Dear Bar Owners: Start Hiring Bands that Don’t Suck


Vocalist Rocio Gil and guitarist Drew Woerner

Tonight I was at another bar in town that should remain nameless (Crown & Anchor) and there was a singer playing with a band that should also go unnamed (Steve Stafford) who’s been playing Neil Young’s ‘Rocking in the Free World’ on local stages for over ten years and he still DOESN’T KNOW THE FUCKING WORDS. It was my tipping point. I’d had enough. Had I not been in company that I didn’t want to offend I’d have dragged him off the stage and shoved a copy of Neil’s ‘Freedom’ CD down his throat because that certainly would’ve sounded better.

To get away from this musical jerkoff I crossed town to Azars and walked in to a band that shouldn’t remain nameless, The Replay, whose lead singer was not only wailing out everything from Radiohead to Joplin in ranges most B-list singers dream of hitting, but she was literally fucking the music from her waist. That happens when you have control of the song rather than the other way around. As I watched and listened and the crowd danced at the foot of her stage, lead singer Rocio Gil literally slapped the band’s catalogue upside the head and made it her bitch for a night. She was that good and the difference was that noticeable.

There’s a term unnamed singers should learn, and its dynamic. Audiences don’t come to bars, spend upward of $100 to watch a band suckle the teat of local bar owners with the same tired act and stroke us off with a Sublime song they learned a few years ago as if that updates the playlist and there, mission accomplished.

And you know what? It didn’t bother me that she occasionally used the iPhone mounted to her mike stand to remind her of her place in the lyrics, because I’d rather have that minor technological update as a band’s unofficial fifth member than risk her slipping a moment and break the intensity she had going on stage. From what I could see, she didn’t use it much. Most people don’t when the band is channeling thru them – and that inspiration pours through to us. And anyone playing in and promoting a cover band will tell you, the audience’s opinion ultimately means everything. It’s right up there with ‘how much did people spend in here tonight?’

So maybe this is a love note to bar and restaurant owners out there. Stop letting uninspired musicians hoodwink you into hiring their tired act and we’ll come back to your place, check in on Facebook and promote what’s going on.

Sincerity is the brilliant, often ignored stepchild in the world of local cover bands. And yet that’s what we come hoping to see, it’s why we stay, and what we hope to experience in the few precious hours we get on weekends to visit with live musicians. It isn’t asking too much for intensity, or at least accuracy. But when you’re busy chasing the next paying gig – so much that you fumble lyrics and hope to pacify your audience with mediocrity, it isn’t long before the audience moves elsewhere.

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