Dude, Be Cool: Here’s How NOT to Ask to be Guest Listed

Honus Honus of Man Man doesn’t have an infinite number of plus ones, so don’t bother asking.

Sometimes — in the still of the night, as I lie sleepless in my bed staring at the tiniest of cracks in the ceiling and listening to the distant howls of coyotes eating a neighborhood Chihuahua — I wonder what I must have done in a former life to deserve such a cruel fate.

Greetings! Uncle Honus here to share some observations you never knew you never wanted observed and even after muscling through you will still disagree with entirely. Today’s delightful topic: Guest Listicles, Don’t Kick ’Em Too Hard!

Lucky you. Your best friend’s cousin’s sister’s boyfriend’s therapist’s nephew’s neighbor is in a band and they’re playing a show that you wanna go to and guess what? You don’t wanna pay for tickets. You make those phone calls, send those emails, text those texts. Voila! You’re on the guest list! You don’t have to pay for a ticket now! You are officially a human being of moderate rock privilege.

Here’s a list, in no particular order, of guest list “no no’s” that I’ve encountered during my more than twelve dog years in the indie rock “biz.” If I’ve left anything out, (fellow music players) let me know:

Disclaimer: For the purpose of this discussion, I’ll be writing about bands that play venues maxing out at a couple of thousand attendees and taper off at rooms of fifty capacity. Since I have no experience headlining arenas, coliseums or the Kremlin, I hope Sir Mick or Keef can chip in with some further insight in the comments section below.

DON’T…get pissy if you can’t have a plus one.

Bands typically and “officially” only get so many guest-list spots per night. For headliners — from my experience — that number can range from ten to forty, depending on the size on the room. A lot of venues can be pretty stingy about the number of guests you can accommodate, and oftentimes it breaks down to about one to two guests per band member — give or take a few. For opening bands, it’s usually one list spot per performing member on stage.

If a headliner sells out a show and the house is satisfied with its end of the take, it tends to let extra list names slide. I’ve been lucky enough to work with cool promoters/venues over the years that don’t bust our balls about being a few names over. In theory, bands can have as many guests as they want on their lists, it will just come out of their settlement at the end of the night and they won’t make any money at all to get to the next city. Excessive overages of comp tickets are paid for by the band, and that really, really, REALLY fucking sucks. Keep that in mind when your band friend tells you that there isn’t any room on the list. It’s true!

So, with all that fun stuff laid out, let’s talk about the mysterious PLUS ONE. This is a concept/mathematical equation that tends to get lost on both the recipients of the golden ticket AND, surprisingly, members of the band. Plus ones count against the number of guest list spots allotted for the night. Surprise, surprise! Just because there isn’t a specific name associated with it doesn’t mean it isn’t a person, man. I’ve had a lot of bandmates over the years come up to our various tour managers whining, “But I’ve only got three names on the list. Can’t I get one more?” Three names all with plus ones is six tickets, homie! When you only get fifteen list spots, that’s almost half the list.

Also, plus ones are typical but not a given. Bands hand them out because they want you to bring a friend, girlfriend, date, sibling, whomever — especially if it will incentivize you to get off your couch and out of the house. The plus one also provides you with someone to talk to and enjoy the performance with, since the band members will be fairly busy getting into their pre-show zones, performing and packing up gear afterwards.

BUT…if for some reason your band buddy can’t give you a plus one, don’t be a brat about it. There has been many an occasion when I just can’t swing a plus one because I have one billion bandmates with their own guests/family/etc. — or our label or PR or whatever needs spots — and I have to tell my friends that I’ll give ’em a couple of drinks if they’ll just split the ticket price with their extra person. Even when I’ve been on the flip side of the scenario and been lucky enough to be on a guest list, I’ve offered to give up my plus one if it helps relieve some of the stress of putting together a guest list. Such a simple thing, compiling names. You’d never think it’d be such a headache letting people come to your shows for free.

