Tuesday, March 23, 2010
I'm still totally fine with playing shows for Church youth groups.
Quiet Company has fans. Not a lot of fans, in the grand scheme of things, but a handful of devotees, nonetheless. And that is amazing to me. I try and do a good job of stopping and taking stock of the progress that we've made, periodically. I think it's healthy to look back and remember when I had no fans, and the lessons I learned when I was only a fan of music, myself, and not an artist.
I've been listening to a band called Stavesacre today. Unless you were into Christian music in the late 90's, you probably don't know who they are. But since I did, I do. I don't listen to them very often. Partly just because I've outgrown bands that try to sound like Tool, but mainly because I can't listen to them without reliving the experience of meeting them.
It was the summer of 1997 and Tooth and Nail records had almost single handedly saved and revolutionized Christian music. That label has put out some pure unadulterated shit, don't get me wrong, but they're also responsible for some of my favorite records of all time (Luxury, Starflyer 59, Bleach, mewithoutYou, etc). My brother and I were obsessed with the whole scene and spent all our money and time going to shows and festivals, buying cds, videos, and t-shirts. If it had a Tooth and Nail logo on it, it was worth checking out.
My brother and I grew up in a huge, east Texas, Baptist church called Mobberly Baptist. It was big then, it's a damn mega church now. Anyway, church was always the biggest, lamest, pain in my ass until 7th grade. In 7th grade, you became part of the youth group. Youth group was fun. I feel like that was about all we did, have fun. We went to camps and mission trips and bible studies too, of course, but even those things were a lot of fun. Because of the youth group, I met Jacob Bailey, one of the most ruthlessly talented, and good natured evil geniuses you're likely to meet. Jacob played guitar and he's largely responsible for me knowing how to play guitar, as I learned most of what I know from him, rather than my actual guitar teachers. So we started a band, or rather I joined a band that he and his cousin had started. 20 Watt Shed was our name and we were probably about as good as our name would suggest. Anyway, we were young, we were loud, we were in a band, and we had a demo tape.
So because my youth group was so cool, we brought in bands. And we actually brought in some good ones. The first one was Bleach. Strange that I would meet them as a 15 year old fan boy, and they would later become some of my better friends in Nashville. But in 1997 we brought in a tour featuring The Supertones, Ghoti Hook, and Stavesacre. Everyone was out of control excited about the Supertones and Ghoti Hook. Everyone but me. As far as I was concerned, the only band that mattered was Stavesacre, and I even liked the Supertones a lot. Their second record had just come out and I was obsessed, feeling like it really ministered and connected to me in a deeply personal way.
Jacob and I, being naive young musicians, had deluded ourselves into the idea that if we gave Stavesacre our demo tape, they would like it (we liked them so why wouldn't they like us, right?), and they would give it to Brandon Ebel, the owner of Tooth and Nail, and he would make all of our teenage rock star dreams come true.
Needless to say, that isn't what happened. Mark Saloman, Stavesacre's singer, manned the merch table for the band after their show, and Jacob and I hung around like flies on a carcass. I don't remember exactly everything that Mark said to us, but very quickly things weren't going our way. Here's what I remember.
1. He was annoyed at the gift of a demo tape, and obviously so, though he did take it.
2. He made it abundantly clear that they would listen to it but that they probably wouldn't like it and it would "hit the highway" because "Hey man, sometimes brutal truth is the only truth."
3. Almost everything he said was jaded beyond belief and when he wasn't being condescending or belittling, he was being dismissive.
4. By the end of it, I really felt like he was mad at me for liking his band.
5. He wouldn't sign an autograph (though the rest of the band did) and his reason was that he didn't think it would be important enough to me.
Now for self awareness:
1. I'm sure we were annoying to a degree, being awkward youngsters meeting their idol.
2. I'm sure we asked the questions that he got asked all the time.
3. I'm abundantly sure that the demo tape was, in fact, awful.
The experience shook me. When Tom Fest came around months later, I was scared to meet another T&N favorite, Jason Martin, from Starflyer 59, but I'm glad I did because it helped me get over the Stavesacre debacle. Jason was the epitome of "nice guy." He was appreciative of my adoration and was so encouraging when I asked him about music and his gear. It was the opposite of arrogance, cynicism, or any kind of rock star cliche', and I'm sure it plays a big part in why I still buy every Starflyer 59 record that comes out but I haven't bought another Stavesacre record since 1997.
I made up my mind then, however, that if I was ever fortunate enough to have fans, I would do my best to appreciate them and treat them like equals because that's what they are. Because I can string some chords and a melody together doesn't give me the right to belittle anyone, even obnoxious 15 year old fanboys. I hope to god that there's not someone somewhere blogging about the time they met that asshole from Quiet Company, right now.
Interestingly enough, Brandon Ebel eventually did learn that I existed and came to scout one of my last band, the Connotations', shows in Nashville in 2002. Unfortunately, it was in one of his "T&N is a really Christian label" phases, and Cameron had talked us into putting the lyrics "Shit happens" in one of our songs. It was apparently some sort of deal breaker. My foul mouth actually cost The Connotations more than one Christian record deal in Nashville. Maybe if I'd kept it shut, I could be having dinner with the Gaithers now or touring with Stryper.
So it goes.