When playing a show in Chicago recently, I stopped to eat at a Greek restaurant on the northwest side of the city and I ordered something pretty standard: the gyro plate, and it was an excellent choice. When it arrived, though, the immediate impression was that it was, more than anything else, a big pile of meat. I thought, what if they had used that as a menu description: “Gyro plate – a big pile of meat – $12.99.”
Greek restaurants of this type—the more authentic ones—don’t feel the need to add descriptions to their menu items. The food speaks for itself and they aren’t compelled to sell it to you, but we’re all familiar with chain restaurants’ fondness for phrases like “drizzled with,” “dredged in,” “nestled in,” etc. They also love adjectives like “creamy,” “juicy,” “generous,” and “cheesy.” Every menu item tells a story, and often an exaggerated one. Honestly I’ve never understood this. Aren’t we already paying customers? Won’t flowery descriptions like this just lead to disappointment?
I once had breakfast at a chain restaurant that referred to their French toast as “a trio of triangles.” Alliteration is fun and all, but I quickly did the math and realized they were just trying to make serving a piece and a half of French toast sound like a good thing.
What I would find a lot more valuable is a simple, honest statement that summarizes what you’re getting: “A smaller than average serving of fried, battered bread,” or “a big pile of meat, served with fries or a salad.”
We’ve discussed some of the Madison Avenue-inspired phrases used in the restaurant and cosmetic industries before here when addressing the issue of band press releases and bios, and how we deal with our own menu of cliche phrases and words: “hard-driving,” “dynamic,” “tight,” etc. Could we benefit from taking the “big pile of meat” approach? Many of us have emerged from the last couple of years with a different outlook on the business and our lives in general. Maybe the time is right for this kind of straightforward simplicity.
Here are a few band descriptions written in our standard style of bluegrass hype, drawn from various artists’ web sites, followed by much simpler and more honest statements about them and their music:
Joey Anderson and Blue Ridgid
With a sound that offers a fresh approach to traditional bluegrass, this quintet of bluegrass veterans offers a dynamic blend of heartfelt, high octane music that leaves audiences from Missouri to parts of Illinois clamoring for more.
Five old guys who play a lot of Country Gentlemen songs.
With rock solid instrumentation and tight harmony vocals, Mysty Creek brings a young cutting edge sound to bluegrass while always showing a deep reverence for the traditions of the music.
Some teenagers who play everything really fast.
Blending heartfelt originals like the hard-driving Don’t Take My Bluegrass Away, and lesser-known classics like Old Home Place and Steel Rails, Lonesome Paraffin will melt your bluegrass heart with their high-energy brand of hard-driving music.
Nice people who have been playing bluegrass for a year and a half.
The Blue Things
The Blue Things have a reverence for traditional bluegrass that radiates from every hard-driving note they play and sing. Their polished, yet edgy musical approach shows their contemporary flair for solid traditional bluegrass.
Four very large guys who sing loud.
This young progressive string band is connecting with an ever-growing fan base thanks to their dynamic, cutting edge brand of bluegrass and roots music. From their unique 25 minute Uncle Pen jam to their acoustic cover of Radiohead’s Creep, Dead Horse is a band on the move.
They’re barefoot and they have a banjo player.
We may have finally solved the long-standing problem of tired bluegrass adjectives and overused promotional phrases. Welcome to our new blunter but simpler world.