Lastly, here’s the coolest move you can make as a member of the vaunted guest list: If you don’t need an extra ticket, if your extra-ticket person can’t make it or if you can’t motivate your lazy sloth body out of bed, let the band know in advance. Even if it’s only a few hours before doors, it will be much appreciated. There’s always gonna be some wily bandmate who really needs to add that Facebook acquaintance to the list so that they can try to make the magic flirtation awkwardly happen in the twenty minutes between post-show and sweaty gear load-out. Please don’t deprive me of the enjoyment of watching that shitshow by flaking out.

DON’T…expect a press list.

This ain’t Almost Famous. There’s a common misconception among “journalists” or bloggers that there is some magical press list that is separate from the band’s list or the house list. You’ve watched too many movies. There isn’t. Your dire request for a list spot requires bands to give up room (for friends) on their lists, so when you require a plus one for your “co-writer/photographer” or whatever, don’t be upset when that can’t be accommodated. Unfortunately, more often than not, the “journalist” who needed a plus one doesn’t even show up to the show and wastes two valuable guest list spots that could’ve gone to someone we know and love. FYI, bands can and do request the guest list at the end of the night to see who did and didn’t come, so don’t lie about being there. It makes bands less likely to accommodate next time. And if you can’t make it for whatever circumstance, let the band know in advance.

DON’T…ask at the last minute to be on the list.

I love all my friends, dearly, but if you hit me up on the day of the show for a guest list spot, chances are I won’t be able to accommodate you. It’s nothing personal. I still love you. Don’t be offended. Everyone else in the band has friends and family and potential Facebook/Tinder hookups. And if I can’t, for some reason, put you on the list and you don’t come because of that, are you really my friend, anyway? Or, as my bandmate Cully likes to say, “If the only time I ever hear from you is when I’m playing your town and I’m not the one who reached out to you, are you my friend?”

Also, here’s a pro tip (yes, I felt douchey just writing that): if you see that your friends are playing, for example, an L.A. show and a show in a smaller town (Bakersfield or somewhere), see if you can go to the smaller show. The list will probably be more open, and you’ll actually get to hang out with your friend in the band. Plus, you’ve proven your love by driving a little out of your way. It’s the little things that count.

DON’T…bring Randys backstage if you have an AA.

…unless they’re Randy Liedtke. In that case, you have a forever all-access pass to my heart. What do I mean by this “AA pass,” you might ask? Well, all-access is exactly what it fucking sounds like. You can come backstage and hang out with the band or watch the performance from the terrible-sounding wings. These things are limited in number, and bands can’t hand out too many for multiple reasons: venues have a cap for security purposes, backstages are tiny and can’t accommodate too many bodies without Marx Brother results, etc.

If you are fortunate enough to be given one of these bad boys, please don’t exploit it and be an inconsiderate asshole. Don’t bring random friends (randys) or fans backstage without asking the bands if it’s cool first, don’t give away your AA passes to people you don’t know, don’t bogart all the booze, don’t do most of the things I’ve already written in an earlier column you probably haven’t read.

Also, remember that as a guest of the band, you are a reflection/extension of the band to the venue and everyone that works there. If you’re an asshole to people, you make the band look bad. Bartenders, security, sound people, etc. always remember things like that. “Oh yeah, that band was pretty good, but remember all those shitheads they had with them?” See? This really happens.

So, in closing, guest lists are a headache, but we love our friends and it’s the least we can do to show our appreciation. Now, go buy me a shot of tequila, you ungrateful beer-stealing leech!

(Guest list image: Iwan Gabovitch, header image: Dan Schmatz)

Ryan Kattner (aka Honus Honus), is a musician-songwriter, film/theater score composer, screenwriter, mustachioed multi-hyphenate living in Los Angeles. Texas-born, he grew up in the Philippines, South Carolina, Germany, Illinois, Alabama and Missouri before finally settling in Philadelphia and pouring his scattered upbringing into his bands Man Man and Mister Heavenly. He’s releasing his first solo album in 2016. Michael J. Fox as Teen Wolf is his spirit animal. You can follow him on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. (photo credit: Mike Gerry)