Pop Rocks: Don't play until you're ready

There’s a fine line I tread when talking about local talent. On one hand, I feel like the artists that live among us and strive for excellence deserve support, recognition and whatever small measure of publicity I might be able to provide. Sometimes these columns are a response to something I have seen or heard and other times inspired by a press release or e-mail. But it takes more than friendly correspondence to earn a Pop Rocks spot, and that’s where that fine line comes into play.


You see, as much as I want to love everything Augusta has to offer, as much as I would like to be able to recommend everything that comes across my virtual desk, there are times when an act appears that I cannot, in good conscience, recommend. That happened this week.

As I am using this band as an example, I’m not going to reveal its identity. I’m sure, if the members read on, they will identify themselves. I hope, if that’s the case, that the advice that follows is taken in the same spirit it is offered.

The story is this. Earlier this week, a band e-mailed the newspaper, requesting support. The band – which incidentally is saddled with a truly terrible name – is evidently in the running for a spot on one of the multi-band cruise packages that have become possible in recent years. And by ‘in the running’ I mean it is one of 58 acts campaigning for votes. Mathematically, the chances of taking the top spot are slim. Musically, they are slimmer still.

While I admire this act’s willingness to put itself out there, I’m afraid it has broken music’s first rule. You see, the band, and the song, and really the full package, is being made public too soon. ​Songwriter Jason Isbell recently compared very young acts rolled out too early to cakes baked for four and a half minutes. It’s a great comparison.

And so, to the band in question – and all bands putting together that first set – let me offer a few pointed pieces of advice:

1. Never wear a funny hat. Funny hats are actually not very funny. It didn’t work for the Spin Doctors. It didn’t work for Four Non-Blondes. It sort of worked for Guns N Roses, but that’s the exception.

2. Don’t try to develop a reputation as a band that “parties hard.” It’s seems desperate – and inauthentic. The Rolling Stones set the standard for that 45 years ago and nobody since has managed to come close – and live to tell about it.

3. If you are going to record, record well. A few years ago, there was a lot of hype around the lo-fi scene. Here’s a secret – it took a lot of work for those bands to sound like they had dashed something off in their basement and, ironically enough, bands that actually do never sound as good.

4. Have one guy that’s a real player. A band can get by with two players that are merely proficient and the bass player can be only sufficient. But there has to be one diamond. One guy who, when the wheels start to fall off, can take the lead and, if the stars align, save the day.

5. Don’t play until you are ready. Until you are very sure you are ready. Until you are beyond certain you can step on a stage and in no way embarrass yourself, your family and/or your friends. I understand the eagerness to play. This is a mistake I have made myself. It happens and avoiding it sometimes takes a significant measure of self-control. But believe me, it’s worth it. Acts that debut with a product that is professional and polished garner a following. Bands that don’t become the anonymous subject of a column. Don’t let that happen.