How do I avoid telling my friend his band sucks?

This is Of Monsters and Men. Wonder if their friends think they suck ...

This is Of Monsters and Men. Wonder if their friends think they suck ...

The Door Guy is a veteran of countless clubs around town. People say they've seen it all, but he's seen more. Write to him for everything from live advice to life advice.

Dear Door Guy:

I hate my friend’s band. Really, really, really hate them. But I get the Facebook event invites and the mass texts and all the demands that I go see them play. Sometimes I go because I can hang out and have beers with other friends. Most of them are as sad as I am.

If I don’t go see them play, my friend always makes a big deal out of it and makes me feel guilty. If I do go, every time, my friend always asks how I liked the show, and I don't know what to say. I didn't like the show. I'm probably never going to like the show.

How do I deal with this?

Good Friend, Bad Band

Dear Bad Band:

Oh, Bad Band. You're stuck in the Band Friend predicament. Your life is no longer your own. You are there to pay attention to Facebook invites, see shows, and give reviews. I feel for you. Band Friends are legion, and the struggles and complaints you have are a lot like really, really terrible (but consensual) sex: Why do I have to do this? What am I supposed to say when it's over?

I, too, am a Band Friend. Simply by doing what I do, I've befriended many people in bands, locally and nationally. Some of these bands have been great, some have been very good at playing music I don't enjoy, and some have downright sucked. It's insanely difficult to navigate this relationship, because band guys demand your attention and can be prickly about criticism, reacting to it the way some people react to a burning flag. But if you hate John Zorn-influenced electro-ska, you hate John Zorn-influenced electro-ska, not America.

But I think we Band Friends need to do something new: We need to stop coddling people. Facebook invites and mass texts are totally reasonable, but guilt trips when you don't go aren't. Asking someone what they thought afterward is also totally reasonable, but expecting to be told what you want to hear simply isn't.

Door Guy Story Time: In addition to the many, many years I've been checking your IDs, throwing you out, throwing away your empty beer bottles, watching your fights with your significant other, and in all other ways cleaning up your messes, I've also (gasp) been in a band or two. To say it bluntly, most of my bands weren't all that great.

Don't get me wrong: I loved most of the bands I've played in. I thought it was worth my time and up to my high standards of being loud and starting and ending songs at the same time. But I'm also realistic, we weren't “going places.” My bands weren't as good as some bands I've loved over the years. Some were that kid in the back of the classroom with a bunch of potential. Some were just the kid in the back of the classroom.

One band, one show in particular, while on tour, we played a show in front of a lot of people I was friends with who'd never heard us before. We had a good time. We started off with my drummer's favorite/my least favorite song, but the set got better and better and I really feel like we stuck the ending.

Later, I asked a friend, “What did you think?”

The response was a flash of discomfort across my friend's face, furrowed brow, and then, cautiously, “Well, I was worried when you guys played the first song, because it wasn't very good, but you got a lot better after that.”

Door Guy: 1, Door Guy's drummer: 0. I win!

That's maybe the only time in the history of music that someone's answered the “what did you think?” question honestly (and maybe not too honestly, at least the second part). But I still remember it. Because even if my bands haven't been the best in the world, I still wanted to feel something real when I played.

And having someone, even if they were uncomfortable, be real with me is more significant than any number of times where people said something completely inert like “I liked the sounds” or “really proud of you." Or, the end-all, be-all of passive-aggressive backhanded compliments you can say to someone in a band: “You guys sure looked like you were having fun.” (Never, ever say this. It is the kiss of death.)

No, I never worked as a door guy as a way of paying the rent on a crappy house with six other guys until my rock 'n' roll dreams came true. Bands don't have to be like that. People can, and do, get together because they love playing music or they love the catharsis of live performance.

Or maybe they just like an excuse to pack a bunch of crap up and go make friends with people in other cities while cashing in some vacation time (if they have it) and losing money (if they have that either). I did it. Tons of my friends have done it. Sometimes, seemingly by accident, “fun” bands have become “popular, successful” bands. Most of the time, it remains a hobby.

But just because it's a hobby doesn't mean we need our heads patted when we get off stage. It's a fucking rock show, not a Little League game.

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