Thursday, January 6, 2011

Why I Wore Panties to the Rock Show

So, we played a show. It was not so great. I knew not everything was going to go right, so I figured it would be smart to deflect criticism by doing something outrageous. In the middle of the set I stripped down to nothing but Anna's panties. That helped me to have a sense of humor about a performance so disastrous I nearly started crying afterwards and only pep talks with Robert from La Snacks and Dave from The Gary allowed me to turn around and view the whole thing as a humbling step in the road. I will never view a band being terrible for the same reason at a show quite the same way again. (Although I am going right back to ripping them however I feel like doing. One experiment with "gentle talk" got enough negative feedback to let me know it was a stupid idea. Thank you for writing in, people!) The tradeoff is, if I am going to be honest about what I think, I have to be open about my own flaws. And the show tonight was a difficult emotional experience for me. Before we even started playing I began to freak out, and the entire show all I could think about was the fact that I would have to write the whole truth about how miserably The Bell Riots were failing.

So, here's what happened: We forgot about equipment. I feel stupid admitting I allowed this to happen and as the leader of the band it's totally my responsibility. We got used to having plenty of time to set up at practices and we forgot that at a show everybody needs to get everything set up and ready as quickly as possible. This isn't automatic... it requires practice and planning. We were running around like chickens with our heads cut off during a sound check that seemed to me as if it lasted 200 years. Scott had to set up Anna's amp and his own, Mike couldn't get his keyboards set up and didn't have a flashlight, I had no idea what had become of the setlists. I started to melt down and panic as the sound guy waited... and waited... for us to be ready to play. Scott salvaged the situation by staying calm, keeping a positive attitude, and cutting me off and talking into the mic before I started totally losing it. Then I had to struggle through a whole set knowing we were doomed before we even started. I am really proud of Anna, Mike, and Scott for having good attitudes. I am really proud of myself, sort of... I played a deeply sucky show and even though I knew it, I sat there with a huge smile on my face and rocked out as hard as I possibly could. Wearing nothing but very tiny panties. So there's that. Also, the songs themselves sounded great. We made mistakes, but not atrocious ones, and nothing that was near as bad as just the endless sound of silence.That was what so heartbreaking: If you just cut out the long, horrible quiet stretched between songs, it would have been a solid show, for our sixth ever and first downtown. But it was not to be. We have to spend half our next practice just working out equipment assignments and drilling on setting up and breaking down.

Has this happened to any bands before, in the history of bands? Yeah, it happens all the time. I know it. I knew it and I should have known it was coming. I thought I could manage work, practice, promoting, writing, baking, and quality time with my cat and still play a pretty good show. But I screwed something up. During the set itself, it was excruciating. I don't think I'll ever forget the experience of sitting there drenched in flop sweat listening to the sound guy say, "Yeah, some bass would be great" and realizing that two songs later I was going to have to take my pants off. We were doing a "bedtime" theme -- Anna wore a nightie, Scott longjohns, Mike pajamas... and I was supposed to strip down, as a bit. It would have worked awesome if I wasn't completely miserable. But hey, people still said they liked the songs, and a few guys (that no one in the band seemed to be able to identify) danced and yelled supportive stuff the whole time.

We're so lucky to have friends who came, supported us and said nice things even in the wake of a show that had me thinking at one point during the middle of it that I was all done, I was quitting music for good. That's how bad it was. Right after we finished Anna and I went to Emo's to see if A Giant Dog were playing yet and I had to hold her hand to keep from crying. I sat down and had a long talk about Austin music with Robert La Snacks and drank three beers, which is three more beers than I usually have at a show. I talked to some people and at least heard that our stage presence was good, the lyrics were audible (we were going for that with intentionally muffled drums), and that we sounded like the record.

At the end of the night Dave of The Gary and Anna and I had a chat about how every band has to suffer through nightmare shows sometimes. I don't know if Dave came back from his band's other show at Red 7 because he saw me really falling apart during our set or or just to be polite, but either way, I really appreciated his support. And that of everybody else who came. Thank goodness I made donuts. And thanks especially to the sound guy... I was so freaked out at the start of our set, and he was super cool about it... he even told us "Hey, it's Free Week" on the way out. I was careful to tip him. I wish I could have afforded more.

It could have been worse. Scott felt the same way I did, we talked about it, by the time all four of us got back to the house where Anna and I live we had agreed to see the whole experience as a positive one and made plans to practice our gear-schlepping this weekend. And also, the show as a whole was a real success. The club never seemed empty, Half Mile Fox Fur was unreal, and I was reminded yet another time that if you choose to make your music for bigger reasons than selfish ones, even the most embarrassingly terrible show can be a wonderful time. Everybody who came to see us, especially the many who wisely walked out in the middle of our set, I'm grateful that you listened at all.


  1. I had a blast at the show. Half Mile Fox Fur are not my cup of tea but The Gary was terrific and I thought Bell Riots sounded great! I didn't really notice the setup time, to be honest.

    I was remarking to Darla on the way home how I've seen more people moved to dance by the music at the 3 Bell Riots shows I've seen than at all the WRS shows I've put on. You guys just have a fun energy, Scott's a funky bassist and you have a good groove.

    Anyway, I'm sorry to hear it was tough for you, I can certainly relate. We've been through the same things, trying to remember to plan for getting shit set up and torn down quickly and to deal with the pre-show stress and anxiety while you're doing it.

    I left during the set because I had to get home to work early, that's it. Nothing to do with the quality of the music or anything else. You know I love you guys!

  2. Please feel free to ask me anytime about nightmare shows.

  3. don't worry, it gets worse... and better(I think).