that includes the bass player who eats his own snot when he thinks no one is looking).

It’s true most of us will have people that we can call back home if there’s a problem, but short of sending money, there’s not much they’re going to be able to do fast in a pinch. By the time any of them can come to the rescue, those cannibals will already be wearing pants made out of your beautifully tattooed skin.

No matter how well a band plans their tour, there will be problems that crop up unexpectedly, and sometimes those problems are serious ones. Any band that can’t come together as a solid unit to solve those problems needs to safely stay in their home town.

3. Any Bad Habits or Issues Your Band Members Have Will Be Amplified.

Let’s say that Death Hippie’s rhythm guitar player likes to get drunk after every show, and occasionally makes an ass of himself sloppily hitting on women. Sure, that can be irritating when your band is playing local clubs, but imagine him doing that repeatedly on a tour when everyone in the band is accountable for everyone else’s behavior.

All it takes is for that rhythm guitarist to drunkenly put his hand on the wrong woman’s butt, and the rest of you end up tied naked to metal chairs in some psychotic guy’s basement, wondering why the drummer’s screaming stopped in the other room, and who will be next.

Even if no one’s personality quirks or problems get the band in trouble, they’re still likely to cause trouble among the members themselves. Members of the band will be spending a lot of time together in close quarters, and any irritating behavior is going to get a lot more annoying than it might back home. At least there, you can always get away from your bandmates if you want to. Try getting away from someone when they’re two seats down from you, and there is still 400 miles to go before you get to the next venue.

4. Touring is Physically Grueling.

Unless you’re already famous, or happen to be independently wealthy, no one is likely to hire you any helpers for your tour. Rock and roll is full of legendary lore about “roadies,” but you won’t have any. YOU are your roadie.

That means that the members of your band will be unloading all of the gear for the show themselves, and also breaking it down later that night, and packing it back up. This is a huge task, and a lot is on the line. If you forgot some important piece of equipment at the last gig 500 miles back that’s a problem. Under the best of circumstances, most bands will be carrying a lot of heavy equipment around on a daily basis. If a club is up or down any stairs, that chore becomes much more difficult. Your awesome steel “Death Throne” prop that looks great on stage will become a lot less appealing after you’ve had to carry it up or down three flights of stairs twenty days in a row.

A busy tour schedule will also ensure that you’re not getting very much sleep. Unless you’re good at napping in a moving van, and are not the person driving it, you will probably go for days without getting a real night of sleep. The hectic pace of touring just doesn’t allow everyone to settle into a nice comfy bed for eight hours at a time. Not to mention, most bands starting out aren’t going to have the money to consistently stay in a nice motel room anyway.

Whenever my old band went out on the road, I felt like a zombie after a week. You learn to adapt. You learn to live off of caffeine. You learn to hate clowns, because the lack of sleep will have you hallucinating those white faced bastards in no time.

5. “Hurry Up and Wait”

So finally your band arrives at the venue they’ll be playing later that night, and no one has killed anyone yet. That’s good, that’s very good.

But now it’s time to face the tedium of waiting for the show. Any small band that tours will be familiar with this routine. The band has to rush to get to the club and meet whoever is opening the doors for them. This usually happens in the afternoon or early evening before the place opens. If there’s a long distance between destinations, there can be a frantic scramble to get there on time, just to be met by some unenthusiastic club manager, and then after the band loads in, hopefully a sound check.

Then the wait.

Nothing is more boring than an empty club or bar in the daytime. It’s no wonder that some people in bands develop drug or alcohol habits, hours of waiting around bored in a bar will drive people to drink (or worse) just to have something to do.

If you’re lucky, the club is in an area of town that has a few interesting things to do and see to kill time. Otherwise, it’s a lot of hanging around a dressing room (if there is one) until show time. If you’re unlucky, and that is more likely, the venue will be in some awful “warehouse district” or equally dismal area of town, and you’ll have to amuse yourself for several hours by naming and racing cockroaches with the hobos living in the alley.

6. You Will Rarely be Comfortable For Long.

This is related to the “grueling” aspect of touring in a unsigned (poor) band, but is it’s own challenge. It is likely that such a band won’t be rolling in dough early on, and might actually be losing money while on tour, spending more than they take in. At the very least, money will probably be tight, particularly if the tour goes on for several weeks or longer. So the fantasy of staying in awesome hotel rooms while beautiful groupies lavish attention upon your groin area are probably going to stay in the realm of fantasy.

What’s more likely to happen, is a lot of crashing with shady promoters or fans, sleeping on couches or floors, or even in the van. Maybe you’ll get lucky and get to stay in a motel room once a week, but that gets expensive, so you might be sharing a bed with your bass player, “Farting Charlie.”
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Wherever you’re staying, things like showers or having the bathroom to yourself for more than a few minutes will become complicated maneuvers, where you try to get in line before all of the hot water is gone, or the singer’s back hair has clogged the drain. Routine things like washing your clothes can become rare treats, and you’ll have to adapt. Did you know you can make dirty clothing wearable by spraying them with Febreze? That’s a pro tip. Enjoy.

7. You Will Have to Deal With a Lot of Weird People.

Sure, fans can be weird. Goes with the territory, right?

Yes they can, and yes it does, but you’ll be getting constant exposure to some weird folks. You will be hanging around and sometimes depending on lots of people you don’t know and have just met. Any touring band will have to rely on numerous strangers at every town they play in. Besides the people that run the venue, they’re also likely to have a local promoter or two at each stop, and others. I can’t count how many floors and couches I slept on, offered at the last minute by a fan or friend of the promoter.

