I guess it started a few years ago when Stu came in to St. Louis to hear a band play at Pop’s, over in East St. Louis, and wanted to crash at our place for the night after the concert. I ended up going along, mostly because Stu was paying for the ticket, but also because I’d never experienced what can only be described as a “death metal concert.”
The first thing we did was went to Walgreens to get ear plugs. Bear in mind that I’ve gone to more than a few concerts in my times and I’ve never needed ear plugs. I always felt it was counter-intuitive, as you’d think you want to listen to the music, not reduced the sound by 30 dB.
I’m glad I had the plugs. Then, and each subsequent time I’ve joined him at one of these things.
This past Sunday, on his birthday, Stu wanted to go see some bands at Fubar, a concert venue near SLU. Before that, Stu, his roommate, and I went to La Vallesana, a Mexican place on Cherokee Street, which was pretty spectacular. The menu was very reasonable (one could even say it was “cheap”) and much more varied than the “traditional Mexican restaurant,” especially in the different meats they offered. I had a Quesadilla “Al Pastor,” which involved a dry-rubbed pork and pineapple concoction. Mmmmmm… They don’t serve beer, though, which I find interesting for a Mexican restaurant (though they did have Mexican Coca-Cola, including real sugar, not that “high fructose corn syrup” shenanigans).
After that, we went to Fubar. If you dare flip on the YouTube link above, you’ll hear the style of music being played there by the headlining band, Origin. It was a lengthy music fest, of sorts, with six or seven bands participating, starting at 5:00 (we didn’t get there until after 7:00…thankfully…as we didn’t leave until after 11:00…).
I should note that my favorite band name was “Cattle Decapitation.” No joke. That’s their name. They’ve put out 10 albums since 1996.
Regardless, it’s always an interesting experience to go to these concerts with Stu. This is a guy that had long hair back when I met him in high school (and has since chopped all that off and is a software developer), so I was first exposed to this style of music back then when we’d go out to lunch during band camp my sophomore year. While I can’t say I’ve grown to like death metal, as a genre, I have always appreciated the speed at which their drummers play. What these guys lack in “finesse,” they have orders of magnitude more in brute strength and stamina, where it isn’t unusual (heck, it’s the norm) to see them play constant sixteenth-notes with their feet using the double-bass pedal for a full song, or multiple songs in a row, without much of a break. It’s nuts. I’d be curious how many of them run marathons…
At the same time, while I stand there, watching the bass player and the electric guitar player move their hands across their respective fretboards very quickly, all I hear is a low “E” tone. I pulled out my phone and used a “guitar tuner” app to verify this fact. Yup. All I heard was a single, low tone, while I could see their hands moving all over the place. It was likely an effect of the deafening live sound, leading to dissonance that my poor ears couldn’t handle. When I say “it all sounded the same,” that’s what I mean: it was one friggin’ note.
It’s also interesting to see the characters that go to these concerts. This Sunday, I was wearing a striped polo shirt and Stu had a grey-ish t-shirt on…and I’m pretty sure we were the only people there with any colored clothes besides black or white (we mostly stayed in the back, by the bar…). Most folks had long hair, there were very few women there. I didn’t see a ton of piercings (though, more than a few of those giant rings in some dudes’ ear lobes). I noticed only one obviously drunk guy: everyone else either had nothing in their hands, or water, or a soda. A “mosh pit” opened up a few times, but really, the participants seemed like they were skipping around in a circle, pushing each other.
The thing that really gets me, though, is how very little these guys all probably make on a given night. The advance tickets were $18; at the door, they were $22. There were maybe 100 people there when we walked in, though surely some people came and went. Let’s say they sold 200 tickets to this thing and sold all of them at $22: $4400 would have been the ticket sales. Divided among 6 bands (though, I’m sure the divisions wouldn’t have been an even split), that’s $733 per band (not per person)…and that assumes that the venue would take no money from the ticket sales, which obviously isn’t the case. In the end, each band member was probably lucky to walk out of there with $100.
Point is: the bands themselves make practically nothing from tickets, so they must make up the difference in merchandising. I saw some folks going up, buying things, but I can’t say I saw large crowds around the merch table. It makes me wonder how bands like these expect to “make it.” Bear in mind that these are national, touring bands, that people (not me…) have heard of before. These are the popular groups.
So yeah, it’s always an interesting exercise for me to tag along to these concerts. I’d kinda like Brooke to come along sometime, so I can get her “sociological perspective” on these people. Not sure Stu wants to be buying two extra tickets, though… 😛