Most people who go to rock shows and manage to make their way backstage have no idea of the protocol that exists when being ushered into a band's inner sanctum. Most assume that it's a riotous Dionysian meltdown. Maybe it is for bands who only tour on the weekends, but once past the novice stage of road life, most bands, regardless of genre, use the time after the show to reflect, drink in and enjoy the short silence before the merry round of well-wishers make their way backstage.
Some people are nice and only want to wish the band a congratulatory salutation, get an autograph or a pic and be on their way. But there are others, usually people who know nothing of the band, that end up disrupting what can usually be a good hang. Sometimes a good rowdy time gets had by all present, but that's determined by who shows up, what city they're in, how well the show went down, and the mood of the band and crew. You can try to force a party but it'll usually get stale and awkward very fast.
The first move you as tepid host are expected to make is offer all who arrive backstage a beer. The band wanted this post-show time to simmer down and take a shower, but no such luck. You played your balls off and now you must begin hosting a party. By the time it's in full swing, you know 35 per cent of the people present and, being far from home, end up watching your belongings rather than having a good time.
During one of these nights on a recent tour, we ran out of beer on the rider quicker than expected. It caused much disappointment for all guests present and everything quickly came to a standstill while I unmindfully played air drums near the stereo. This prompted me to turn to our tour manager and ask:
"If beer was eliminated from Rock 'n' Roll, how many people would still be left?"
I must state that I don't drink. I'll have a glass of wine with dinner every once in a while but it'll be a few sips to participate in a toast and then a few sips to enjoy the main course, but that's it. I've always been very sober during every hang-out, after-party or debauched mess for all these years. I'm usually the one who has to walk over these people at the end of the night, too. Listening to drunk people yap on about absolute nonsense for hours on end should've earned me a medal by now.
I'm well aware that alcohol aids in lowering inhibitions, makes people more gregarious, adds to the celebratory nature of Rock 'n' Roll and keeps the clubs that house the music in business. I also understand that over the years people have been brought up to accept alcohol as a requirement intrinsic to the Rock 'n' Roll experience. With all the importance placed on these drinks and the grave disappointment in people's eyes when it's absent, it always manages to turn the one thing that brought everyone together to begin with, namely the Rock music, into a third place consolation prize (after the sex and drugs).
Maybe I'm an oddity, but I've never needed any help to appreciate Rock. I love listening to Rock music stone cold sober. It makes me wonder -- all the people who do need the alcohol with their Rock music, do they secretly hate it when they're sober? Do they merely tolerate it in order to partake in the social aspect that comes with the Rock 'n' Roll experience, secretly agreeing with all the authority figures who called it "noise"? Does the alcohol become some audio equivalent to what is known as "beer goggles"? Is Rock music mostly regarded as some background music to a drinking session, like some youth-tinged version of elevator music? Am I the only one who likes it for real?
The look on people's faces every time I tell them I play in a Rock 'n' Roll band for a living but don't drink confirms all these queries. It's a look that says it's impossible to listen to Rock without being impaired.
So I've finally figured out everyone's dirty little secret. Much like their secret stash of porn, most people, even the people who attend Rock festivities, privately hate Rock music. Fair enough.
The dwindling popularity of Rock music confirms this badly kept secret as rap, country and folk music take over the pop culture landscape. Watching Rock music sputter and flail can be hard, but I'm fine with this. For a while, Rock had become the round hole it originally railed against. It's comforting to know it's finally settling into its rightful spot as square peg.