Steven Moy is the Web Producer at Harmonix. When not at Harmonix, he hangs out in East Boston. Except this last weekend, when he went to Las Vegas. That was awesome.
Okay. So you've got the band together through want ads or social networking websites or maybe just recruiting random interesting-looking people you saw on the subway. You've written some songs, maybe learned some covers. You have a crappy rehearsal space. You all have starter instruments, except for your guitarist, who has a rich family or is the CEO of a tech startup or is famous or something and therefore has a rig that you sometimes fantasize about stealing and using as a down payment on a nice condo (because hey, housing downturn or no, Boston is still wicked expensive).
You've agonized for weeks over your band name, finally settling on something that you at least all dislike just as much – you tell yourself that it's really just a temporary name that you'll change again in a week, because you can't do your first show without any name at all, but the reality is that if you ever become famous together, it will indeed be as "The Lords of Beefsteak", so you better get used to it. It's the first 100 feet of what you all dream will be a marathon career, and you're already sick of each other.
But right now, none of that matters. It's the first song of your first show, and for once, everything's going right. Your drummer's locked in like a metronome, your guitarist is nailing every single note, and your bassist isn't making a complete ass out of himself. You're all in sync, and the crowd is digging it – yes, even the three people who are not your blood relatives, significant others, or roommates.
And then the first song ends. Applause, followed by an expectant silence. Between the setlist, figuring out what you were going to wear, and making sure you had enough water and beer to get you through all five of your songs, you did spend some time thinking about what you would say when you weren't playing music, right? Right?
Okay, well, it's not the worst thing in the world. We all make mistakes, overlook things, etc. But seriously, this is important stuff. Which is why we've prepared the following handy, exhaustively-researched guide into the prevalent band patter archetypes among rock bands indigenous to North America. (Note to bass players: print out this article and bring it to your first show. Give it to your lead singer five minutes before you go on stage. This will let you freak out your singer, save the show, and not look like the dumbest member of the band for once. It's a win-win-win situation!)
Preferred genre: Punk, hardcore, any band from D.C.
Example quote: "Don't forget to vote in November! If you just turned 18 we have registration cards and loads of bumper stickers and buttons set up on our table out back. Free Tibet!"
If you want to use your rock n' roll superpowers to further and promote the political causes you believe in, then rock on! While this dedication to a greater calling is unquestionably admirable, your fans' reaction will vary from righteously awesome if they agree, to mildly irritating if they're indifferent, to infuriating if they have completely opposite views.
Eventually, your fanbase will consist almost entirely of people that agree with you, which is good for everyone getting along, but not so great for branching out and growing your budding commercial empire. But you were never in this for the money anyway, right?
The Intimate Detailer
Preferred genre: Emo; works best in a solo acoustic set
Example quote: "This next song's about the time I caught my girlfriend cheating on me with our drummer. She broke my heart and married him and I hate them both so much now. But good drummers are hard to find. It's called 'Executive Privilege.'"
If you believe that the best way to bond with your fans is by plumbing your twisted, jaded heart for the most sordid, embarrassing, and deeply personal details of your private life, then this might just be for you. Try to project yourself as vulnerable but strong (quivering lips and tears make for great accessories), and if you get beat up after the show, look at the bright side - you now have yet another painful story to share!
Preferred genre: Math rock
Example quote: "Hi, we're Havoc in Heaven. Thanks for coming out tonight."
People came here to see you play music, not to hear you talk. Amirite?
Preferred genre: Frat rock
Example quote: "Woooo! Yeah!"
This one can give you pretty good results with pretty minimal preparation, provided that you're over 21 and you're not playing an all-ages show in a church basement or an AA benefit or something. Key skills that you will learn over time include (1) making sure that the average audience member is just as drunk as you are - no one really wants to watch you falling down on stage if they're just halfway through their first beer, and (2) not throwing up until after your set.
The Chemically Impaired
Preferred genre: Hippies
Example quote: "Thanks, I call that song 'Unicorn Rainbows' and I ... OH GOD NOT THE BUTTERFLIES AGAIN!"
So much like The Inebriated, yet so different. To be honest, forget the show - things are going pretty good if you can wake up and you're not either in jail or lying naked on the beach (this latter development can be particularly troubling if you were playing a show in Nebraska).
Preferred genre: Any
Example quote: "Thanks again everyone for coming out tonight. You know, we've been doing this for years, and the only thing that keeps us from getting too jaded to keep on going is crowds like you. Seriously. We'd like to thank our opening acts, and for having us tonight. It's been real. Good night!"
You can't really choose to become the professional – much like any number of hackneyed sci-fi plots, you can only reach this nirvana of stage presence by being yourself and not giving a damn. Oh, it also helps if you can connect with the audience on a deep metaphysical level and mix in a little bit of everything above in order to address the unspoken needs, dreams, and desires of their collective subconscious recess.
Above all, it's important to relax, have fun, and be yourself. It's your first show, so people will generally be pretty lenient. And if you still find all of this a little too overwhelming, did I mention the one where you just get really, really, really plastered?