Rocker’s Lament

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Thank you so much for giving cover bands some time in the Metro Pulse. [“Jukebox Heroes,” Jan. 27, 2011] Being a veteran of the “cover-band wars” for many years, it is great to see some credit given for what can be a thankless job. Back when I started playing (before cell phones!), going to see a local band play at, say, AmVets in Oak Ridge was a much different deal than it is now. In that era, most of a band’s notoriety was built by word of mouth. It was basically like going to see a concert, with the band being the main focus. Yeah, there might be a pool table, or a dartboard (with real darts!), but the band was the main reason most folks were there. And yep, it could be LOUD! That’s what a rock band is supposed to be isn’t it?

Flash forward to today. We live in an age of mass media, where nothing is a secret, and it’s just too easy to find out any info about virtually anything. ADD seems to be rampant, with attention spans being immeasurably short. Throw in the “Karaoke Age” as I like to call it, where everyone thinks they are a singer, and it’s an entirely different ball game trying to play gigs, especially in all the sports bars that insist on having a live band. I played for 12 years in a private-function group, which most people around here never heard of. We made excellent money, usually ate some great food, and had a blast playing for the people at said event (weddings, conventions, etc.). That band played everything from Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis to Back Street Boys and Santana.

I also played in a classic-rock band for 10 years, up until the middle of 2009. We played sports bars, “regular” bars, and a lot of bike night events. Many many times we were told to turn down. We used a Plexiglas shield in front of the drums, turned guitar amps sideways or backwards, and I personally played with my Marshall on “1” lots of times, at the point where sound was just coming out of the speakers. It’s a strange feeling indeed to be playing a song such as “Beerdrinkers & Hellraisers” while watching people talking on their phones, texting, etc. while you’re punching out a song that you’ve spent hours perfecting the groove on. The exception is the outdoor bike-night events—those crowds are definitely more into the music, and you can rock them like a rock band should.

My hat is off to all the bands that continue to fight the good fight!

Mark Ray


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