We recently played a show opening for John Kadlecik. He’s a guitarist we like, that plays songs we like. He’s played on some large stages, he’s played with cool people, but tonight he was playing with us at a local dive bar. To us, it seemed like a cool way to spend an evening. We get to play our unorthodox version of the songs all mashed together, and then see someone we respect as a master of the craft. My first real life show, leading a band, was also opening for JK 3 years earlier, so it was a bit of a personal anniversary.
Our set seemed to go pretty well. We tried out Estimated Prophet for the first time on stage, and it was a little rough, but it’s a hard song and it felt good to push our boundaries. The rest of our set was pretty smooth for a band with no setlist, that plays all the songs at once, and we all had a ton of fun. After the show some strangers said kind things to us and our fans and families said they had fun too. I stayed and watched the JK set and enjoyed it. After the show we got paid out 75$, which is not great pay, but the money wasn’t why we were there, so who cares, it’s not our livelihood to play shows. Playing shows is something we do because we love it, it’s fun, and it spreads songs we love.
The next day we woke up to an internet kerfuffle about how the venue was awful, and it ripped off JK’s band. The venue thought we were responsible for the bad press and called us directly. It turned out that it was JK and Jay Lane that were complaining and getting their fans to complain. It makes sense because the bar is notorious for under paying artists and had seriously underpaid them. I counted 70 people in the venue, so if even 50 bought 17$ tickets, they should have made 700-800$ minimum and they were paid 300$. We never play this venue, because of this, with exceptions for when someone we like is playing and we have a chance to open.
Then inexplicably JK’s post turned to how bad our band is. It went so far as to say we shouldn’t be allowed near a PA and that we were hired to scare away “his” fans. He attacked us personally under the guise of constructive criticism, but what’s constructive about “you suck and should practice more”. I practice almost every minute I can, but I still have to work, and spend time with my girlfriend and my son. Then there were 100’s of people commenting on us from both directions, having never seen us or heard us except maybe for a 2 year old video from our second show. Some folks loved us as the underdogs, some hated us because JK had, some agreed we are terrible and it was righteous move to tell us so, but most just told JK that he’s being unnecessarily unkind. Our fans, who did attend the show (15-20 folks) were shocked and angry, they had just paid 17$ so they could have JK tell them our band is awful. Our friends who own other venues and hire us regularly, called us and talked about booking us again soon, and probably never hiring JK if the opportunity arose.
At first I was a little heart broken. A minor hero of mine had just mocked us loudly in public. Every time someone has told me I am terrible it hurt, but eventually you have to realize, that I am not doing it for them, and they hardly matter. If I let other people’s opinion dictate my life, I would never be living authentically or playing my truest music. I play music the way I do, because it makes me happy and I love to do it. I play music because my friends and I have a good time together and it feels so good to play. I play because our fans keep coming to our shows and dancing and having fun. I play music because I want my son to see that it’s something he can do, in a way I was never exposed to. I play music because it’s my way of life, and I haven’t found a better way to be! I play music almost every chance I have because it’s who I am. I play all day and when the show is over, you’ll usually find me sitting somewhere playing more music.
I also had to take stock, because we suddenly had way more attention than we were ever likely to get otherwise. In the end, he was losing fans and we were gaining them. I’m not even on social media so logging in and seeing so many people talk about our small town, local band was exciting, even if most of them thought we were terrible. I think we are going to make TShirts that say
Shouldn’t be allowed near a PA – JK
It’s funny because a constant comment was that we would never make it if we didn’t improve. People were projecting their desires or plans on us. We have made it already. By our own standards we are successful. We get to play our music, our way, in a variety of settings, with folks we love. More practice is fun and always happening. More success is nice and if the path leads there we will take it, but our goal is not to make a living playing Grateful Dead covers. Our goal is to live, and play music we love, everywhere we go, even if there is no money involved (getting paid is nice :). It seems like it would be a hard life to travel constantly, with poor accommodations and poor pay to do what we get to do with greater ease and more personal reward right here. We aren’t ashamed of having not played 4000 shows yet, we are just getting started, and we will probably never play 200 shows a year for 20 years as Headstash, it doesn’t seem necessary.
Some folks play for silver, Headstash plays for life and for love!
I wish JK all the best, but I wouldn’t ever go out of my way to see him again. There’s too much good music made by people who are grateful for the adventure to waste time and money bothering. I’d rather stay home and practice 😋
Here’s my response from the deleted thread.