What happens is that a small-time band ends up depending on the goodwill and treatment of a lot of people they just met. This will give you a feeling of vulnerability at times. As you wonder if your new “friends” are going to treat you nicely, or are serial killers that want your heads for a special art project they’re working on. You end up in the strange cycle of meeting new people, rapidly forming some sort of bond or at least mutual goal, and then the band leaves town, and you might never see those people again. Repeat. It’s a weird way to interact with folks.

More importantly, you will learn just how much your band depends on the promoter and other people they barely know. If your band is booking their own tours, chances are you’re relying on some stranger, maybe someone you have emailed a few times, to help promote your show. It’s not like a band driving across the country can really do much to promote a gig hundreds or thousands of miles away. That’s where the promoter comes in, and promoters tend to be a weird bunch of people. They come in two basic models – people that promote for a living, and people that do it for fun. Of course, there is usually some grey area between these two extremes, but generally they trend one way or the other.

Either scenario can turn out good or bad, but it’s definitely not a good sign to discover huge piles of flyers that you sent the promoter laying on his desk, never having been distributed, or discovering that he’s a local drug lord.

8. You Will Probably be Broke.

The sad truth is even if you start out a lengthy tour with a decent amount of money, you will probably soon be nearly broke. It costs a lot to travel around the country, and unless your band is making serious coin at each show, the members will quickly burn through any funds they brought along. It’s not uncommon to be barely scraping by, limiting yourselves to a $10 a day budget or something equally spare, and hoping that Death Hippie sells enough t-shirts that night to fund truck stop sandwiches for everyone (except the drummer, he seems to live off of cigarettes and hatred).

It’s a tough way to travel, but the plus side is you’ll soon be able to squeeze into those old leather pants that you’d gotten too fat for. Bonus!

9. Speaking of Truck Stops…

You’ll probably come to look forward to them. They are Meccas of convenience for weary travelers. That’s a weird thing about touring, you learn to go where the truckers go. If you see a stop with no big rigs outside, keep on going. They probably use dog meat in the burritos or something. What you want to see are the big, modern truck stop centers. Huge places with comfortable bathrooms and a restaurant inside, preferably some kind of inexpensive buffet. The people that work in those places are used to seeing all sorts of freaky stuff roll through, and that probably includes other bands. If you’re still in your stage clothes from the night before, covered in the fake blood that Death Hippie famously bathe in on stage, the people at a big truck stop probably won’t bat an eye. Whatever you’re likely to need can usually be found at such a place.

10. The Fans.

Yes, the people you’re (hopefully) enthralling with your nightly performances. You’ll be interacting with a bunch of people that come to see you play, and it can be a lot of work. Unless your band is already somewhat famous, it’s not like you’re going to be insulated from the people that come to watch you perform. Huge bands never have to personally meet and mingle closely with their fans unless they want to. They’re shuttled to and from the venue, whisked backstage while an army of minions attend to their needs, and then play the show, and are whisked away again. Unless they actually want to meet their fans, they never really have to.

Your band, on the other hand, is likely not in that position, and will instead be hanging around the same club with your audience members until your show begins. Yes, most places will have some rudimentary backstage area where the bands can hole up before the show, but some don’t. So unless you want to stay in the van until show time, you’re going to end up mingling with people that came to see you play, or maybe just showed up to see anyone play, and don’t care about your band at all.

Some musicians I’ve known love hanging out with the folks that come to their shows, and others do not. Obviously, these people will cover all sorts of personality types, and some will be easy to deal with while others won’t be, but you’re going to have to take the good with the bad. Becoming famous as a stuck-up prick isn’t going to be doing your band any favors. So when the ugly guy that’s been following your band around the Midwest shows up AGAIN, and wants the members of Death Hippie to sign his pimply ass AGAIN, keep that in mind.

11. You Will Not Be ABle to Escape The People in Your Band

Traveling across the country in a rolling metal box with four or five (or more) other people doesn’t allow a person much personal space or private time. My old band would go on three month national tours, and in that whole time, I might have a few minutes each week where I felt like I was alone.

Since a tour is a group effort, your group will be around you constantly. It’s not really conducive to band business for members to disappear for hours at a time, and it can be really disruptive if that member goes off on his own and then runs into some kind of trouble in an unfamiliar town. If you’re lucky, you might get a few minutes of alone time when you take a shower or use the bathroom, but even then, the rest of the band is probably right outside the bathroom door, possibly plotting to throw you out of the band for using up all the hot water.

These are but a sampling of the scenarios that a small-time band will likely become familiar with when hitting the road seeking fame and fortune. There are many more lessons anyone with that ambition will soon discover, but I’ll save them for another day. Just remember, you may be the main talent in the band, but you’ll need your bass player. He can drive for hours without a break, and he doesn’t smell too bad after five days without a bath. He also looks like a fitting sacrifice to the cannibals if such hard choices should become necessary

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Drunk Irish People Fight Monsters From Space – “Grabbers”

I caught this film on Netflix the other night, based on a reference from a friend of mine. It’s a recent Irish horror film, although I never know how to classify movies like this. It’s about monsters that eat people, but the monsters are from space, does that make it more of a science fiction story or a horror tale?

I guess it doesn’t really matter, what matters is that monsters from space have crashed into the sea just off the shore of a remote Irish island. In short order a bunch of dead whales have washed up on shore, fisherman have caught something weird instead of lobster, and an odd couple of cops start to realize something very strange is happening.

