Pabst Blue Ribbon sign

In the increasingly rare moments that I spend on Facebook, I have been seeing a bunch of articles about what bartenders think of you based on your drink order. These are all purportedly written by real bartenders, most of whom seem to have a healthy talent for plagiarism (which I support). Some of these are actually pretty good – the “Patron Margarita: I wish to spend $12 on a drink that will taste exactly the same as its $8 counterpart” appears in most of them.
  But it does get me thinking about the rampant on-stage boozing engaged in by many local bands, an activity in which I have at times enthusiastically engaged. Whether subsidized – in whole or in part – by live music venues or paid for in precious band cash, it’s a fact of life. A local act playing a local bar has an absolute right to shamelessly indulge in the drink of their choice, and if you don’t like it the Palace Theatre is right down the street.

  To be clear, this is local only – you’ll never see a touring act with Miller Lite bottles clustered around the base of their microphones. Beats me why, except that it is obviously and wantonly unprofessional.  Maybe there is some secret book of etiquette which arrives in the mail once you reach 500 song sales on iTunes, I don't know. But for our purposes Dick’s Den ain’t the ballet house, and we ain’t the Nutcracker. After all, once you figure in guitar strings we’re not even approaching minimum wage up here.

  Oh yeah, it can go way too far. Spills, falls caused by spills, intra-band beer theft, and hurt feelings when someone gets a drink for everyone but you. Horrible shrieks when a Yuengling draft splashes a lovingly hand-soldered chorus pedal. Singers going all profane tirade Grace Slick on you. Poorly chosen cover songs. Acting like it’s a good idea when random strangers come up on stage to sing. People just too drunk to play. And of course the threat of vomit.

  So with the caveat that frequently we are offered certain drinks for free or at a heavily discounted rate, which heavily influences preference, here’s what a musician’s drink choice means:

  Free domestic draft. I am part of a bargain conscious band, wear rubber soled shoes and always take five minutes to ensure that I have no valuable equipment at floor level.

  Paid domestic drafts. I thought I wasn’t on for another 10 minutes.

  Domestic bottles. Hey, if I don’t get around to finishing this I’ll take it with me and drink it during the set break.

  Nothing. We’re gonna make it, so we can’t look like riff-raff. Also, we need to stay sober so we can post gushing thank-you’s on Facebook within three minutes of the end of our set. “Big shout out to the  Shrunken Head in Columbus, you were amazing tonight!”

  PBR tallboys. These were on sale.

  Bottled water. I take my craft seriously.

  Water in a glass. There was a communication breakdown somewhere.

  Jameson on the rocks. I’m a confident singer, and I don’t spend much time worrying about the feelings of my band mates who can’t elegantly hold a drink mid song.

  One case of Natural Light cans. It is 1995, we are playing at Not-Al’s Rockers and we are almost certainly underage.

  Beer on an amplifier. I don’t believe in laws, chief among them gravity.

  Beer next to amplifier. I am comfortable with myself and believe strongly in both honesty and moderation.

  Beer hidden behind an amplifier. I have aspirations beyond this band and/or am ashamed of my vices.

  Beer on the front of the stage. I am certain that the drummer stole my beer during the last set, and am determined not to let it happen again.

  Shots on an amplifier. The band will be without my services for at least a portion of the third set.

  Shots on a tray at the front of the stage. We have at least one audience member who loves us, which is a good thing, but we are somewhat apprehensive about what they are shots of. Because we are now honor-bound to drink them, even if they are Everclear.

  IPA in a glass. I like beer.

  IPA in a bottle. I like Phish. Would you like to hear a Phish song? I know all of them.

  Gin and tonic. I am either a keyboardist or terrible confused.

  Jägermeister. I hope you look forward to our Skynyrd medley, because we certainly do.

  Jack and Coke. My mother is in the audience.

  Red Bull. My fans expect a certain level of energy.

  Bourbon on the rocks. I arrived here with six harmonicas, and will leave with either five or seven.

  Bourbon neat. This isn’t a shot! Stop calling it a shot!

  White wine. I’m a jazz singer who isn’t on for 20 minutes.

  Red wine. This has actually never happened.

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