Rather than slowly work my way up to my point, I'm going to cut to the chase: Over the next few hundred words, I'm going to make a case for why EDM shows are better than rock concerts. This statement will be viewed as heretical by many of you, especially those who refuse to believe that these button-pushers can compete with live music.
A year ago, I absolutely would have agreed with you. In fact, I'm still one of you. I'll be the first to admit there's a certain soul in live music that few DJs can conjure.
But live music is only one aspect of going to a concert. It's an important part, but it doesn't always make up for the other parts of the concertgoing experience that are awful. This isn't about the genre wars or button-pushing versus guitar-shredding. This is about the things that EDM shows get right that rock shows rarely do.
5. The noise of the crowd exists, but crowd noise doesn't: Opening acts in rock really don't get any respect. If you're direct support, it might not be so bad, but if you're the first band on a four-band bill, then most likely you're playing to an empty house and the people who have shown up are talking over your music.
Volume makes that part a nonissue at EDM shows. Few people are willing to yell over the sound system to try and hold a conversation or take a phone call. When people yell it matters, usually because they're hearing something they like or they've been prompted by the DJ.
4. Age minimums mean no kids: Part of having a child means having to make certain sacrifices. While I think it's great that parents want to instill a love of music in their little ones, there's really no need to bring a kid under the age of ten to a rock show that isn't specifically catered to them. Get them involved in School of Rock or Girls Rock Camp if they already like music — I bet they'll dig it.
As for those 16-year-olds who are bummed they can't get in to see the hot new DJ in a club setting, they're just a sacrifice I'm willing to make. Call me ageist if you must, but the fewer of them on the roads at 2 a.m., the better.
3. EDM remembers that spectacle is awesome: This might just be my personal taste speaking, but I love spectacle. Truly great bands don't need anything fancy to put on a great show, but most bands aren't truly great. The worst thing a band can be is boring, and like it or not, many bands are.
It's hard to be bored at an EDM show, provided you don't hate dance music to start with. Both artists and promoters know the importance of production, which is why promoters splurge for confetti cannons and CO2 bursts and artists are starting to build their own video walls to bring on tour.
2. No one yells out their requests, sincere or ironic: If you go to a show, there's a good chance there's one song in particular you really want to hear. I assume because you're reading this you're awesome, which means you're not one of those people who endlessly scream those requests at the band until they play them. You also never ask for "Free Bird" either, right?
I've never heard anyone at a real EDM show yell out requests. No one yells out for the big single. No one jokingly yells for "Levels." Everyone lets the DJ do his or her job, and we're all better for it.
1. People at EDM shows are really friendly: "Peace, love, unity and respect" is totally cheesy, and yet I understand why so many dance fans take it to heart. I'd say roughly 93 percent of the people at these shows are super-friendly and welcoming; the rest are either reviewing the show or getting into trouble because they can't hold their alcohol.
At most rock shows, it seems, everyone is spending their time listening to the music and silently cursing the people who are ruining the show for them. At most EDM shows, people just want to give each other high fives and make sure everyone is having a good time. Totally cheesy? Perhaps, but extremely charming.
"Margaritaville" Is Not "Peppy"
Note to bar owners: Your musicians deserve some respect.
Dear guy who owns a bar in Tampa and recently wrote a letter to musicians on Craigslist saying live music is a "significant expense" and bands basically exist to sell booze:
I've been playing music for over 25 years. I've worked in a lot of different places, from absolute ratholes to really wonderful venues. I've seen all sorts of bad behavior on the part of musicians, fans, sound guys, bartenders, bouncers, managers and, yes, even bar owners.
Contrary to what you may believe, I do actually get that you are in business. I understand that you are eking out a living running a bar. I know that your job and the jobs of your bartenders are to sell drinks. I'm pretty sure all musicians know that.
But since you decided to give musicians advice on how to improve themselves, I have a few suggestions for you as well.
Upgrade your crappy sound and light gear...or buy some if you don't have any: Nothing is more irritating than showing up at a bar and finding out our "stage" is a corner where we have to move tables and set up underneath a flatscreen TV that stays on during the entire set.
No sound gear. No lights. Good luck. Ought to be loads of fun putting on a show and "entertaining" people while selling your drinks in a dark-ass corner with no way to control the sound whatsoever.
Don't expect me to be some ham-handed used-car salesman up there to push your watered-down "premium" drinks: I will gladly tell people to get their drink on, but I'm not running an infomercial. Demanding that I stand onstage like David Lee Roth circa 1980 crowing about the magical properties of whatever high-dollar cocktail you have to offer is only going to make me less inclined to do it.
You paid me to entertain people, not sell your booze. I know you think it's the same thing. It isn't.
If my band sucks, don't hire us, but don't pretend to be an expert on music: I once had a guy come up to me in between sets at a happy-hour acoustic gig and tell me that we should really play "Margaritaville" because it's "peppy." You stick to drink specials and promoting your business, and let me stick to doing what I do best.
If you think I suck, you are free never to hire me again (or not hire me in the first place), but as John Winger told Sgt. Hulka in Stripes, "If you don't want me in your army, kick me out, but get off my back."
Pay me better: Let's get to the crux of it, shall we? When I started playing in the '80s as a teen, the going rate for a gig was $50-$150 per band member depending on the size of the gig, the venue, the patrons, etc. Care to take a guess what it is today?