Early on we’re introduced to the protagonist cops. Ciaran (Richard Coyle) is a barely functional alcoholic who is fortunate to have an easy gig on an island where nothing particularly cop-worthy ever seems to happen. He is begrudgingly partnered with Lisa (Ruth Bradley) who has signed up for extra duty to impress her superiors back at her job on the mainland. She’s as much of an ambitious workaholic as Ciaran is a drunk.

In typical “meet cute” fashion, they start off on the wrong foot with one another, but there is little doubt that they will end up together by the film’s end. We’re also introduced to several of the island’s more colorful characters, notably Paddy, a drunken fisherman, and the local marine ecologist Dr. Smith.

Weird things quickly begin to take place on the isle. Something seems to be attacking people, leaving only a severed head behind in one attack, and that’s just not a common occurrence. After some basic investigation, the responsible parties are discovered – “Grabbers”, monsters that are so named because they have enormously long tongues that they shoot out to suck the blood from their victims. Turns out that all these Lovecraftian horrors need to survive is human blood and lots of water. Fortunately for them, they landed near an island and a tropical storm is about to hit town.

It’s also soon discovered that the one thing these creatures can’t stand is the blood of drunk people. Alcohol is poisonous to them. That’s good for the humans living on the island, as it seems the local pastime is getting shitfaced every night.

After realizing that the Grabbers are about to be handed the perfect situation in which to eat everyone on the island, the film’s heroes decide to trick everyone in town into getting wasted at the local tavern, essentially hiding out, and rendering their blood into space monster poison.

And so it goes. The film itself is a simple one, and there aren’t any real surprises in store for anyone that’s seen a few formulaic monster-from-space flicks. In a movie like this, it’s not really the simple plot that makes or breaks it, and that’s a good thing, because “Grabbers” is a lot of fun to watch.

First, all of the acting is good, and the characters are likable. This is especially true with the main protagonists Ciaran and Lisa. Ruth Bradley is particularly interesting, and she owns the scenes where she is forced to get loaded for the first time ever to foil the anti-drunk space aliens.

The aliens themselves are well rendered, if not especially original. They’re realized through CGI, but the effects are well done and convincing, and the creature design reminds me of the types of tentacled horrors that H.P. Lovecraft was so fond of writing about. The island location itself is a good one, and adequately gives us the sense that the islanders are effectively cut off from any help from the outside world. “Grabbers” is played straight, but there is ample humor throughout the film, reminiscent of films like “Shaun of the Dead,” although this film tilts a little more towards horror than humor. In a way, I was reminded of formula monster films like “Lake Placid.” A good mix of characters and their chemistry makes films like these seem a lot “better” than they might be without that dynamic. The violence is pretty standard for a film like this, if a bit more restrained than one might expect. Several heads are bitten off, but none of it is extremely gory or graphic. I’ve seen about the same level of graphic violence on an episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

There is appeal in watching the straight-laced Lisa get drunk in order to thwart the monsters, and in seeing the normally drunken Ciaran stay sober enough to save the day. “Grabbers” is a simple monster movie, but it has enough laughs and charismatic characters to make it an entertaining film to watch. It’s not frightening at all, but it’s fun enough.

I’d give “Grabbers” six shots of Irish whiskey out of ten. It’s worth checking out on a rainy night.

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Backwards Messages on Albums Lure the Weak to a Music Festival in Hell

We’ve all heard the stories – rock bands have been hiding backwards messages in their songs for decades. At least since The Beatles led millions of teens to drugs and sex, many bands have been inserting “hidden” backwards messages on their albums to ensnare the souls of their fans for Satan.

It’s common knowledge that the act of a diamond tipped needle rubbing the wrong way on vinyl releases any Demonic Energies contained within, and those messages are then sent forth to destroy and enslave the souls of feeble-minded rock and roll fans.

Let’s examine, and try to ferret out the messages some of these Satanic rock bands have unleashed upon our world.

1. The B-52’s –  It’s commonly known that big hairdos are one method Satanists use to identity each other, and the overtly demonic band The B-52’s were definitely no strangers to back masking on their albums.

On the song “Detour Through Your Mind” from 1985’s “Bouncing off The Satellites” album they hid the following grim message:

“I buried my parakeet in the backyard. Oh no, you’re playing the record backwards. Watch out, you might ruin your needle.”

Clearly, this song speaks of an animal sacrifice, and warns listeners that they might ruin their “needle,” either a command to do heroin, or a cryptic reference to ruining their souls.

2.  The Bloodhound Gang – With a name like that, it’s hardly surprising that this band would put a backwards message on their “One Fierce Beer Coaster” album. On the song “Lift Your Head up High (And Blow Your Brains Out)” their evil is revealed with these words:

“Devil Child will wake up and eat Chef Boyardee Beefaroni.”

The members of this band obviously work at some sort of Satanic daycare service, or are the cooks for one. They will be feeding Satan’s kid some hellish pasta dish when he wakes from his nap.

3. The Electric Light Orchestra –  Fruity orchestral band “E.L.O.” proved that they will be playing in Lucifer’s symphony when they recorded a hidden message on the song “Fire on High” off of 1975’s “Face The Music” album. When played in reverse, the band reveals the following:

“The music is reversible, but time (violin part) is not. Turn back! Turn back! Turn back! Turn back!”

Another warning perhaps. After telling their listeners to listen to the music in reverse – diabolical since they have already done so if they’re hearing this warning – they warn that it’s too late to turn back after your soul is in Hell with the devil and his fiery torment.

By the time any E.L.O fans received this message, they were already consigned to the bottomless pit of Hell’s ninth level and didn’t even know their fate had been sealed.

