You guys are really good at what you do! An etiquette guide for local bands in awkward situations

If you've ever played in a band, you can spot an awkward encounter from a mile away.

Is the lead singer of the awful opening act making a beeline toward you to get your opinion of his set? Simply feign like you're receiving a text message.

Does the sound guy want your band to take the stage 30 minutes before anyone shows up? Time for a cigarette break!

To aid in the navigation of such sticky scenarios, we asked more than a dozen local bands questions pertaining to band etiquette. The responses we received proved to be both insightful and hilarious. Thanks to all who contributed, and if anyone hassles us for doing this story, rest assured we'll be making a beer run ...

What's the appropriate thing to say to a band that just totally sucked it up onstage and wants to know what you thought of their set?

• "Wow, you guys put out a lot of sound!" (Cameron Hawk, The Dead Girls)


The Noise FM are (from left) Austin Ward, Alex Ward and Oliver Mosier.

• "You guys are really good at what you do." (Alex Ward, The Noise FM)

• "Man, the sound was great out front." (Austin Ward, The Noise FM)

• "That was fun!" (Eric Mardis, Split Lip Rayfield)

• "If you don't have anything nice to say, say, 'Rockin' set guys!'" (Hank Osterhout, Deadman Flats)

• "When in doubt, always say 'good set.' That in no way suggests that you personally loved their set, or that you have any interest in sharing the stage with them again. Also, avoid physical contact as much as possible. A handshake shows them you respect them as musicians, whereas a hug seems to say, 'I'll be here for you throughout this horrible, horrible journey.'" (Katlyn Conroy, Another Holiday)

• "I can see some promise in you all. You just need to tighten up a few areas and you could really bring it out." (Sean Hunt, aka Approach)


Adrianne "Dri" Verhoeven

• "Your drummer killed it!" (Adrianne Verhoeven, Dri / Extra Classic)

What's out of bounds when it comes to self-promotion?

• "The biggest taboo is promoting your show for another venue in the same town while onstage, and unfortunately, many bands don't know this. It really pisses bars off!" (Osterhout)

• "MySpace comments are so lame. LAME." (Mardis)

• "When people send out the same bulletin every day or in many cases multiple times a day, that is overkill. People need to realize the impact is gone if the person receiving is getting annoyed." (Terry Taylor, Hammerlord / Hunt Industries)


Submitted photo

Terry Taylor, of Hammerlord.

• "If there are two of the same poster within the same 10-square-foot area, it's OK to take one down." (Hawk)

• "I would consider leaving fliers on cars to be overly aggressive." (Konnor Ervin, The ACBs)

• "One promotion technique that we have recently embraced but are certainly embarrassed about is the mass text-messaging to cell phone friends. It's rough to get the reoccurring 'nice mass text, bud ...' as a reply." (Austin Ward)

What's the etiquette on sharing equipment? What's not acceptable?

• "I've had people I don't know just hop up and get on the turntables. One time this guy did it but he reassured me, 'It's cool dude, I DJ all the time.' I don't care if it was Jazzy Jeff - he better ask if he can use my decks first or he's getting tossed out the front door like in Fresh Prince times. That's just etiquette. Much respect to Jeff!" (Danny Spence, aka Spence)

• "Tell them you are not trying to be a jerk but, this gear is all you have and you are going to guard it with your life. I have lost some major equipment by being nice." (Approach)


Eric Melin, JoJo Longbottom, Nick Colby, and Cameron Hawk are The Dead Girls.

• "When The Dead Girls played a show with Evan Dando of The Lemonheads in Fort Collins (Colo.) a few years back, JoJo loaned his tuner to Dando, who walked out with it at the end of the night. It can get sketchy." (Hawk)

• "We were playing a show in Springfield, Mo., and the opening act asked to borrow our keyboard. ... Little did we know they were a hardcore screamo band with guitar spins and all. Song three concluded with a guitar spin that smashed into the top of our keyboard, busting off four keys. Nothing helps get over a smashed keyboard like knowing it came from an awful screamo band." (Austin Ward)

• "Just ... try not to do it. Showing up to a venue and giving the old, 'Ah man, I forgot my entire drum set, can I use yours?' is not cool. At all." (Conroy)


Katlyn Conroy and Joshua Landau

• "Asking to use my guitar amp is like asking to kiss my mom. ... The Waco Brothers blew up two of Scroat Belly's amps when we did CMJ in NYC ages ago, and we NEVER forgave them! Freakin' limeys." (Mardis)

Is tipping appropriate at venues that offer free drinks to bands? What kind of drink deal is sufficient?

