The Rock And Roll Field Guide (A Study In Species)

NOTE: This blog was originally posted at BretAlexanderMusic.com

The Real GigWhen navigating the long and winding road to rock and roll success, you will encounter many, varied species. Some friendly, some not. I always thought it would be helpful to have a field guide, a survival guide if you will, to assist the weary rocker on his own personal highway to hell.

So, in this week’s entry, I decided to write about a few of the most common species I have encountered out there. Like bird watching, a lifetime of rocking takes patience and stealth. And the more information you have going in, the more pleasant your journey will be.

So, here are the players:

The Mockinghole
Mockingholes are curious creatures most commonly seen hanging out at a club while the band is setting up. Yes, the mockinghole shows up at the club early.
By the time the band arrives, he is already quite shitfaced. He gets his name from his annoying habit of mocking the band while they try to sound check. His most common call sounds like “chick one tooo!! chick one tooo!!”. The mockinghole fancies himself to be quite clever and amusing. An opinion that is not shared by the world’s musicians.

The mockinghole is, I assume, a protected species. If he were not, musicians would have murdered them into extinction by now.

The Great White Scowler
Also known as ‘80s metal guy. First discovered by Professor Floyd Rose in the early ‘80s, Scowlers are typically solitary creatures. Head plumage is usually in the form of a “new millennium” mullet or simple long bushy hair with lots of split ends. Other identifying markings include Chuck Taylors, ripped jeans, and a black concert T shirt with the sleeves cut off and a “V” cut in the neck. The T shirt will typically depict Motley Crue, but on rare occasions Marilyn Manson may be seen if the Scowler is trying to be down with the kids.

A Scowler is typically seen early in the evening near the lip of the stage. Arms crossed and scowling, he paces back and forth as he checks out your gear. Shaking his head in disapproval, he scans your lame taste in amps and guitars. Later he retires to his perch just to the left of the soundboard. Here the Scowler will remain for as long as he can stand to listen to you. Which may not be long. He scowls at you while thinking of how his band would blow you off the stage if they were there. Ironically, his band has the night off.

Much like the opossum, The Great White Scowler is mostly deaf and blind. He is deaf from too many years of standing in front of unnecessarily large Marshall amplifiers. There is no proof he is blind, but in 2013 that is the only plausible explanation for that hairstyle.

The 2am Crier
Much like the Mockinghole, The 2am Crier is a protected species. No doubt we musicians would have hunted down every last one of them and made a bunch of Crier sandwiches if that were not the case.

The 2am Crier is the dude that sits with his back to you the whole night. He puts “Crazy Bitch” on the jukebox in the middle of your set. Basically, he ignores you.
But as you play your last tune and prepare to pack up, The 2am Crier comes to life. You are tired and want to go home, but The Crier won’t have it. He points wildly at the clock and let’s everyone know that there are 3 minutes and 15 seconds left until the bar closes. Time for ONE MORE SONG. If you refuse The Crier, he will spare no expense in making you appear pompous and uncaring to the people who have ignored you all night.

The Female Closet Warbler
Closet Warblers are usually very shy creatures. But give them a couple wine coolers…. and look out.

The Closet Warbler is the girl at the club who, for some reason, believes she can sing. Even stranger yet, her friends encourage her to overcome her shyness and “get up on that damn stage.” A Female Closet Warbler’s song sounds vaguely like “Me and Bobby McGee” or “What’s Going On?” by 4 Non Blondes…..But sang about a half step sharp from the rest of the band and with great passion.

The Moneygrub
The Moneygrub is your basic North American club owner/promoter. The main thing to be aware of with the Moneygrub is the curious language he speaks.

Here are a few key phrases you will hear along with the Moneygrub to plain English translations:

Moneygrub: “You guys are awesome. I want to have you back.” Translation: “I’m not paying you.”

Moneygrub: “The place is dead. Why don’t you fellows knock off early?” Translation: “I’m not paying you.”

Moneygrub: “Help yourself to the menu and the beer.” Translation: “I’m running a tab.”

Moneygrub: “I’ll give you guys 100% of the door.” Translation: “I’ll give you 100% of the door minus the 30% service fee I charge to carry the dough from the door to you.” (**note: Moneygrubs can’t count for shit)

Moneygrub: “I need you guys to work with me here.” Translation: “ I’m not paying you.”

