We’ve all been there. We’ve all been in the bar or at a club, innocently having a few drinks and deciding the best way to approach the cute redhead across the room when all of a sudden some dreadful local band starts up and puts a damper on your evening. They’re never the next Nirvana or Fugazi; they’re not even the next Spinal Tap. What follows is a handy reference guide to spotting and identifying the various groups and performers you’ll encounter and the appropriate response.
The Metalcore Band: This type of local band likes heavy metal but can’t be in a real metal band because they like LiveJournal and singing about girls too much. Typical band names include As I Lay Dying in a Bleeding Well on Thursday’s Darkest Hour and xPAINxCOREx. Songs are typically less than a minute and a half and the vocalist sings like the Cookie Monster. Some groups have a person whose designated job is to scream for no apparent reason. 15 year-olds with earlobe studs, disgustingly unwashed hair, and lips rings will flock around the stage, so don’t get too close for your own health. Appropriate response: Stop hanging out around youth rec centers, perv.
The Teenage Punk Band: The lead singer is invariably some kid with spiked hair and plaid pants who thinks that his band is the Sex Pistols. They always want to smash the state or something, I guess between homeroom and 9 th -grade Geometry. Guitar distortion will drown out all other sounds emanating from the stage. Appropriate response: Ask a member if the Senate was justified in confirming Gonzalez and whether the welfare of one person outweighs potential harm done to many people in regards to international torture standards . They’ll probably look at you blankly and then say something about oppression.
The Ironically Retro Band: They are easy to spot because they all dress like an MTV video circa 1985. They play synthesizers, but profess not to do so seriously. Their band name will probably have something to do with flowers and their hair will be so ugly that you’ll have to look away in pity. 30 year-old professional women in the crowd will fawn and start awkwardly dancing to the Flock of Seagulls cover, as if it wasn’t bad enough the first time around. Appropriate response: Sit in the back of the bar and pray for an idiotic fad to die.
The Lap-Pop Band: When Pitchfork Media begins willing genres into existence, the apocalypse is nigh. Coffee-shop dweebs onstage with laptops (Apple, of course). These are the same dorks you see everywhere with their white headphone cords. Sensitive music for tech-heads? More like digitized farting. Appropriate response: For the love of god, fire is the only cure.
The Nu-Metal Band: You’ll probably see this type of group if you happen to go to a local show in Florida, where so many wuss metal acts are inexplicably from. I guess nothing brings out the torture and angst of the human soul like sunshine and Jewish grandmothers. If you see them in a gas station attendant’s shirt, it’s not a fashion statement; they probably just got off of work and didn’t have time to change. If a band wears shorts onstage and reminds you of Nirvana minus melody, memorable songwriting, and stage presence, then you’re likely watching a nu-metal band. Be wary; this is the new generation of butt rock, so fans in the audience are likely to drink heavily and call each other “bro” a lot. Appropriate response: Drink a terrible domestic beer so you’ll fit in. If anyone comes up to you and asks what you think of Puddle of Choade or something, mutter that “they rawk” and avoid making eye contact.
The Ska Band: There are two main types of ska bands. The first is the one comprised of band geeks who like Reel Big Fish and still think No Doubt is cool. They are generally harmless, if a bit painful to watch. The second type is comprised of people who wear puka shell necklaces and have spent far too much time in the basement smoking pot and listening to Sublime albums. The lead singer is usually a jock who thinks Bob Marley is akin to Jesus. Neither of them have ever heard of the Specials. Appropriate response: Take advantage of the opportunity to call people “skanks,” since they’ll think you’re referring to the dance.
The Frat Boy Folk Band: I blame Dave Matthews and his limp-wristed progeny, John Mayer and Jack Johnson. One or two guys will come on stage with acoustic guitars they learned to play three days before to sing songs about having sex and were probably concocted to make some bimbo feel special. They can be spotted by GAP clothes, chord strumming, whiny voices, and terrible lyrics. Appropriate response: Make out with one of their girlfriends in the back while they’re performing.
The Ovulation Rock Band: Chick rock has two strains. The first is the riotgrrl band that likes to scrawl words like “rape” over their shirts with lipstick and scream and engage in the same kind of sexism they rail against. They typical start a band for the same reason most men start up bands: to meet women. Songs are typically about patriarchal oppression and vaginas. The other type of chick rock is differentiated mostly by the presence of bandanas, nose rings, dreadlocks, and acoustic guitars. Songs are about patriarchal oppression and rape. Neither genre will contain anyone with a singing voice that’s anywhere near decent. Appropriate response: Remind them that the dishes in the sink aren’t going to wash themselves.
The Indie Rock Band: They can be spotted by their unimpeachable hair and the sense of playfulness that disguises a lack of talent. They attempt to sound like midperiod Kinks but invariably play like a particularly gruesome trainwreck. They used to be a punk band until they started doing drugs. Their songs are about inane things such as smoking and footwear. They are inevitably crassly fashionable, and they will have something completely inappropriate on stage, like a vacuum cleaner or rotary phone. They will describe themselves as lo-fi, which means they sound like utter shit. The irony emanating from the stage will be palpable and overwhelming. Appropriate response: Tell them latter-day Aerosmith is your favorite band. Watch with glee as their heads explode!
The Emo Band: Sometimes I wonder why people make fun of emo bands when they do such a marvelous job themselves. Some bespectacled dweeb with a complex from a girl he dated for two weeks singing about how he’s a failure at life is some pretty honest songwriting, if you ask me. Nasal vocals combine with high-pitched guitar notes to make a shit stew that goes down as smoothly as broken glass. Typical bands names include, for example, The Mid to Late October and Cupid Missed. People with man-purses stuffed with books they don’t read really like this kind of band. Songs are about girls, girls, and sometimes even girls. There are no girl emo bands because all emo girls are out busy breaking the heart of some aspiring songwriter. Kids in emo bands almost always form indie rock bands upon adulthood, creating the next generation of whiny artists clogging unemployment lines. Appropriate response: Hurl boxes of tissues at the stage and laugh derisively. It’s not like they know how to fight back.
The “We Just Play Rock” Band: The chameleon of your hometown rock scene. They claim no allegiance to any particular genre, yet always seem to change with the times. At heart they are a pop-rock band who makes minor modifications to their sound as fads and trends ebb and flow. There is nothing particularly disgraceful about them, unless you count their lack of faith in any given style. They are likely in their late 20’s/early 30’s and work in an office for a day job and dress one step below GAP models. Typical band names are non-committal so that they cannot be tied to a specific genre (i.e., Square, 33 West, etc.). Appropriate response: Chill out at the bar, hope they have a decent sense of rhythm, and try to figure out which of the screaming fangirls you can take home with you.
Well, I hope this was edifying for you. Feel free to write me at email@example.com to explain to me how your friend’s band “is totally not like what you wrote, bro,” and that I should “totally check them out!” Sure. With a name like Angst Brigade or Orpheus’s Dream, I’m sure they’re worth my time, “bro.”