4. Green Day – Long the poster boys for rebelling against…something…this pop trio finally tipped their Satanic hand on the 2009 release “21st Century Breakdown.” On their song “East Jesus Nowhere” a hidden message awaits:

“Second guess me, don’t test me.”

Considering that it is in a song mentioning the Savior by name, it can only mean that the band and all of their listeners fall short of passing the “test” that God will be giving them. And the penalty for failing is eternity in a slime-filled cave where multi-cocked demons will sodomize the damned endlessly, while Green Day’s music is played in the background forever.

5. Insane Clown Posse – This evil duo makes music almost entirely geared to the intellectual level of a mentally challenged 14 year old boy. Slathered in hideous clown makeup, they lead an enormous cult of revolting sub humans called “Juggalos,” and it’s clear those folks are all degenerate Devil Worshippers.

On their album “The Amazing Jeckel Brothers,” the demonic clowns put a backwards message that says:

“Fuck the Devil! Fuck that shit! We believe in life legit. If you diggin’ what we say, why you throw your life away?”

The answer to this contradictory message is simple. I.C.P. fans threw their lives (and immortal souls) away the moment they bought an “Insane Clown Posse” album. The monstrous rappers yell “Fuck the Devil!” but it’s the Devil that will be fucking their fans for eternity.

6. The J. Geils Band – the same band that brought the world “Centerfold,” a song about sexual deviancy and pornography, showed a willingness to communicate with their fans via back masked messages on their albums. The 1980 record “Love Stinks,” has a song called “No  Anchovies Please” where this nightmarish line is hidden:

“It doesn’t take a genius to tell the difference between chicken shit and chicken salad.”

No, no it doesn’t. Sadly, when the J. Geils Band and their fans are floating together in the Lake of Fire, the only thing that will be on Hell’s cafeteria menu will be chicken shit salad sandwiches. No fries either.

7. Oasis – A band held together by the shared hatred of two egotistical brothers, and their shared love of Beelzebub. Anyone with the misfortune of actually listening to an Oasis album is obviously already living life in a type of Hell, but the band intends for that infernal concert to continue forever. The back masked message that spell out their real intent:

“All my people right here right now… Do you know what I mean? Yeah, yeah.”

The “Here” being spoken of is an eternity of torment in The Devil’s Kingdom, with Oasis providing the soundtrack.

These are but a tiny percentage of overtly Satanic rock bands that have tried to rope in their mindless fans for a never ending concert of horror in the Abyss. Their methods are many, but carefully placing these backwards messages into the grooves of their rock and roll albums, is one way to capture the weak for Satan and his Demons.

The only way to avoid such a fate is to burn those rock and roll records and denounce a Satanic lifestyle. No sex before marriage either! You have been warned.

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Need a Movie to Ruin a First Date? “Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS”.

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I’d known about this infamous grindhouse flick for years before I final tracked down an uncut copy to watch.

Ilsa is the Nazi commander of a prisoner of war camp during WWII, and is helping to conduct brutal experiments on her female captives to prove that women are more impervious to pain than men, and would thus make better soldiers. She’s decked out like a Nazi dominatrix through most of the movie, and also has an insatiable sexual appetite. Every night, she forces male prisoners to sexually service her, but when they cum sooner than she wants them to (and they all do) Ilsa has them castrated. In fact, the film opens with one of those castrations.

She meets her match when new prisoner “Wolfe” arrives. An American of Germanic heritage, Wolfe doesn’t climax during sex, thus sparing himself from her cock-chopping wrath.

Eventually the prisoners rise up and the camp is attacked, killing nearly everyone along the way. Cheery film, this one.

“Ilsa” belongs to an inherently offensive sub-genre of Nazi torture sexploitation movies that wound their way from some sleazy hellhole to the screen in the 1970’s. “Ilsa” is not the first of that horrific type of film (that honor(?) would belong to 1969’s “Love Camp 7”, but it movie is probably the most notorious.

Much of “Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS” is devoted to very graphic sexual violence and mutilation. Typical is a scene where female prisoners have an electric dildo forced into them. We don’t see the actual penetration, but we see everything but that penetration, and it’s not fun to watch. There are a lot of scenes like that in this movie.

The plot itself is sparse, and more time is spent showing the graphic torture of naked female captives than things story development. Strangely, I can watch a film like “Bloodsucking Freaks”, which portrays a lot of the same sorts of sexual sadism as the Ilsa film, but is handled with a campy sense of humor. Black as it is, that sense of humor makes watching “Bloodsucking Freaks” much more palatable than “Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS”.

The 1970’s were a really weird time period, and lots of taboos were challenged. Since the end of WII, Nazis have rarely been presented to American audiences realistically. Instead we grew up watching comedic versions in television shows like “Hogan’s Heroes” and comic book villain style movie Nazis.

I deliberately seek out movies that many other people would be horrified or offended by, and usually they don’t bother me. The Nazis in “Ilsa, She a Wolf of The SS” are in no way realistic characters, but the extreme sex and violence in this film portrays the kind of horrors real Nazis inflicted on prisoners. It’s unsettling and unpleasant to see that kind of realistic horror carried out in a cartoony exploitation film. Imagine if Colonel Klink was doing sexual torture experiments on his prisoners in “Hogan’s Heroes”. That’s the kind of uncomfortable tone of this movie.

There really are no conventionally redeeming qualities in “Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS” other than relatively high production values. Even people looking for especially transgressive and shocking movies to watch will probably be disappointed in this one. It’s certainly shocking, but it’s just no fun. It’s not sexy, it’s not funny, and it’s not good. It’s just sort of depressing.

