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What Does It Mean to Be An Average Bar Band?

Posted on Monday, February 28, 2011 at 12:01AM by Registered CommenterAllyson B. Crawford | Comments22 Comments

Yesterday, I was in the car with my husband when Faster Pussycat, "Poison Ivy" came on Hair Nation. The husband gave me one of those sideways glances that meant "ridiculous."

"They would never make it today," said the husband. "To me, Faster has always seemed like your average bar band."

After I explained the whole time/place/luck/connections scenario that got Faster to a major label in the 80s, I stopped and thought for a moment about what the husband had said.

It dawned on me that I have no idea what an "average bar band" even sounds like. Does that mean a cover band? There are some pretty decent ones where I live. At least, anytime I've been in a bar for a show, the bands haven't been too terrible. Because that is what we're talking about, right? Terrible...or just slightly above average?

I feel like if you get to the point as a musician where you are good enough to play live and earn money for your show, you must not suck too bad. All the cover bands around Dayton I've seen get paid. Sure, said cover bands don't sound like Van Halen...then again, they don't really claim to - or at least most of them don't. 

I suspect the husband forgets that just about every band that has ever made it came up through the bar/cover circuit. So while I might not be hearing the next Aerosmith on a random Wednesday at the corner bar, that doesn't mean you're not in your city, right?

That said, I'm still plagued by the question..."what is an average bar band?" I think it has to do with more than music. Surely no one thought David Lee Roth was necessarily average when Van Halen was getting started. He might not be the best singer in the world, but he is a show man. Even some of the finalists on American Idol over the years haven't been the best singers ever but they've survived elimination rounds because of stage presence. It's a whole package after all.

So while I disagree with the husband on where Faster Pussycat is concerned, I suppose he does have a valid point in arguing that, if FP was a new band today, they probably wouldn't be huge. That's just a sign of the times and the current music industry. Talent seems secondary anymore. That said, I hope all the up and coming "average" bar bands keep playing...otherwise we won't ever have any new music to enjoy...and some act has to become the next AC/DC, right?

 

Reader Comments (22)

What you need to remember is, a band that sounds like Bon Jovi circa 1987 would also not be huge today. The music scene has changed, and the way people play guitar has progressed. Seems like even an 'average' band today will have a guitar player who would have been Shrapnel material in the 80s. And, the bands of today have the luxury of having been influenced by every band from when FP started to when they started. So, it's not a fair comparison.

I also love 'wake me when it's over' although I thought their other albums were almost as boring as their Rocklahoma performance.
February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristian
I'm not even sure a club-era Van Halen would make it today and that's sad. I have a friend who did see both Van Halen and Randy Rhoades-era Quiet Riot back in the day and he said that there was something special about Van Halen even back then. So...there are bands that you can tell have something going on. Anyway, it's late and I'm not sure whare I was going with this only that I enjoyed the post.. :)
February 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteri'mtheone
The most recent bar band that comes to mind is Airbourne....and of course with an agressive campaign, they shopped around the media world and everyone took notice. However, they were totally an Aussie bar band for a good many yrs. Their first bar show was in Baltimore, because 98 Rock gave them air time. The show was amazing and in such a small ass bar. AMAZING Now they are touring with Iron M. in Europe.
I think Wildstreet could be next. They are finally shopping their tunes around and are now on a WWE PS3 trailer. Lets get these bands' music out there and our bar bands will become BIG bands.
February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrian L
I ment to say that their first bar gig in America, was Baltimore. Edit.
February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrian L
I've always thought Faster was a terrible band....horrible players....godawful singer...nothing "exciting" about anyhting they've done. Saw them in Dallas when they were sorta new and they were totally uninspiring in concert as well. Avergae bar band...they wish they could be THAT good. But its definitely a product of the times. Would Deep Purple be big today if they were a new band? Would Nickelback have been huge if they came out in 1984? Don't know but my guess is no either way....
February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJAT
Next time I see your husband, I'll give him one of those looks since Faster Pussycat is a classic Sleaze Metal band that deserved to make it back then.