• "Minimum respectable offer is one pitcher per band member. Preferred is unlimited High Life/PBR/wells." (Saladino)

• "Bands should ALWAYS get free drinks, NO MATTER WHAT. It is the band's job to encourage people to buy drinks, so keep the band happy, and they keep the drinkers happy." (Osterhout)

• "I always tip, including when our drinks are cheap or free. Not only is it nice, but it gets you a little goodwill with the bartender so that when you run out of your allotment of free drinks, they might just keep 'em coming." (Charles Calhoun, Cowboy Indian Bear)

• "If you're getting free drinks all night, you had BETTER be tipping the bar unless you are broke and/or out on tour and 'jamming econo,' as Mike Watt would say." (Hawk)

• "We're usually not getting paid much anyway, and they're giving us free Keystone ... no one deserves a tip for that." (Alex Ward)

Can you think of any other potentially awkward situations that require a certain degree of tact or etiquette?

• "I have kids come up to me with their band's CD and hand me a copy and tell me about their band and how much they love my band. Then as I walk away with the CD, they tell me it's $10. ... One of my band dudes had this same thing happen to him, only he was physically going to the bathroom and he got cornered while in mid-stream." (Taylor)


Submitted photo

Danny Spence.

• "Trading CDs is a nice thought - but what if the band that wants to trade sucks? Some bands actually make CDs to SELL them. ... Nine times out of 10 we make the trade, and I have a large pile at home of CDs still in shrink-wrap from bands that are utterly unremarkable." (Mardis)

• "When there are multiple bands of equal draw on the bill and the venue didn't provide a lineup. Now you have three bands that all want to headline!" (Osterhout)

• "Bands getting frustrated with crowd response. The crowd is going to be as into it as they are, and at least they care enough to stand there and watch you. Don't berate them." (Spence)

• "People try to barter with you on your merch prices. You never want to be rude, but at the same time I don't think people understand the work that goes into being in a band." (Calhoun)


Matt Saladino of The ACBs

• "My biggest pet peeve is when a drummer either leaves the stage entirely or starts tearing down his kit onstage." (Austin Ward)

• "Opening up for your band with your side project can be uncouth. Also, wearing the T-shirt of your band onstage to 'promote the shirts.'" (Matt Saladino, The ACBs)

• "ALWAYS know your set time. It's one of those things that people always try to change up on you later, and if you have specific info from someone about set times, it's easier to stand your ground if someone tries to bump you to another slot. If that doesn't work and you know someone is going to try to force you to play earlier to a nearly empty bar, just have one of the band members go somewhere and 'get lost' for a while. 'Yeah, our bass player said he was just running to the liquor store, but he's still not back. Isn't that the darndest thing?'" (Hawk)


md_pinks 13 years ago

First off, I know most of the people being questioned or I have a high amount of respect for what they do. So this is in no way a negative comment, just my thoughts on the first question asked in this article.

I'll try not to drag this out, but I've never understood why you would withdraw giving an opening act (or any band you just happen to catch randomly) your honest opinion, especially if you're a musician yourself. It seems the term etiquette is being used more as a way to lie nicely than to build on the social behavior between people (in this case, musicians).

I remember when I first saw The Dactlys, I told John Momberg I thought he was an awesome drummer (meant every word of it, still do). He asked me what I thought of the show and I said, "You know, its not my thing, but you definitely nailed your own sound as a band. It's definitely something that will have to grow on me."

Flash forward maybe a couple months, and John just happened to visit his girlfriend at the Gaslight when my band Left on Northwood was playing an extremely short notice show to no one (barely a year into our band at the time). I asked him the same question, and he told me (roughly quoted) "It sounds like you guys need to practice more. No offense, I hear what you're going for but it could be tighter. And you guys are fucking LOUD! But then you're just starting correct? You'll figure it out."