If I gave out ratings, I’d give his one 4 castrated dicks out of 10.

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9 Lessons You’ll Learn Playing in a Rock and Roll Band

Most people have entertained the fantasy of becoming a wealthy rock star, and a lot of them buy an instrument to fiddle around with. Most folks eventually just throw that instrument into a closet after they move to another hobby, while a few become proficient players but never leave their bedrooms. This leaves a small number that actually form bands and take a stab at playing live to real audiences.

So what are some of the lessons that these aspiring rock stars are likely to learn or encounter on their way up (or down) the ladder of live music success? It’s not all mountains of cocaine and groupie gang bangs on the tour bus water bed, is it?

Let’s explore this further.

1. Almost No One Will Care About Your Band For Quite A While.

That’s the hard truth. You might be great, your band mates equally adept at playing, but unless you’ve already been around your local scene for a few years and attracted some fans that might care about what your new band is doing, you will have to work your way up to that point. And it’s hard. Lots of playing shows at shitty venues, to a handful of personal friends and significant others that will come out to see “Death Hippie” play at noon on a Wednesday (if you’re lucky).

I’ve known people that were so desperate to play that they’d gig just about anywhere, over-saturating themselves at shows almost no one would care to go to. Gothic band playing a taqueria? Great idea! How could that fail to shuttle a band to instant fame and success? At least the tacos are there to soak up your tears after playing to a homeless guy, your girlfriend, and a stray dog that walked in.

It takes a lot of work and luck to build a fan base, even a small local one. If after a year or two of steady gigging that success hasn’t happened, it’s time to reevaluate the “plan,” or the viability of “Death Hippie” itself.

2. Many Venues and Club Owners Are Assholes To New Bands.

It would seem like club owners and the bands that play at their venues would have a close working relationship, maybe even a level of friendly cooperation since they both, in theory, want the same thing – to pack the club with a huge crowd of people. Makes sense right?

Well sadly, it turns out that’s not always the case. Maybe not even usually the case, because bands and club owners want the same thing for different reasons.

Club owners want a crowd, that is true, but they want a crowd of people willing to pay a cover and drink the shit out of some overpriced bar drinks. They don’t care how they get to that outcome, and would gladly book a band of howling baboons instead of your band if they thought that would fill their club. In some places, they’ll grant a newer band the “privilege” of playing their dive bar, but only if the band manages to presell a certain amount of tickets. If they don’t, then they’ll have to pay for any unsold ones themselves – the dreaded “Pay to Play” scenario.

There are reasons that certain famous venues seemed to be at the center of musical revolutions. Besides being at the right time and right place, they usually had a club owner that was willing to allow young unproven bands a chance to play and develop a scene. If Hilly Kristal had stuck to his original plan to feature country and bluegrass music at his Bowery bar, people might never have experienced The Ramones, and CBGBs would likely be a long forgotten dive. Most of those club owners are in their business purely for the money, and will book whoever can make them the most cash with the least amount of effort on their part. They simply don’t care that Death Hippie could revolutionize the world of Jazzy Space Metal.

3. Not All Venues are Created Equal.

I’ve seen so many bands booked to clubs that were bad matches for them, and it’s a common mistake . It’s probably more normal to find in places with fewer music venues, but I’ve seen weird band to club matches in cities with great places to play. I already mentioned the Gothic band playing at a taqueria (which is a real scenario I witnessed), but I’ve also seen hard rock bands booked into restaurants that cater to sedate yuppies, and I’ve seen metal bands trying to work their magic at wine bars. If your style of music is likely to repel people and drive them from the type of venue you’re playing at, it might be time to look for a different place to play.

4. The Sound Man is Your Friend (Or Worst Enemy)

This should be obvious, but I’m always surprised at how it somehow isn’t. Assuming that you’re playing a venue that regularly features live bands and is equipped with some form of in-house sound reinforcement, you’re probably going to encounter a sound man or two. These range from completely unskilled imbeciles (a friendly/angry hobo that the bar owner has let in, for instance) to trained professionals (people that actually took classes to learn the trade).

These people can save or ruin your show. Be forewarned.

Being an asshole, ridiculing the dude’s hideous blonde Afro or beak-like nose, is not a good idea. Being dismissive or really demanding is also a dumb move. You don’t want to kiss these guy’s asses, but being somewhat friendly and positive when dealing with them is a good idea. Because if you’re not, they can fuck your sound up royally.

Being up on stage in front of a crowd is a uniquely vulnerable position to be in. It doesn’t make things any easier to discover that the blond Afro and beak-nosed sound man you pissed off earlier has enacted his vengeance during the climax of your rock opera about kittens. Suddenly realizing that you can’t actually hear the other players in your band, because your new enemy dropped all of it from your monitor is not a comfortable feeling.

It’s best to not argue with these guys, unless you’re paying them yourself. Also, developing a good relationship with them pays off if you plan on playing that venue again. Tipping or buying the guy a beer after the show are not bad ideas either.

5. Being in a Band is Like Being in a Relationship (and it can be a dysfunctional and abusive one where the police are called and the neighbors hate you).

I think most people start out forming bands with friends. It’s likely that people in the same circle of friends will share similar taste in music, and also less likely that they’ll tell you how much your playing sucks.

The problem is that being in any band is tough, and involves a lot of hard work under the best of circumstances. Just showing up to practices consistently and on time can be too much for some folks, and there’s a lot of loading in and setting up of heavy equipment. If you have a lazy slacker “friend” in your band, resentment will build quickly.