In fact, I'd say they were one of the pioneers of "Trash Metal" and were a pillar of that L.A. Sub-scene which Crue, Poison, L.A. Guns, Vain and even G'n'R were a part of, as well, to name but a few.

And Faster Pussycat didn't even really go for the big hair, either. Just medium hair level for these guys, L.A. Guns and Vain.

Today, Faster Pussycat would probably go the way of Dirty Penny in the U.S. Market because, for some reason, despite an ever growing REAL Rock'n'Roll audience demand, from the oldsters to the kiddies, this kind of music just does not get enuff support by the labels, the promoters and the media.

Faster Pussycat would have to move to Sweden just to survive.

Hell, would G'n'R have made it today?

And as far as "blackboard scratching" vocals go, I contend Axl gives Taime a run for his money with "Welcome To The Jungle", though not quite as extreme, obviously.

But looking through the BBG! prism, Faster Pussycat made it back then and can still be enjoyed today because they are REAL Rock'n'Roll!

Gritty and Metallic, they are New York Dolls, Crue, Poison, G'n'R, L.A. Guns and Sex Pistols all rolled into one, though, admittedly, not quite as good as any of those bands, singularly.

Look, I can appreciate Faster Pussycat might not be everyone's cup of tea mainly because of Taime Downe's ultra trashed voice. When I got the first album (the day it came out because I liked the cover), I gotta say, at first, I was taken aback by how rough the lead vocals were but he grew on me

I personally think they got better and better with every album, though I will always view their first as an absolute classic!

In the end, Faster Pussycat have great songs. That's what gives a bar band a fighting chance to get signed and tour the big venues, even if it's just as an opener, which was all Faster Pussycat were, except maybe in Japan or in fairly good sized clubs like Hammerjack's in Baltimore.

They did get a lot of play on Headbanger's Ball, however, and even heavy 24 hour rotation on MTV with their prerequisite power ballad = big hit, "House Of Pain".

Interestingly, you don't really see 'em too much on Metalmania. Too Bad.

p.s. Warlock Eric and JAT! Give the song "Nonstop to Nowhere" off "Whipped", their last album (my fave song and album by them) and their non-lp cover of Carly Simon's "Your So Vain" a shot. Another one of their little ditties, "Bathroom Wall", off their first album defines them and the genre.
February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
There are thousands upon thousands of bar bands working their asses of in order to play in front of (if they're lucky) 50 people a night. Many are extremely talented as well but for whatever reason -- luck, timing, location, etc. -- they aren't able to get a break.

Faster Pussycat was no bar band. They had a top 40 hit (House of Pain) and were playing in front of thousands (I saw them open for Poison in 88). If they are a bar band, we probably have to change the definition of "bar band". Compared to over 99% of the other bands out there, FP made it big. Fairly or not, they didn't become massive stars like Motley, Poison, GNR, etc., but they certainly lived the life for a few years.
February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBryon
Recent "The Celebrity Apprentice" winner and Donald Trump favorite, rocker Bret Michaels, currently recuperating from heart surgery, will reunite with all original POISON band mates for a 25th-anniversary tour tentatively titled "Glam – A – Gedon 25". For the first time ever POISON and MÖTLEY CRÜE will co-headline a select date summer tour with special guests the NEW YORK DOLLS.

Although several controversial statements have been made in the press by certain members of MÖTLEY CRÜE vowing this tour would never happen, that is simply not the case. Fans of both bands have spoken and want the tour to happen and both MÖTLEY CRÜE and POISON have agreed. Concert promoters in these select cities state that the buzz is unbelievable for both the POISON dates as well as the MÖTLEY CRÜE / POISON tour. No doubt this will be the rock tour of the summer.

Tickets for the MÖTLEY CRÜE / POISON tour will go on sale March 18. POISON plan to kick off their 25th-anniversary "Glam -A – Gedon 25" tour in Tupelo Mississippi at the Bancorp South Arena Wednesday May 25. Michaels will then continue solo, playing Thursday, May 26 in Ft. Walton Beach where he will perform for the fans and troops as he did last Memorial Day weekend. Michaels will rejoin POISON in Little Rock at the River Fest Amphitheater on Friday, May 27. Michaels will then perform solo at the Hard Rock in Biloxi on Saturday, May 28. Bret will rejoin POISON and MÖTLEY CRÜE Sunday, May 29 at Rocklahoma. POISON will then continue on alone playing arenas from Memorial Day until rejoining MÖTLEY CRÜE in Dallas at the Starplex Amphitheater on Tuesday, June 7.

