How To Rock A Bar

September 16, 2009

The BoDeans were never as big as they might have probably should have been, but I liked what they did. The problem, as has affected more bands than I have grey hairs, is this: they were not built for the studio.

Some bands thrive in the studio, but leak weiner juice live. Ever seen a Guns ‘n’ Roses concert? I have. Ever seen a Guns ‘n’ Roses concert sober? I have. Horrible. On the converse, one of the best live shows I have ever seen was Def Leppard, and that was less about the music than about the showmanship.

The BoDeans were an American rock band, a talented duo with diverse influences who combined to create something we had not yet heard. It should have been a big deal. It was not. You know why? No single. No studio presence. The albums were fine, some good radio-ready rock, but they didn’t get airplay. The closest they got was Closer to Free. You’d remember it if you heard it.

But give them the chance to play for a live crowd (plus some Lettermanisms, and that Canadian guy on keys), and you got this:

That’s a kickass performance from the BoDeans (who were really just two guys, Kurt Neumann and Sammy Llamas). I went searching for the video for that song, and stopped when I found this Letterman performance. Killer. Sammy’s mullet is also very, very cool.

The best live band I have ever seen was called Vic and the Meat Kings. It was a nine-piece ska/shuffle/punk/jazz/rock band in the 90s. Nothing can compare to what they did. It’s okay if you’ve never heard of them, because that’s the way music works. Live power does not mean instant record sales. You have to be able to lip-synch and pose and participate in the latest Kanye West scandal to get that kind of fame.

Another great live band: Thomas Trio and the Red Albino. This was amazing music, and I wore out their CD. The Scott B. Sympathy was another one. Fantastic music. No airplay. My great friend Hank and his body of work. No airplay. This all happened at a place I love, and it was once perfectly captured here.

Meanwhile, the Jonas Brothers and their “backing musicians” are the latest taste.

Here’s my point: you may someday become rich and famous because of your music, but it isn’t likely. In the meantime, pay attention to that BoDeans video and understand that it’s all about pleasing the people right in front of you. It’s about pumping up that energy. Forget fame. Forget fortune. Rock the house and rock the bar, and if you do it right, the rest will come.

Well, I guess it might not. But someone will write a stupid blog post about you someday.


  1. What you talking about? I saw Guns three times – opening for Iron Maiden in 1988ish, then right before the Illusion albums in Toronto when they played for four and a half hours… the other show, mind you, was the one where Metallica dude blew himself up and then Axl walked off…

  2. “Sober.”

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