After a certain point, it is likely that an ambitious musician may find himself joining a band consisting of people he doesn’t know, or doesn’t know well. Yeah, probably everyone gets along alright, but they’re not close friends. It’s more like business partners in a very strange and difficult business.

A person in this situation will get to see the best and worst of the people he’s collaborating with. If the band plays shows out of town, it’s likely that the members will be cooped up in a van together, smelling the bass player’s curiously fruity farts, and hearing the singer talk about how he once auditioned for “Whitesnake” back in the day “when they were trying to dump Coverdale” for the two hundredth time. You’d better be up for seeing the ugly and selfish side of your stinky bandmates, or this will slowly drive you crazy. If anyone in the band has a drug problem or is a drunk, you’ll experience the fallout from that sooner or later; if they’re thirty five years old and like sex with teenaged groupies, you’ll deal with that too.

6. Bandmates Can Have Different Agendas.

When I was in my first really serious band, I DID feel like we were a family. I felt an intense loyalty to them, and passed up some pretty good opportunities for myself as a result. If I’d treated being in that band less like being a member of a family or gang, and was more mercenary, I might still be touring in some outfit. Who knows, I kind of sucked back then, but it might have happened.

The thing is, not every person in a band is always on the same page, or feels the same amount of loyalty to the band. Some treat it as a side project to what they’d really like to be doing, others want to secretly (or not so secretly) find a slightly more popular band to jump to. The point is, a lot of people base their band affiliation on what’s in their own best interest. This is understandable, but it takes a concentrated effort by everyone to make anything happen, and having a bass player that wants to leave “Death Hippie” the minute “Ass Assassinator” asks him to join can be disruptive and demoralizing.

7. It’s Like You’re Also in a Relationship With The Other Members’ Significant Others.

Make no mistake about this. When you join a band, not only are you entering a weird relationship with the other members, your entering a relationship with their significant others.

It’s likely one or more members of any band will already be in some kind of romantic relationship, and will have a girlfriend or boyfriend, or husband or wife lurking in the background. Even if they don’t, being in a band automatically triples anyone’s ability to attract a mate, and you will soon have at least one or two bandmates with a romantic partner. Totally normal right? That’s certainly not a big deal is it?

Yes, yes it is.

Even if that significant other is a more or less cool person, they will likely tire of their boyfriend or girlfriend always being at a band function without them, and they will start to come to every one of those functions. I’ve been in bands that had a “no girlfriends at practice” rule, and they still showed up.

The problem is that many of the basic things it takes to be a member of a popular band are not things that are good for a romantic relationship. There are reasons that this is a cliche. A bandmate with a significant other will have added pressure placed on him to choose the best interests of that person over what is good for the band. You finally got a dream show opening for a huge band? Oh wait. It’s Charlie the cowbell player’s girlfriend’s birthday that night. He won’t be able to make it

Or the member in a relationship will have a built in “number one fan” that will usually eagerly point out how he’s the most talented member in “Death Hippie” and the rest of the band needs him more than he needs them.

Or maybe the significant other will just hate someone in the band for some reason, or have some strange problem with the direction the band is going in.

It’s not going to make things easy if the singer’s new girlfriend is a fundamentalist Christian and thinks the other members of “Death Hippie” worship Lucifer.

8. Image Is Important, Whether You Admit it or Not.

Ah, yes. A lot of bands get criticized for being image based. Usually that goes hand in hand with “They have no talent” and “Anyone could dress up in those monkey suits and dance around.”

To a lot of people “image” equals “not talented.” This of course is a really stupid thing to believe. I suppose David Bowie never made any music worth listening to, but “Poison” sure did.

My point? Image shapes people’s perception of a band, and gets their attention. But a LOT of musicians think that they can make it big without giving their image any thought at all. I can’t count how many local bands I’ve seen where it looks like every member walked in from a different band. Your band better be AMAZING, and I mean, transcendent in their ability to entertain in an engaging way, if you have a bass player that’s 40 years old and dresses like an accountant, a drummer that looks like he wants to be in W.A.S.P, a singer who thinks a Hawaiian shirt and flip flops are cool, and a guitar player that looks like he’s in Duran Duran.

Actually, that sounds kind of awesome, like a kitschy 80’s tribute band, but my point is that too many bands don’t give any thought at all to how they will look on stage, or they have an actual stance against having an image of any kind.

All this means is that they didn’t choose an image, but the audience will choose it for them. Unless they are the most amazingly brilliant band to ever come through town, the image that most audiences will assign such an outfit is “Suck” or “They looked stupid.” Well played, anti-image band guys!

No one is saying that a band has to dress up like Prince, but not wearing your clothes from the day job at Pizza Hut is a good rule of thumb.

9. Most Bands aren’t Democracies.

I think there’s some lingering “ideal” that most people have, and even some musicians have, that bands are run like democracies. The idea is that everyone contributes equally in the decision making processes, and every member has a hand in contributing to the songs.

The fact is, I’ve never seen a band that operated like that. I’ve been in a few that were closer to that ideal than others, but generally speaking, someone has to steer the ship, and usually one or two members make the lion’s share of the band decisions, or at least have the deciding vote. They’re usually the ones writing most of the songs too. That doesn’t mean that the other members don’t contribute anything creative to the mix. Usually they do. But hard feelings and jealousy will often arise when someone thinks they deserve to contribute more, and I understand that feeling. Musicians tend to have egos, and we all like to think that we have some classic songs locked up inside, and if Andy the goddamned singer would just let me write one fucking reggae song for “Death Hippie” then the world would see my genius.

Andy’s a dick though, and he owns the van.

