Column 153 — GGBB; Dinosaur Jr. TONIGHT…

Category: Blog — @ 1:30 pm December 12, 2007

Before I get to this week’s column, here’s a plea to come down to Slowdown tonight for Dinosaur Jr. The band originally was booked to play at The Waiting Room. When I first heard that, I told the promoter that the show would sell out in a matter of minutes — after all, just a few years earlier during their original comeback tour, they were drawing thousands to shows. For whatever reason, the gig was moved to Slowdown, but surprisingly, there are still tickets available for tonight’s show. I’ve heard D. Jr.’s latest, Beyond, and it really is their best release since Green Mind. Reviews of their current tour, however, have been luke warm. This Dallas Morning News review of Sunday night’s show points to a weak draw that appears to have left the band a bit uninspired. Hopefully, tonight’s show will sell out before they hit the stage. It is, after all, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a band that inspired a lot of what you’re hearing in today’s harder indie music. Opening is Amazing Color and Coyote Bones. $20, 9 p.m. Brave the cold.

This week’s column contains themes heard in last week’s review of the OEA block party. Academy ballots must be in the hands of the OEA braintrust by midnight tonight. I sent in my ballot yesterday. Needless to say, I didn’t vote in every category because despite the block party, there were still a number of performers in some categories I knew nothing about. This ignorance won’t stop some members from voting, though, which is yet another factor that puts these kinds of events into question. Despite the OEAs’ efforts to put the decision making into the hands of “music professionals,” these awards are still really just a popularity contest. The winner isn’t necessarily the best band or performer, it’s the one that most people know, have heard before or — as this column points out — are friends with.

Column 153: GGBB
Sometimes the truth hurts more than words…

I first heard the term almost a decade ago at a show at The 49’r. The band (who shall remain nameless) had just finished playing on the Niner’s make-shift “stage” at the far end of the room, while I leaned against the wall by the bar’s only available space — next to the shuffleboard table — and talked with a musician about the set.

We both agreed that the band was, well, okay. Actually, we didn’t like the band at all. But we liked the people in the band, nice guys, all of them.
“Typical GGBB,” said the musician while taking a drag from a cigarette.

GGBB? Huh? “Good guys, bad band,” he said, matter-of-factly. “Haven’t you heard that before?” It was a term that had been around for years. It probably had been around in some form or other since the dawn of rock and roll, maybe all the way back to the swing era. Anyone who had followed even the periphery of a music scene knew bands that, well, sucked, but whose members were all super-nice guys who were really into their music, music that no one wanted to listen to.

GGBB became the unspoken theme to last week’s Omaha Entertainment Awards “Block Party” in Benson, where a selection of the bands nominated in various “best of” categories performed in venues up and down Maple St. It was a hoot.

For that one evening, I imagined what it must be like in Austin in mid-March when the South By Southwest Festival is in full swing, and music fans and co-eds on spring break stroll from one venue to the next along 6th St., trying to catch all the bands on their list, the bands they’d planned to see for weeks leading up to the festival, only to be met by long lines and velvet ropes, forced to crane their necks over the crowds in hopes of hearing a smattering of their favorite songs.

There were no long lines last Wednesday night. You could walk through the vicious cold right into any of the venues, show them your $5 wristband and grab a drink at the bar while the next band got ready for their 20-minute sampler set.

It was at one of those venues (which, again, shall remain nameless), after hearing a particular band that one of the city’s more notorious scenesters walked up, beer in hand, and asked what I thought of the last performance. I was brutally candid. “Well, they sound like Justin Timberlake meets Jamiroquai, but only because they’re trying to sound like Justin Timberlake meets Jamiroquai.”

If there’s one thing that’s unforgivable, it’s bands who purposely ape other bands’ sound. You can be the lousiest musician in the world, you can have a voice like a drunken braying mule, heck, you can even absentmindedly start and stop during a song, but if you try to sound like another band, well, that’s the deal breaker. That’s the one thing I just can’t stand.

“So you don’t like them, huh?” came his reply. “Because the lead guy is one of my best friends. In fact, they’re all great guys.”

Moments later, I saw him up at the stage, shaking hands with everyone in the band and telling them how great they were, even though he had admitted to me that there wasn’t an ounce of originality to their music. You do what you have to do, I suppose. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t pal around with the bands I cover. If I did, I wouldn’t be able to write about their music with a modicum of honesty. No friendship with any artist can survive negative criticism of their work in the cold light of day. They might tell you they appreciate your candor that night when they’re lost in a fog of Rumplemintz. But the next morning, those comments will generate only grating self-doubt and resentment.

The scene was repeated a few more times that evening. The showcase was designed to give the OEA academy (of which I am a member) a chance to hear as many nominated bands as possible. But there was a reason why I’d avoided seeing a lot of those bands before. A good reason.

Over and over again, someone asked what I thought of a particularly lousy band that sounded like whatever shitty alt-FM music is being played on the radio these days. That “someone” always seemed to be best pals with the drummer or the guitarist or the guy playing bass. I would hear how they’d grown up together and how they were the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. But only after I told them their friends’ band sucked.

It was the epitome of GGBB. Of course, those bands’ friends would never admit that to them, or to me. And that was fine. But I had to wonder how the GGBB factor would drive voting for this year’s OEAs. How many people would vote for bands because the members were great guys?

A few days later, while kicking back with a Rolling Rock at The Brothers, a member of that band I’d seen a decade ago at The Niner spotted me in the crowd and said hello. Turns out that he and the rest of the guys were playing a show this weekend. “It’s going to be great,” he said. “Are you coming?”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” I said. “You guys rock. You always did.”

See you tonight at Slowdown.

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