When DIY Gets Dirty

In the years that I have been a part of the so-called DIY scene, I’ve seen incredible moments of selflessness and hospitality. Stranded strangers have been housed by kind-hearted hosts in the middle of the night. Vans have been repaired and stolen gear has been replaced by members of a generous community.

But sometimes, the scene is a little less benevolent.

Values misalign. Heads butt. Egos collide and bruise.

Things get ugly, and there are no winners.

This weekend, I had the misfortune of witnessing one of these instances firsthand.

Friday night, SPACESHIPS played with an out-of-town friend who was on tour with band from Germany and another local band. A few days before, the other local band contacted me to put together a backline—our bass rig and their drum set. An easy solution. Later, the touring band asked for the same. We happily invited them to use the same equipment.

It’s a common arrangement in the DIY world. Thousands of bands share drum sets every single weekend with no issue.

But this was not one of those times.

Two songs into the touring band’s set, the drummer stopped.

“Something is wrong.” The kit’s owner rushed to the stage to help, hanging his head in dismay. The kick pedal had punched right through the batter head.

The rest of the band played a ballad while the drummer fetched another kick drum from their truck. At the bar, the local band stewed in the situation. The drummer was disappointed, but tried to brush it off.

His singer, on the other hand, would not let that stand. She encouraged him to ask the other drummer for help replacing the head. A reasonable enough request, I thought—if I were to blow another guitarist’s tube, for instance, I’d do everything I could to replace it.

But after the show, the request was not as warmly received. The offending drummer said matter of factly, “well, it was a really old head. It was probably going to break soon anyway.”

After some back and forth, he pulled out his wallet and handed him some money to help it…

$5.

Defeated, he returned back to his band. and announced his “prize.”

His singer, far fiercer an individual than he, exploded. She stormed toward the touring band, swearing and screaming, demanding that he give enough to cover a replacement head. He spat back that the responsibility laid on the defective equipment, and he already gave him some money, so what’s the big deal?

Back and forth it went, her voice rising with every cycle. He continued to resist, acting like the very thought of replacing the drum head was wholly unreasonable in the first place.

After around ten minutes, he finally relented, throwing a twenty dollar bill at her and storming off.

As I continued loading in the aftermath, each member of the ordeal looked to me to justify their side. The touring drummer again affirmed the poor shape of the drum head. The local band ranted about what a dick he was.

But the most relatable reaction was the wide-eyed stare from my friend who originally invited us on the bill—a moment of commiseration from another bystander in a situation where there were no winners.

A couple days removed from the heat of the situation, I’m not sure if either side had the moral advantage. The drummer probably should have offered to pay for a new head, but refusing that isn’t a license to abuse anyone.

What I do know is that no community will go far with this sort of forceful self-serving.

Conflicts will certainly arise in our scene—that’s unavoidable. But we must be careful to navigate these situations while maintaining honor and respect for the people we’re butting heads with.

Easier said than done? Sure. But no one ever said building a healthy community would be easy.