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Galaxy of Terror – A Galaxy of Violence and Worm Rape

Galaxy of Terror – 1981

Galaxy of Terror seems to be one of the more famous Roger Corman produced films from the early 80s. It was one of those movies that my friends with cable always raved about, and I remember liking it when I finally saw it one late night at one of their houses.

The story begins on a stormy dark planet called Morganthus. The last survivor from a crashed spaceship is violently killed by some unseen beastie. Somewhere on a distant planet, two people are playing some sort of game. One is a kind of cosmic seer, and the other is identified as the “Planet Master”, an all powerful being with a red glowing light obscuring his features. They talk vaguely about events being put into motion, and then Mr. Glowing Light Orb For a Head commands his military to send a ship to Morganthus immediately.

So off speeds the “Quest” piloted by Captain Trantor (Grace Zabriskie, – Many viewers will recognize her from lots of other films) who is apparently somewhat mentally disturbed and reckless due to a traumatic space disaster she’d survived in the distant past. The rest of the crew is a colorful bunch, and includes such improbable members as an “Empath” (Played by Erin Moran from “Happy Days”) and a “Crystal Master”… Whatever that is… Played by Sid Haig. Other familiar faces are the ship’s cook, played by “My Favorite Martian” star Ray Walston, and the crew’s “Ranger” played by Robert Englund.

Once the ship nears Morganthus, it goes out of control and crash lands. The crew slowly makes it’s way across the surface of the planet to the other ship, where they discover a terrible massacre happened there. They also discover that something on the planet caused the crash, and upon further investigation, they find a huge pyramid structure, and decide to explore it.

It is at this point that the real purpose of this movie unfolds – Specifically, the crew members are murdered one by one by horrible monsters within the pyramid. These are all set pieces, and what the film is generally remembered for – There is a nasty scene where the generic blonde crew member is stripped naked and raped by a really slimy giant worm… That’s the scene that seems to stick in people’s minds the most, followed in notoriety by the scene where the Empath woman is torn to pieces by tentacles…. Joanie from “Happy Days” meeting that horrible end sticks with you.

Almost everyone is dispatched in gruesome ways within the pyramid, until only the main protagonist “Cabren” is left. At that point, he encounters “The Cook”, who reveals that he’s really the “Planet Master”, and that the pyramid was essentially a game created by a long extinct race to allow them to face their most horrible fears, and to gain mastery over them. Cabren kills the Master, and replaces him… Becoming the new “Planet Master” himself. The end.

So, “Galaxy of Terror” has a few things going on. It’s deeply corny in a lot of ways – there is a lot of use of very dated looking laser affects, and the characters are also silly… The Empath and “Master of Crystals” in particular. I dig Sid Haig in most things, but his character is pretty hard to like in this film. He basically throws around a couple of cheesy looking crystal throwing stars, and looks angry, up until he’s killed by those same throwing stars. Ray Walston as the Cook is also hard to take seriously – there was no way I could shake the feeling that I was looking at “My Favorite Martian” anytime he appeared on screen. That goes double for Erin Moran… I kept thinking of “Happy Days” anytime she showed up. Robert Englund was problematic for the same reason, but I’ll give him a ass, since “A Nightmare on Elm Street” was still a couple of years in his future.

The movie is also completely derivative of both “Alien” and “Forbidden Planet”, borrowing plot devices and production design from both. About the only original ideas in the film are it’s worst ones – The cornball “Planet Master” being the main one.

A lot of low budget movies came out during this time period that ripped off Alien. It was one of those landmark films that changed the way people thought a movie in space could look. And honestly, I’ve seen the atmosphere from Alien ripped off and done worse in lots of other bad movies. Sure, it’s not done REALLY well – The distant shot of the Pyramid looks like a painting on canvass, and some of the sets look as cheap as they undoubtably were. Others manage to look convincing and atmospheric enough… So no originality at all on that front, but it’s effective enough for an exploitation film like “Galaxy of Terror”.

As to the plot… Well, the plot is really just there to get the silly characters into that Pyramid so they can be raped and slaughtered. The killings are really the reason this film is remembered – I can’t imagine that anyone would still remember this film if those hadn’t been in the film. I’ve met people that still remember Galaxy of Terror because of the infamous, and still horrible to watch worm rape scene… Lots of slime in that one. And there are several other graphic scenes in the film, so it’s not surprising that the film has garnered a cult following over the years. The special effects range from very dated and laughable, to moderately well done. I’ve definitely seen a lot worse in Corman movies over the years.

It’s all distasteful and pretty goofy, and a person that over thinks things will be wondering why they combined so many stupid plot elements with the things that they to right about the film…. Did they really need that silly “Planet Master” character at all? Was Ray Walston a wise choice to use? Was Mr. Walston forced into this film because he owed someone money? Did they think that a guy throwing crystal throwing stars was really a good idea? So many questions.

But if you go in with low enough expectations, Galaxy of Terror is not the absolute worst way you can spend an hour and a half.

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Screwballs 2: Loose Screws – Puerile Sexcapades 80’s Style

“Screwballs 2: Loose Screws” (1985)

Netflix streaming service has really filled the niche that 80s cable movie channels used to. Specifically, it’s made films available that I never would have gone to see at the movies, and always passed up on the video rental shelves because they looked too crappy to pay the rental fee. There were movies that I’d continuously see on those shelves… Lots of dumb looking horror or teen sex films, that just didn’t look quite interesting enough to take a chance on.

