There's always the straight job. Many musicians who profess to making a living playing rock 'n' roll still find themselves in a hairnet, wearing an apron, punching the clock at some Joe-job. A man's gotta eat.
Most of these poor slobs wind up in food service. The pay is lousy, but the hours are flexible, and there's always another tattooed hopeful waiting to twirl a spatula 'til it's time to hop in the van again.
The Sunstreak's Gary Foster hasn't got a straight job. Foster plays drums. Period. Yet somehow he wound up flipping burgers. Gary's mom had warned him.
"She was like, 'If you're going to play in a band the rest of your life, you're going to be working in fast food to pay the bills,'" Foster says.
So I'm watching a Warped Tour special on FUSE one evening back in September. There was footage of sweltering crowds, bands playing live, and The Sunstreak's Gary Foster flippin' burgers.
I mean, this Rochester quintet is a good band; a really good band. They're hard-working, and they draw large crowds at home and on the road. And Foster is tattooed like a walking comic book, assuring him a place not in the 9-to-5 world.
Foster, 26, has been pounding the drums for more than half his life. He was a founding member in Third Estate. He joined The Sunstreak last year after the name got changed from One Year Nothing. The band just released its first album on B and W Records in June 2006.
This self-titled release is a pop record, really. It's hooky, and the vocals are clear, if not a little too urgent. But the band's preference for whirling in the minor more than the major keeps them from coming off a straight-up pop band. Minor + hooks + urgency = emo, right? Nope. Foster helps The Sunstreak dodge that bullet with his rudimentary rock drum attack. Plus he just doesn't like emo.
"There are so many screaming emo bands," he says. "And we're just not like that at all. It's just pop-rock; simple Beatle-formula songs; to the point with good hooks."
These hooks and the band's work ethic landed them on this past summer's Warped Tour on stage and behind the grill. The band pitched the rock-star, grill-chef scenario to Warped Tour wigs, who gave them the thumbs up.
So The Sunstreak wound up playing music and flipping burgers in 48 cities this past summer. Maybe Foster's mom was right all along.
"We were the barbeque band," says Foster. "We basically cooked for the whole tour every night. We actually got paid. We were considered part of the tour not only as employees but as a band, so we got a good stage spot. We were guaranteed to play every day."
The Sunstreak sizzled on stage during the day and staged the sizzle at night. The band cooked $400 in hot dogs and hamburgers at these nightly cookouts that quickly evolved into parties, with bands like Valiant Thor and The Living End playing impromptu sets or The Buzzcocks DJ-ing with their I-PODS. The Sunstreak was playing with their heroes and cooking for them, too.
"I grew up on NOFX," Foster says. "And I'd have El Jefe come over to me at the end of the night poking me, like, 'Can I get a burnt hot dog?'"
And what does Joan Jett put on her hot dog?
"She never ate a hot dog," Foster says. "She always ate vegetarian patties. She'd eat 'em plain. She always tipped me $20 and would give me a big kiss."
The dude must grill a mean veggie patty.
The Zone's Holiday Havoc Show with The Sunstreak, Shelflyfe, The Hoodies, Draffin, Tonight The Riot, Spiral Staircase happens Saturday, December 23, at The Harro East Ballroom,155 Chestnut Street, 454-0230, 7 p.m., $9.41.
The band is the pistol-packin' ruler of Western swing and all the genres that lead up to it.