Bandleaders. You love them. You hate them. They flash you the stink eye for playing too loud, and then give you a big bro hug as they push a wad of cash into your hand at the end of the gig. After a lifetime spent trying to parse this peculiar yin and yang, I’ve compiled my list of pet peeves that are true of almost every bandleader I’ve worked with. See if you recognize any of them.
Your bandleader counts off a song too fast and the entire band dutifully comes in at his designated tempo. Within 16 bars or so he turns to you (instead of any other bandmate), and makes a big, histrionic production of telling you to slow down, as if the incorrect tempo was your fault in the first place. Bottom line: The song would have started at the right tempo if you counted it off – but that ain’t gonna happen.
Excruciatingly simple. Maddeningly common. Practically every six-stringer I’ve ever accompanied will quote the guitar melody from Hendrix’s “Third Stone From The Sun” during a solo, and yet remarkably few play it correctly. Hey, I can sing the line note-for-note, and I’m the drummer!
If I’m lucky, I play one or two drum solos per night. So when I get the chance, I try to build a solo with a musical structure that often culminates in a climax of my flashiest chops. With blood vessels bulging in my temples, I cue the bandleader to bring the band back in, but instead he goads me on to keep soloing, as if he’s doing me a favor, which inevitably leads to a series of clumsy, ham-fisted fills that sound like basketballs falling down stairs. Major buzz killer.
For fear of sounding repetitive, bandleaders agonize over set lists to avoid playing two consecutive songs in the same key. But some don’t think twice about calling two, three, even four songs in a row that have identical grooves. I don’t know about you, but by the second iteration of a slow blues, I’ve plumbed the bottom of my trick bag twice, and begin nodding out.
You’re in the rehearsal studio to learn a new song from a demo your bandleader recorded using GarageBand. He tells you that he wants you to faithfully reproduce the programmed drum part verbatim, which not only is physically unfeasible to execute, but would be impossible to make groove if you had a gun to your head. It hardly matters – you’re obligated to make his robotic feel work, even if it means sprouting an extra arm.