Now, I’m making up for those lost “opportunities”, because Netflix and YouTube seem to have an enormous collection of those rarities for me to indulge in. Unlike the rental roulette I used to play, if a flick turns out to be ridiculously dumb or not entertaining, then I can watch something else that I know will be good without having to drive back to the video store. It’s pretty awesome.

I remember having friends with cable back in the early 80s, that would regale me with tales of what I was missing in some of the films that haunted those channels late at night. Me? Unfortunately I missed the 80s cable revolution. My parents just didn’t want cable, so the only time I ever watched any of it was when I was staying with friends. But I’m a lifelong fan of weird/bad cinema, so I’ve eagerly embraced the chance to watch some of those crap recently.

Which brings me to “Screwballs 2 : Loose Screws”, the sequel to well, “Loose Screws” obviously… A puerile teen sex comedy I also recently saw on Netflix. When I say “teen sex comedy” let’s face it – These films were almost all created for, and marketed to teenage males (Or perhaps really immature adult males), so maybe “Male targeted teen sex comedy” is more appropriate.

Having been an immature male teen at one point in my life, I feel qualified to review this flaccid turd of a film – I suppose you can count “flaccid turd” as a review if you want the shorthand, but here is the more complete breakdown:

Like the first film, four male friends attend the wackily named “Beaver High”. They’re supreme fuckups and the improbably group covers several stereotyped character types popular thirty years ago – You have the fat guy, the nerd, the jock, and a ladies man/80s preppy guy.

They have ridiculous names… “Hugh G. Rection” being typical. Basically, everyone in tho film has a hammy dick joke or double entendre name. It’s like reading an old Mad magazine spoof for hairy palmed adolescents. Anyway, I couldn’t keep up with who was named who – Seemed like investing too much thought into these characters.

I’m not even sure if they are supposed to be the same guys from “Loose Screws”. The guy playing the nerd is the same actor, but the others are different. Doesn’t matter in any case. If they’re not the same guys, they’re the same basic characters from the first film.

The group of friends has spent four years as seniors due to the madcap antics and sexual harassment that seems to occupy all of their time. The Principle of Beaver High (Mr. Asshoale or something to that effect) calls them to the office, and tells the merry troupe that he’s sending them to “Coxswell Academy”, a special school for screw ups like them, since they’ve spent four years in the 12th grade… Which explains why they all look like they’re in their mid 20s. This may be the only realistic plot device in the movie – I don’t recall ever seeing another that explained why the “kids” in the movie look 27 and not 15.

In any case, the rest of the film takes place at Coxswell Academy, and is essentially a remake of the first film. This time the group spends the movie spinning elaborate schemes to fuck as many of the girls at Coxswell as possible – They even create a point system for their conquests. Whether that system ever really affects the plot, I don’t know, the sexually retarded hijinks just seem to “happen” without any real purpose or plot purpose – Par for the course for a film like this. The main target for their lust is the French teacher, “Mona Lott” (of course), who is not so secretly sleeping with an Eugene Levy lookalike, Principle of Coxswell “Mr. Arsenault”.

The first day they are at Coxswell, the team of male pals stage a fake breast exam for the female students. I’m not sure where it would be considered legit for a high school breast exam to take place where the “doctors” are all guys too young to be through medical school, commanding the young women to strip down to their underwear, so they can feel them up, but apparently that kind of thing flies at Coxswell Academy.

The next scheme has one of the guys dressing in bad drag so he can infiltrate the all girls dormitory, something he improbably pulls off, even managing to take a bath with one of the girls.

And so it goes. The problem with a movie like this, is it manages to somehow achieve the unthinkable, and makes nudity boring. The tedious and unbelievably stupid plot devices are only there to set up another impossible set piece so that the viewer can see some boobs and butts (Though not much full frontal nudity for some reason), and those plot pieces drag the film to a tedious halt most of the time.

There’s a quick attempt to tie up the loose ends of the plot near the end, and it involves an airborne aphrodisiac or some crap like that, and of course we all finally get to see Ms. Mona Lott topless, but there’s not really a story here. Perhaps in a movie like Screwballs story is not the primary concern. I get that.

Random thoughts:

1. Lots of hideous 80s fashion on display. That might be the real appeal of this film.

2. The “boys” in this film must be in their early to mid 20s according to the “spent four years in 12 grade” plot device. Since the females in the film are supposed to be teenagers, that kind of makes a lot of the wacky hi jinks kind of rapey – So a group of 23 year old men have a points system game where they win by having sex with as many teenaged high school girls as possible? I’m pretty sure that kind of activity gets you put on a sexual predator list these days.

3. Having every character in a movie named after a dick joke or sexual function isn’t funny unless you’re a 13 year old boy.

4. Nudity CAN be boring. I have stared into the abyss, and this is the horrific revelation that stared back!

5. Canada was responsible for this film. Like a lot of early slasher films, there are telltale signs that this film was shot north of the US border. Actors saying “Aboot” abound, and the license plates and street signs are not American. At one point, the gang goes to a Town “Centre”… So yeah. I’m actually glad this wasn’t made in the US.

6. Unlike most 80’s stock “Nerd” characters, the nerd in this film comes across more like a creepy molester type than the normal stereotype. All of the male leads do, but he comes across the worst.

So my final judgment? If you want to see a lot of 80s looking women in their underwear, and occasionally naked, and don’t mind wading through at least an hour and twenty minutes of barely watchable “story”, then this might be a good movie to watch. I think I’d probably have enjoyed it if I were drunk and sitting around with friends making fun of it. So it’s not totally without merit I guess. But if you want some 80s vintage titillation that’s not nearly as stupid, then watch “My Tutor” instead. It’s also on Netflix right now.

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