Then a couple weeks ago Stevie Cruz commented to me after our set at the Riot Room that (also roughly quoted, due to Jameson we both drank earlier) "You guys are fucking tight. Really liked the energy. It nots what I'm into but it definitely got my attention. Let me know when you have another show coming up".

Both John and Stevie used etiquette in a way that gave criticism without withholding their actual opinion.

They may both actually hate the music, but as musicians they gave me enough respect to be honest.

I guess I'm saying I hope that kind of etiquette is more common, because it definitely was not displayed here.

wamola 13 years ago

I think md-pinks hit the nail on the head. I certainly have benefited from honest advice from all manner of people in all manner of conditions. Praise is certainly nice, but most musicians can sniff out fake praise, which I personally consider to be more disheartening. On the flip side, when I have to suffer through a bad show I either try not to make eye contact, hide, or just tell them a little sound or musical trick. It usually works.
Still a great read. I'd like to read more weird crazy stuff that has happens to bands. My band, DMF, has plenty, but that is another story for another day.

stranglife 13 years ago

Screw the etiquette

Bow to The Dactyls!

md_pinks 13 years ago

Well stranglife, when you put it like that...

The Dactyls have definitely grown on me. I had to climb out of the underground metal pit for a few minutes to get there though. Also had to get beyond that horrible pop one too.

Anyone know if their bass player's ear is ok? They were supposed to support Cowboy Indian Bear a few weeks back at the Bottleneck but I was told his eardrum popped or something during the flight back to Lawrence.

ailecia 13 years ago

loved reading this one!

my question is: how much should local bands get paid when there's a touring band on the bill?

md_pinks 13 years ago

Good question.

My band is doing just that April 6th at the Bottleneck (shameless plug, I know). Around here its usually not a big deal...unless your band is the only one that draws. Then is get comlicated. I've never run into that issue, but I've definitely seen bands that have. It looks like a very uncomfortable situation.

spym00se 13 years ago

Great article. I let a guy borrow my bass at the Jackpot once. Turned out he plays the bass really hard, hard enough to make his fingers bleed. By the end of the set there was blood on the strings and splattered on the pick guard. They were a good band, so I didn't mind as much as I would have if they had been horrible.

hankscorpio74 13 years ago

i'm much more interested in the etiquette (ethics?) of local music writers regarding the tendency to produce snarky, slightly condescending, self-congratulatory write-ups whenever dealing with bands they're not friends with. unsolicited innuendoes/implications of drug and alcohol use, or generally negative characterizations (regardless of legality) are also a concern...

md_pinks 13 years ago

@Spym00se You sir are extremely forgiving. I probably would have lost it after watching the first drip of blood even if it was my best friend.

@hankscorpio Care to elaborate?

md_pinks 13 years ago

Actually hank, I'll take it.

I never claimed to be friends with John or Stevie. I know both of them through association since we're musicians. But whatever we consider each other is irrelevant.

The point I was making is that they answered the same question in a way that I wish all musicians did. These guys are in extremely talented bands and still chose to give me an honest answer. My personal experience, used to explain how I've been influenced in my response to the same question in the future.

So the only thing I've done here is give them praise. Nothing snark, condescending, or self congratulatory about it.

As for the innuendos or implications, I'm pretty sure we're both well over 21 and would not deny drinking Jameson ever. And there certainly isn't anything negative about having a good time.

If anything I have a tendency to have an opinion. At least I'm not afraid to hide mine in sarcasm.

onthekaw 13 years ago

I once lent my bass drum to Jason Jones of the New Franklin Panthers because he kicked through his in the middle of their set. It was risky, as we hadn't yet played OUR set, but it was worth it. I didn't know my drum could sound like that!

Sometimes etiquette rules can be bent for the truly awesome.

hankscorpio74 13 years ago

yo md have no idea how/why you thought my comment had anything to do with you you don't get paid by the world company or pitch weekly to write about local music chill out bro

turdfurgeson 13 years ago

ha. this is getting craaaaaaaazaaaaaaaaaay

md_pinks 13 years ago

@hank My bad sir. I have a tendency to have to defend myself on It gets rough on here.

@dactyls Why leave you out? You're good dudes and a great original band. Just sayin. I'd make it to your April show, but I'll probably be slaving away at both my jobs.

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