Perhaps it’s my love of the underground bands, the scene or just the general experience of being in a dive bar with loud music to bang my head to while I drink my beers, but I fucking love local shows. It just popped in my head that I should post why and I am surprised at how quickly I was able to put all the words down. It’s so easy to talk about things you like.
Disclaimer: This post is not a dig on any of our friends in major acts who have worked very hard to get to where they are and still work hard every day to maintain. We all know there is no money in metal and that goes all the way to the top and we should continue to support them with buying albums and swag when they come through on tour. This post is simply meant to be my opinion of why I like local shows a little better.
1. Local Venues Have Cheaper Beer
This is true in most cases. In NYC we have The Trash Bar who provide an open bar for the first hour of nearly every show (check your listings to make sure). Nothing beats free! Yeah, it’s no-name whiskey and PBRs, but who the fuck cares, drink it and shut up!
Most other local venues have beers for anywhere from $4-$6 which, while expensive in comparison with the rest of the country, is considerably cheaper than paying $8 for a can of Budweiser at a major venue ($10 or more if you want a 16oz).
So bottoms up, cheers, skål, kippis or whatever the fuck you feel like saying when you clink your drinks together. Enjoy the discount for supporting local metal!
2. Your Support Goes Directly To The Band
This one can be a little hairy, but for the most part when you go to the band’s merch booth, whatever is on sale there is probably going to go right into the gas tank of the uHaul van they rode in on and not to anyone else. That is, if they even have a booth! Most of the time bands have a backpack with some tee shirts and some free EPs. If there’s money left over it goes into Waffle House. That’s right, I said it. Waffle House for motherfucking breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s cheap as hell and keeps bands on the move! Feed your local metalheads!
My last tour we were lucky enough to have an actual table and we put a jar on there for gas money. You would be surprised how much money went into that jar. The feeling you get when people support you like that cannot be understated and I hope that when you see one out there that you’ll throw in a buck or two for any hard working bands.
3. Your Support Is More Impactful
I know I just got done talking about support going directly to the bands, but what I didn’t mention (because it deserves to be stated with significance) is that your support is more impactful for local bands. I don’t just mean monetary support. I mean ANY support. Your attendance at a local venue has so much value I can’t even put it into words. Buying a shirt means the band gets to eat. Buying a beer for a band member means he gets to drink. Giving a band member a handie in the parking lot… well, hey. You get the idea. Support! Support! Support!
4. You Can Drink With The Band
I’m actually surprised how few bands of even a medium size won’t come out of the backstage area after they perform. I can’t imagine not wanting to go meet the people I was just banging my head with! Major acts I get it because you don’t want to get mauled, but (not very often) I have seen headliners hanging out at merch booths taking pictures, signing tits and talking with fans. It’s a part of the event and it makes it more special.
At the local level the backstage is the public pisser and no one is banging groupies in there so the hang is always at the bar. Usually bands won’t drink that much unless it’s a home-town show for them because, let’s face it, they blew all their drinking money on the first night of the tour and now they’re broke as fuck hoping someone liked the music enough to buy them a shot of Jager.
But in all seriousness, it’s that interaction with fans and soon-to-be friends that makes the whole thing special for you and the band you’re there to see. You don’t really get that opportunity very often at bigger events- and remember that the local bands you meet today could be those bigger bands of tomorrow. “I remember having a drink with XX at CBGBs before anyone knew who they were!”
5. The Overall Experience Is More “Home-Grown”
You know the bartender and how she got that scar on her left ass cheek. You know the sound guy by name because you smoke weed with him out back at every show. You know the door guy because he’s also the owner, the bar-back, the promoter and the bouncer who carried you out after that one night when you had too much to drink because your chick dumped you.
This is your home town venue and you don’t know the price of a shot and a beer because you haven’t paid full price for it in years. The band playing is basically a guest in your house. The people standing next to you are your family. You help the bands carry out their gear because you know those stairs are a bitch at the end of the night.
THIS is the metal scene I know about in so many places, and no major ticket show can beat that home-town, home-grown feeling. Bands love it, fans love it and you’re supporting small business with every visit. It’s an altogether awesome experience.
