Have you ever wanted to throw the hippest alternative music social gathering a mid-sized city with a distinct apathy towards free music has to offer on a Monday evening? Of course you do! If you’ve got 57 friends in bands and a dedication to rock n’ roll so strong you’re willing to rock n’ roll until approximately 1:35 a.m. on a weeknight, you’re already halfway there. Well, maybe not halfway. Let’s call it a quarter. Maybe an eighth (pun intended, jerkbags).
There’s just one problem. You have no idea what the hell you’re doing. Fret not, free show fan, we’ve got two 8 Off 8ths under our belt, which basically means we’re experts. By now, we’ve figured out the things that go terribly wrong (Hint: It’s balloons!) and things that go kind-of sort-of well (Hint: It’s food!). By following our easy 12-step plan, you’ll be swaying to three song sets before you can say “oh god, what a disaster.”
Step 1: Build Clout
You think you’re just going to waltz into Mercy Lounge and get yourself an 8 Off 8th slot? Actually, that might work. We lack confidence and worked our way up from the bottom by losing at trivia every week for 4 months. If you’ve got a cool blog (or an uncool blog, whatever!) and an inkling of a theme (we suggest Hall & Oates covers if you really want to grease those wheels with Drew), you’ve got no problem. Fire off that message to Mercy Lounge and prepare to schedule the most important Monday in your life.
Step 2: Put Together a List of Bands
You’ve got your slot, now you’ve got to fill it. There’s no turning back now. Get out a piece of paper and write down the 8 bands you want for the greatest 8 Off 8th ever to grace the Southeast. Shoot for the stars, there’s no holding back! Who wouldn’t want to play a 15 minute slot at a free show on a Monday night?
Step 3: Throw That List Away
…Basically everybody, that’s who. Did you really think you could woo Matt Mahaffey out of hiding in the Boro to play covers of 80s new wave one-hit wonders? We applaud your enthusiasm, but you’ll probably have more luck with people that are at least your Facebook friends. If all else fails, Brandon Jazz has plenty of suggestions for you, and only a couple of them are “Armed Forces.”
Step 4: Figure Out A Hook
This is Nashville, where you can’t throw a rock without cracking open a singer-songwriter’s skull while they’re playing at a free open mic. You’ve got to give people something more than the promise of free music and slightly cheaper bottles of Yeungling. Is your blog celebrating a birthday? Buy a birthday cake! Is it on or near Dia de los Muertos, Cinco de Mayo or Dia de los Santos Innocentes? Buy a pinata and fill it with candy/condoms/silly bandz (respective to each holiday)! Make your bands play inappropriate cover songs! Force everybody to wear silly hats! Give stuff away! Glitz it the hell up. A photobooth can’t hurt either. If we know photographers, most of them will work in exchange for beer.
Step 5: Promotion (a.k.a. Get Thee to a Facebookery)
So, you’ve got your bands, you’ve got your theme. Now it’s on you to promote it. Sure, you might be able to get Brandon Jazz to make an event on Mercy’s Facebook page, but it might also be in the middle of Next Big Nashville and he might forget entirely. Not that we know from experience or anything (we still love you B. Jazzy). Make a crappy flyer! It doesn’t really matter what’s on it, just as long as it perfectly encapsulates your line-up, theme and intent. So… no pressure. Make yourself a Facebook event, invite all your friends (including the ones studying abroad in France, they’ll want to know about this) and wait for the “Yes” RSVPs to roll in.
Step 6: Prep Work
Your show is steadily heading your way. This means that at least 3 of your booked bands have dropped out, but you’ve rolled with it and everything is still cool. Our style is to roll up to Party City and spend a couple bucks on party hats and stupid crap of that nature. We also like to buy cake, because everybody loves cake. If you have people in the audience who don’t like cake, alert the authorities. They may be terrorists. A serious note, you should print out your line-up and set times. Make a couple copies and put them backstage so everybody knows when they play.
Step 7: Wait for People to Show Up
We like to get there in time to play trivia and stare at the entrance. And wait… and wait… and wait…
Step 8: Freak Out When Nobody Does
Turns out, those assholes in the “Maybe” category aren’t even “Maybes” after all. They are, in fact, “Not Attending,” which not only makes this whole thing feel completely hopeless, but proves your so-called friends to be a bunch of Facebook misleaders. Here’s a mantra for the future: “Maybe means no.” Repeat it with us now, “maybe means no.”
But, don’t worry. You still can send out a mass text to your entire address book. You can claim that the party is hoppin’. Some of them may even fall for it. Boy, they’ll sure be disappointed when they arrive to a giant empty room and a themed Diarrhea Planet serenade. Unless they all arrive at once, then it’ll be like a sweet ’80s college movie.
Step 9: Drink
Step 10: Drink
Step 11: Drink
Step 12: Realize That It’s Not So Bad
Well, you’re drunk and you’ve probably just been literally talked off the ledge of the smoking balcony by your co-host. By now, though, you’ve been struck with an epiphany–there may only be 15 people there who aren’t band members or bartenders, but they’re all having a great time. It’s nearly 1 a.m. and they’re all still there! Congratulations, that’s a success in our books. Now sober up, you’re going to have to clean up all of the balloons you foolishly inflated in hopes of creating ambiance.
// Photo by Lance Conzett.