When reporters recently asked Bret Michaels if there was any bad blood between the bands, Michaels laughed: "There may be some friendly competition but there is no bad blood at all on my part. Nikki [Sixx, MÖTLEY CRÜE bassist] and I have spoken several times on the phone recently and the conversations went great." Michaels continued, "Music is a universal language and I am extremely excited that this tour has come together as are the fans, they are truly going to see a great show. Honestly, I could care less about all the mudslinging, it gets nobody nowhere, and after all I have been through health wise in the last year, I am going to try to focus on what does matter which is the show, the fans, fun and personally throwing a hell of a backstage party."

Bret Michaels' solo tour will start March 19 when he appears at Muhammad Ali's "Celebrity Fight Night" alongside Kevin Costner, David Foster, Billy Crystal, Halle Berry and Reba McIntire and will continue up until the MÖTLEY CRÜE / POISON tour starts. The "Get Your Rock On" solo tour in support of the album of the same name will resume immediately following the select summer dates with MÖTLEY CRÜE and POISON.
February 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbumblefootboy
Fasterpussy Cat would be big in Sweden today. They might not be as big as they were in the 80s, but they would be surviving. Probably playing as much, partying as much, and boozing as much as they did back then. Possibly more ... the Swede's are pretty wild!
February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSpence
Hey Bumblefootboy....where can i find that info on Motley and Poison's tour?
February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrian L
I just saw Bumblefootboy's comments posted verbatim in the latest entry on iconvsicon.com under the headline, "Poison And Motley Crue To Reunite On 'Glam-A-Gedon' 25 Anniversary Tour".

The site claims to be about "All Things Pop Culture".

I haven't been able to find any mention other than this other than the usual rumor mills and nothing with this kind of detail like how Bret is going to juggle tour dates between his solo shows and Crue/Poison shows.

Michaels is also appearing on "Piers Morgan Tonight" on CNN at 9 p.m. tonight. His site says to expect a big announcement then!

But no matter what he says, I'll hold my breath until I hear someone from The Crue Camp confirm.

Meanwhile, back to Reality...

I just went on Faster Pussycat's site which is new in support of their recent live album. It looks and sounds awesome. Funny, it looks like they just recently played some... GULP!... BARS in Kentucky, Illinois and Oklahoma last November.

Sheeez! From the looks of this, Trash Metal is alive and well in The Midwest!

I am stoked to see them at M3.

A little history, kidz...

Faster Pussycat was formed by Taime Downe, roomate of Rikki Rachtman of MTV's Headbanger's Ball fame. He also co-ran The Cathouse club in L.A. with Rachtman.

Thus, it was easy to get Faster Pussycat gigs there (a bar, more or less, Bryon) and that started the whole ball rolling.

They did not have their Top 40 Hit, "House Of Pain" until their second album, "Wake Me When It's Over", arrived well after they were signed and enjoyed modest success with their now classic first album.

To me, that album can be held up as definitive L.A. Strip, right up there with Crue's "Too Fast For Love", Poison's "Look What The Cat Dragged In", L.A. Gun's first album, G'n'R's "Appetite" and Ratt's "Out Of The Cellar", though not quite as good.

But I still think it's killer, don't get me wrong!

So, to set the record straight, though they had a nice entree into the whole L.A. Scene, they still started in the BARS and clubs of L.A. just like all the rest. Did it help 'em get signed? Sure! But they still needed the songs, the look, the act and the chutzpah to pull it off.

And indeed they did!