6. An Organic Show
The guitarist turns around and asks the drummer, “Do you feel like playing XX song?” The drummer shakes his head in the negative, “Nah, remember that cover of the theme song from the Titanic movie we were working on? Let’s do that and see if anyone recognizes it.” The spontaneity, the real performance, the real interactions with individuals, the broken strings, the beers on the edge of the stage, the singer asking the sound guy to turn the bass player down in the monitor (if there is a monitor), the unplanned drinking break, the heckling between the band and everyone watching, the guy who yells “free bird!” (it’s usually me), the singer telling you to tip your bartender, and so on… There’s a lot of personality to the local show that you don’t have at a major event. (majors have their own charm, of course)
Imagine trying to jump around in the pit with your bass at a local show. The 5 or 6 people who were in it before respect the boundaries, push you around just enough to try to get you to fuck up your part. Imagine the singer getting a 45 second break for a musical interlude- that’s enough time to order, pay and drink a shot of Jager before he’s supposed to come back in. Hell, my singer took a shit one time during a two-minute music-only break. I don’t want to know if he washed his hands.
That’s the organic, real experience of a local show. You, and often times the band, have no idea what’s going to happen. That idea alone makes me want to hang at the local spot right now.
7. More Options
You know your favorite band is coming in two months and you can’t wait. Maybe you weren’t the first person to get your tickets in your email, but you were definitely one of the early people to secure your access. Now what? There are 60 days and probably 61 metal shows in-between now and then, each with 3-5 bands. Time to get out and explore the hundreds of acts that play cheap and close to home!
In the NYC metal scene right now there are at least 15 bands that I vocally support and there are countless others that I haven’t even discovered yet. You can easily find some bands to like in the underground, and they would love to meet you. The options are endless for the local scene. Some bands suck and some bands are good but don’t have good songs. But in there are some really talented people and sometimes you stumble onto a band that you really like.
8. Cheap Entry Fees
Here’s an easy one I could have mentioned earlier- you can see 5 bands for $10 (sometimes $7 like when Ace of Clubs was still around). This is a killer deal when you think about it. $2 per band? I’m in! When you think about these major tours that you’re paying $35-$50 a ticket (or more) to see, all I can think about is how people can only afford to go to one or two shows a year at that price point and the $10 beers. It’s going to easily be a $300 night and I remember very clearly my $200 a week paychecks a few years back. People don’t have that kind of money. You can fly somewhere round trip for less money.
For the price of a beer at a major venue you have your entry fee at a local show. If you drink 6 or 7 beers it’s not going to make you miss a car payment. It’s a whole night of entertainment for very little investment.
9. All Your Friends Are Doing It
Playing the show, not just attending. Go support your fucking friends! I think this one is probably more important for bands than just general fans, but you have to remember that friends support friends and vice versa. This is what creates a scene and how everyone winds up supporting one another. I love going to shows and supporting my friends and knowing that last week when I played the singer of the first band, the bassist and drummer from the second band and the guitarist from the third band were all in attendance banging their heads and having a good time. This is the way the metal world goes round. Your friends are out there working and you should support them!
Now, if you’re not in a band, I would recommend doing a little research. You have one or two local bands you’re into, right? Find out who they are fans of… who they are supporting. You’ll find yourself wrapped up and becoming friends with a whole scene faster than you might think!
10. It Feels Important
This one needs to come with a big disclaimer because there are times at major events where I think to myself, “wow, this is fucking powerful” and even Metal Mark can be found with tears in his eyes at the bar sipping on a glass of Jagermeister that was SUPPOSED to be a shot. Major acts have a feeling of importance… ‘also’.
Local shows feel important to me because I know what each band goes through just trying to get a gig, then to advertise that gig, then to call every one of your friends the day of the gig to remind them about it, then trying to figure out how to get your underage friends in… Then, after all the work that goes into a show before it happens, to haul all of your gear there, set it up in 7 minutes and jump around like a monkey (maybe that’s just me?) and knowing that you might not even get money back for the gas you’ve used to get there… it’s just this powerful thing to know that it is done day in and day out by local bands all over the world, simply for the love of performing music to anyone who will listen. There’s so much power in that and, “important” seems like the right way to express the feeling.
A lot of people don’t like local shows, and I know that. I recognize that it’s not for everyone. For me, going to a local show is like visiting family. I can show up in a city in a far-away land and I will immediately be surrounded by my extended family. We bang our heads the same way, we jump in the pit the same way, we drink beers the same way and we all love metal.
If you don’t normally go to local shows, perhaps the next time you find yourself at one you’ll see it in a different light or with a different respect. Family! Support! Metal!!!
Tags: The Trash Bar