Band Pro Tip #3: Don't Play Shows Where You Might Get Stabbed

Several years back, well before my 21st birthday, the band would take just about any show, anywhere. When you come from a relatively small town, playing in LA or SF was a badge of honor, no matter where within those cities we actually were playing. Turns out that the specific location does matter. And while San Francisco is very relaxed in most ways, it is not when it comes to liquor licenses. Couple this with the fact that I looked like I was 12 until I was 18, and I was basically the plague for any 21+ venues.

Some of these venues were kind enough to let me in and bring my drums inside, while others took one look at my baby face and said “Looks like you guys are gonna have to play acoustic.” I had made it a habit to sneak in with the other band members, obscuring my entire body with a kick drum and then hiding in the green room or as far from the bar as possible.

Spencer, age 17

Spencer, age 17

At one such show in the Tenderloin of San Francisco, I was forced to stay outside while Clark and Devin set up gear inside. I was terrified, and with good reason. Within 30 minutes of sitting in the car, two men came up and leaned against the van. I was reading, so I didn’t see them come up; I just felt the car move. Thankfully, they couldn’t see me through the tinted windows and they assumed no one was inside. I’m 99% sure illegal contraband was exchanged before they walked away. I don’t know if they looked inside because I was literally lying down under the window closest to them face down.

What went down, reenactment 2018

What went down, reenactment 2018

We made it out alive and managed to leave with all our gear intact and in our possession. One of the other bands wasn’t so lucky and their van broken into.

Pro Band Tip: Don’t Play Shows Where You Might Get Stabbed AKA don't leave your kid brother alone in a van in the middle of the worst part of San Francisco

Band Pro Tip #2: Get A Room

We’ve all been there. You’re on the road and you want nothing more than to find a place to sleep—but you also want to save a few bucks.

You could sleep on the beach. No one owns the beach, right? You should be allowed to sleep on the damn beach. But then you have to deal with the rising tide and broken glass bottles and the beach patrol (this is a real thing) possibly running you over in your sleep at 4am.

You could sleep in the parking lot outside a camping ground. Problem: the power-tripping park ranger shining the world’s brightest flashlight and knocking on your car window with a sinister “Good morning sunshine!”


Back to the drawing board.

Here’s what we did on tour a few years back: we found a foreclosed home and parked in front of it. The car could just barely fit three uncomfortable sleepers, so I elected to sleep on the sidewalk out front, bundled up in a fleece-lined sleeping bag. The house didn’t belong to anyone (well, technically the bank owned it). But the bank didn’t own the sidewalk. Surely this was my ticket to a good night’s sleep.


I forgot one thing. Automatic sprinklers that come on in the middle of the night and soak you to the bone in 30 degree weather.


Trust me, you don’t want to slink into McDonald’s with frozen hair at 5am. Not even an Egg McMuffin can heal those wounds.

Band Pro Tip: A Good Night’s Sleep is Worth the Money a.k.a. Get a Room

Band Pro Tip #1: Don't Invite Andy Grammer to Your Show If You Know It's Gonna Suck

Once upon a time, Stop Motion Poetry won a contest to play a slot at South By Southwest (SXSW), the famed music festival where almost everyone of note in the music industry converges on Austin, TX.

We found out we won a little late in the game, so planning a tour wasn’t exactly an option. We tried and ended up with a couple shows in LA and then a long, long, LONG drive to Austin. Why did we drive? Mostly because we were broke. So we piled in my mom’s minivan and bit the bullet.

Another by-product of late notice meant we weren’t all available, and Devin had to stay home. We found a fill-in bassist, who then bailed. Next up was our friend Rob, who reluctantly accepted. Rob’s a violinist, a talented one, but the poor bastard doesn’t play bass.

The day before our show, we had a meeting our producer set up with some music industry people that “it would be good for us to meet”: a manager, a producer, an attorney, and an (as yet unsigned) Andy Grammer. We shot the shit, enjoyed a few drinks, and Andy and his manager said they’d be at our show.

We had the opening slot at this show which meant we were performing for the other bands, a few friends, and Andy and his manager. We weren’t good. We were OK at best. Andy and his manager bounced while we were still tearing down our gear.

We should have adjusted our show to fit what the lineup could support. Having Rob play violin and the rest of us play a stripped down show would have gone way better.

Band Pro Tip: Play to Your Strengths i.e. Don’t invite Andy Grammer to your show if you know it’s gonna suck.