If you guess $50-$150 per band member, you would understand my pain. That was 30 years ago, and the pay has not changed. You expect miracles for pocket change. Don't be surprised when you get exactly what you pay for.
Failing better pay, don't try to stiff me at 3a.m: Years ago, I was doing a gig with a popular local band who absolutely packed the venue we were playing. The deal was we either got paid $500 or 80 percent of the door, whichever was more. We easily brought in 200 people at $10 per person, which by my math is more than $500.
Yet when our singer went to collect the money, the bar owner tried to tell us we didn't make more than $500 at the door. After a few verbal threats were exchanged and the cash register was yanked off the bar, the bar owner wisely paid us our money. Be smart and, more importantly, don't be a crook.
The Pilgrim's Next Chapter
Kris Kristofferson says he's Feeling Mortal.
Rocks Off spoke to Kris Kristofferson by phone recently from his home in Hawaii, where he describes living a life as spare and literal as the records he makes with producer Don Was, such as the brand-new Feeling Mortal. Twice he told us that he's old, once he told us that he's brain-damaged and then he told us that his favorite place on Earth is in Texas.
Rocks Off: I've been listening to your new record all week.
Kris Kristofferson: That's more than I've listened to it.
RO: In the first couple of lines of the first song, "Feeling Mortal," you say something about having a shaky self-esteem. Is that possible? Do you really have a shaky self-esteem?
KK: No. I don't think I do. I think everybody does when they're honest. You know? But I would certainly not think that I was too shaky because I've had so much reinforcement over the years with people liking whatever I'm doing.
But listen, when you get old, you're not as good at everything as you were, and I think most people are probably more critical of themselves than other people are, anyway.
RO: I can really relate to the song "Bread for the Body" because I've got a day job and a mortgage and I do feel like I'm on a treadmill sometimes. Do you?
KK: Well, I'll tell you. I have not felt like I was on that treadmill since I decided to go follow my heart and be a songwriter in Nashville, and got out of the military and all of that other stuff that I was prepared for. And I've felt free ever since.
RO: The record shows a lot of the beauty of life, but there's still a melancholy to it. Do the beautiful things in life make you feel sadness?
KK: I think it all comes together. I think life is a beautiful thing, and yet there's sadness in every life. One of the sadnesses is that you know it's going to end. And I think it's God's blessing that keeps us from thinking about that constantly.
Because it's a short life. But fortunately, we get enough entertainment along the way to not be preoccupied with that.
RO: You've played Houston many times. Do you have any great stories from Houston?
KK: You know something? Now that my memory's getting real bad, I'm brain-damaged from my football and boxing days, it's getting so I don't remember a whole lot. I always feel like Houston is the place I play that's closest to my favorite place on Earth. Brownsville, Texas.
Growing up in Brownsville was the best thing I remember of my life. In fact, where I live today reminds me a lot of Brownsville. It's a real small town and they've got stuff growing everywhere. And perhaps people today will be surprised that I liked it, but to me it was bare feet and dirt roads and good people.
That's one of the reasons I settled here [in Hawaii]; it reminds me of Brownsville with the weather and the people.
Feeling Mortal (KK Records) is in stores now.
The Rocks Off 100
The Trill Life
Bombon Beatmaker OG Bobby Trill joins the Rocks Off 100.
Who?: Saturday, January 19, DJ OG Bobby Trill triumphed over four of his peers — Elroy Boogie, Dayta, Rockwell and Kyle Berg — to win the Houston qualifying round of the Red Bull Thre3Style DJ tournament, advancing to the regional finals in Dallas next month. He is also one of the hosts of Bombon, a night where Trill and a few other DJs mix all manner of tropical beats (cumbia, moombahton, 3ball, baile funk and lots more) into arguably Houston's hottest monthly dance party.
The 30-year-old Mexican-American and native Houstonian was born Rosbel Hinojosa ("It doesn't sound as bad in Spanish") and raised by his "crazy, fun-loving, anything-goes kind of mother who surrounded us with music, dancing and good vibes." Trill, who also goes by OGT, says he was surrounded by music growing up, from cumbias and norteño to disco and hip-hop, and eventually began exploring funk, electro and house music.
We'll let Trill tell you a little more himself.
"I also had a lot of friends from different parts of the city from different backgrounds that exposed me to a lot of new stuff," he says. "I also learned a lot of new music when I lived in Monterrey, Mexico, [and] I'm extremely thankful that I've got to meet and work with some of the most talented musicians, OG DJs and music nerds in Houston."
Why Do You Stay in Houston?: "I love this city!" exclaims Trill. "I've visited a lot of other places, but there is nowhere like Houston. We live in one of the most diverse cities in America. My group of friends look like a commercial for world peace or something.
"I mean, where else in the world can you have a Latin dance party and the crowd is completely mixed?" he adds. "Also, we have by far the best Mexican food in America! Actually, I think we just have the best food in America, and I love to eat! Plus I like the weather. It rains a lot, but we get more days of bike riding than a lot of places, especially in the winter."
Music Scene Pet Peeve: "EASY!" OGT replies. "If you read this, please stop telling DJs what they should play. Some of us handle it better than others, but I'd have to say 99 percent of DJs hate that. We know what we are doing, people, but you can't please everyone."
Bombon returns to Fox Hollow (4617 Nett) Saturday, February 2.
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