Long live Faster Pussycat!
February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
I was never a fan of Faster Pussycat because of that 'voice',,horrible 'singing'..screeching is more like it,,Saw FP get BOOED off stage opening up for Alice Cooper at the old Boston Garden..they got lucky to have even made it as far as they did,,although House of Pain is a good song..I was fortunate to see Guns n Roses play the Troubador in,,I think 86..a band called Feline (all female) opened and I thought was cool,,walked out halfway through GnR's set cause I thought they sucked,,and Axls bottomless chaps were geigh..I remeber saying to my friend,,'If that band is the biggest thing in LA right now,wow,,they sucked,,they'll never get signed!".., was I wrong
February 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjimbo
Jimbo! I saw G'n'R at the Bayou in D.C. two weeks after "Appetite For Destruction" came out, though granted, that ain't the same as having seen 'em at The Troub, even if you did split before it was over.

Which just goes to show ya, sometimes it's worth watchin' somethin' even if it ain't yer cup o' tea.

I remember talkin' to Ian Astbury up by the pool at Le Parc Hotel and him convincing me go see Kingdom Come that night because they were way better than Guns'n'Roses. You know, in a way, he's right, hahaha!!!

p.s. Right now I'm listening to Rock Sugar. Man, what a great way to listen to all our faves without getting bored, at least until the novelty wears off. Download it, buy it, steal it, whatever you gotta do with it, just get it and jam on, kiddies. Forgot who said it at the end of the year, but I agree, one of the best releases of 2010. They're playin' Hard Rock in Albuquerque on July 2nd and Rockin' The Rivers in Three Forks, Montana with Great White and others on August 13th. I'm gonna try and make one of 'em. Hopefully they'll add more. These guys are geniuses! Wish they would play M3, too!
February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
the tour info should be announced soon, as far a dates .
February 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbumblefootboy
Huh-uh-lo-oh!

I'm nearly as shot as Charlie Sheen (just on "Piers Morgan Tonight", tonight).

Correction:

Bret is on "Piers Morgan Tonight" this Wednesday!

His site says to look forward to a "Big Announcement" during that appearance.
February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
Metalboy! as usual - YOU ROCK. Have to agree on your first post and assessment of FP. Catchy tunes, glam look, and a FU attitude - you gotta love it. Newer stuff is good too - Power and the Glory Hole and Front Row to the Donkey Show just worth buying to repeat the titles to someone you know will give you a curious look and if they comment additionally, you know they're a 80's Glam Fan. FP=Not an average bar band.
February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMEWIZEMGIC
MEWIZE! You comin' to M3?
February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
I'm not sure the term "bar band" is really a negative thing. Just as there are grey areas as far as describing which genre to place a band in... there will always be room for discussion. Many people consider KIX to be the greatest bar band from the era... There is nothing at all wrong with that.

As far as Faster Pussycat goes... I could see calling them a "bar band" in the sense that bars, for the most part, are all they really headlined. Some people would just call them a second tier 80's band. If you enjoy a certain band... who cares what others think. Tell you what... I've seen a ton of great "bar bands". I prefer the setting of a more intimate bar setting. To me.. the connection to the crowd is what Rock-N-Roll is all about.. it's what it has always been about.

All 80's metal/glam bands are "bar bands". Some were just elevated to the next level by either luck, superior talent, or label money. Just like today, certain bands were forced on us through radio and MTV. Those bands who were pushed more became the "arena acts". Just as today the artists pushed by record companies and radio are the ones playing arenas.

The music business really hasn't changed as much as one would think. Just as the "classic rock" of the seventies was pushed aside for the new thing in the eighties ... The 80's metal/glam was pushed aside by Grunge. It;s been happening forever.

Last time I saw Chuck Berry he was playing in a bar. I just don't see how that changes his place in Rock history.
March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterROCK-IT
Yes, coming in late Th for M3, and hope to catch Wildstreet (thanks ROCK-IT). Metalboy and other Glam-ers, you going out Th pre-show? And, perhaps we can catch a solo Vince or Brett in Fells Point for 10 bucks on Sunday night ;-0. Cheers
March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMEWIZEMGIC
I'm with MB on this one. FP's cover of Your So Vain is absolutely KILLER. They give that song a groove that makes me want to slam my head against something!!
March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGary

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