The Moneygrub will usually refer to you as “big guy”, “dude”, or in rarer cases “brah”. This is to cover up the fact that, although your band has made him tens of thousands of dollars over time, he still doesn’t know your name.

The Fat Bellied Requestor
As his name implies, The Fat Bellied Requestor likes to shout requests. Usually in your ear in the middle of a song while you are singing.

Its call sounds very much like “play something we knooooow” followed by a series of short song titles.

The first thing you must determine is whether The Requestor is mature or a juvenile. If he is a mature Requestor (say, over 35), you should play: 1. “Folsom Prison Blues” 2. “Sweet Home Alabama”, or 3. “Brown Eyed Girl”. For the juvenile play: 1. “Wonderwall” or 2. “Santeria” by Sublime. “Jessie’s Girl” works for both juvenile and mature Requestors.

The Fat Bellied Requestor is a bit slow and his musical vocabulary is extremely limited. I would not recommend straying from this list. In rare cases a Requestor may turn to violence if you refuse to play his jam. Especially if you play one of your own songs instead.

The Watermelon People
The Watermelon People are a fairly common tribe seen in the clubs of North America. When seen, they are almost always in pairs. Usually two males. They situate themselves directly in front of the lead singer, where they will stay for the whole evening.

The identifying thing about The Watermelon People is their curious dance ritual. They will stand in front of the lead singer with their chins jutting into the air. They point and fist pump wildly while mouthing the words to every song. This is exciting until you realize that the song you just played was written last night. So, there ain’t no way in hell they know the words to that tune. Upon closer inspection you realize that they are just saying “watermelon, watermelon, watermelon” over and over again.

Hence, the name.

Knuckledraggers
I will admit to having a fondness for Knuckledraggers. They get their name from the wild, chimpanzee like dance they do when exposed to Nu Metal. In the early 2000’s, it would be extremely common to see 10,000 + Knuckledraggers rolling in the mud, smashing into each other, and generally having the time of their lives.

Herd numbers have dwindled in recent years largely due to Oxycontin use, rising child support payments, and the lameification of their favorite bands. But Knuckledraggers are a highly communal species and many still remain.

Despite their gruff appearance, Knuckledraggers are extremely amicable creatures. Much like the American Billy Goat, if you can deal with the cloved hooves, the ring in their noses, and the occasional head butt, they make excellent pets.

The Tipsy Hippy
Last but not least….No rock and roll field guide would be complete without mentioning The Tipsy Hippy. The Hippidipitus Lottacannibus is ever present on the road. Like the Knuckledragger, Tipsy Hippies are communal animals. But they will break out on their own depending on how wasted they are.

The first thing you notice about a Tipsy Hippy is its quirky mating dance. I would describe it as a cross between the dance of one of the Peanuts characters and that of a f***ed up mime.

The second thing you will notice is the pungent odor which is equal parts BO, Patchouli, and weed.

In nature, there is a species of bird called a Killdeer. A Killdeer is known for its practice of dragging its wing on the ground, feigning injury, to lure predators away from its nest and eggs. Like the Killdeer, The Tipsy Hippy will dress like a peasant to distract you from the bangin’ trust fund she has at home…. AND her mom’s Visa Gold Card and iPhone that she keeps in her homemade hemp bag.

When assessing a Tipsy Hippy, I use the following formula: Appearance=1/$. In other words, the amount of cash the Hippy holds is inversely proportional to the quality of his or her appearance. So if you see a Tipsy Hippie outside a show looking homeless and holding up a sign that says something about needing a miracle, don’t fret. He will be just fine.

On occasion, you may want to entertain The Tipsy Hippy at a show. It can be very entertaining for you. If so, I would recommend playing:
1.Anything by The Grateful Dead or Phish. 2. Anything by any band that has a member who was once in The Grateful Dead or Phish. 3. Anything by The Beatles, The Band, Bob Dylan, or Merle Haggard. Provided, of course, that whatever song you choose was once covered by The Grateful Dead or Phish.

So there you have it, folks. I sincerely hope this helps you on your journey. Safe travels my friends. And remember, it’s a jungle out there.

Until next time….

Bret Alexander is the owner of Saturation Acres Recording Studio as well as the guitarist and chief songwriter for The Badlees. His “Real Gig” blog runs each Friday.

The Real Gig: A Musician’s Guide to the Universe by Bret Alexander. April 12, 2013.