This week's morality tale: When I was a kid growing up outside of New York City, my friends and I would always see posters around town for a band called The Good Rats. Their fliers would show up pretty much everywhere: coffee houses, record stores, head shops, bookstores, just like bands around here.
Often as not, they'd be playing at some dive out past the edge of town, rowdy bars where patrons were too busy getting shitfaced to pay attention to the music, and where most bands were paid in watered-down drinks or maybe just the promise of imminent fame.
Since this was back before every band in existence had their music up on Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, ReverbNation and Bandcamp, The Good Rats were, to us, a completely unknown commodity. So naturally, we just assumed that they sucked.
Fast-forward to a few months ago: I'm reading an album review that mentions The Good Rats in passing. So figuring I'd confirm my long-held suspicions, I go look them up online.
I'm sure you see where this is going. They didn't suck at all. They weren't generic. In fact, they were really good. Interesting songs, unusual arrangements, weird lyrics — sort of like Long Island's pre-punk answer to Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention. The kind of band it'd be fun to see live.
And, as it turns out, The Good Rats had managed to play some decidedly more serious venues, places like Madison Square Garden and the Hammersmith Odeon. They had great three-part harmonies and, according to one reviewer, "the balls and the stage presence of a legendary band."
They also liked to throw rubber rats at their audiences.
It also turns out that their lead singer died in 2013 from a coronary suffered while he was home recovering from surgery. His name was Peppi Marchello, which is not all that surprising given that more than 25 percent of Long Island residents claim Italian ancestry. Peppi had kept the group going through nearly a dozen albums, preserving its reputation as "The World's Most Famous Unknown Band."
The Good Rats' final gigs were at B.B. King's in Manhattan and, appropriately enough, a club called the Crazy Donkey in Long Island.
So the lesson here, I guess, is to go online every once in a while, and listen to a few of the musicians whose posters you're always seeing around town.
You might, for instance, be inspired to go hear the eclectic blues-inclined Justus League at Benny's on Saturday.
Or catch the semi-annual reunion of local punk-rock favorites The Nobodys at the Triple Nickel on Friday.
Or head over to the Black Sheep on Saturday night for Round 3 of its ongoing Hip-Hop vs. Metal competition, featuring battles between Clydesdale and Inelements, Big Ro and Saustro, Bullhead*ded and Blighter, A Black Day and Sonic Vomit, and drummers Nicholas Hureau and Anthony Soto.
Granted, you've probably seen some of these names in our "Playing Around" listings dozens of times. But there also might be a really good reason for that.
Hey, you never know. Or sometimes you just find out too late.