Down in the night-life trenches where the real bands slug it out, exposure is the filthy lucre doled out by club owners in lieu of cash --- or respect. If you've ever ventured into a nightclub clutching an instrument, with a song in your heart, stars in your eyes, and nothing in your pockets, then you've heard it before. It's the old song and dance: "C'mon, it'll be good exposure." Just ask the Eskimos about exposure.
Then again you could check with Eddie Nebula and The Plague, who, despite its talent and sneaking self-doubt, has a fear of overexposure.
"We have a really loyal fan base for some reason," says guitarist Karl Hungus. "We love our crowd but we don't want to go more than once every three months."
"It's an event every time we play," says frontman Eddie Nebula. "But what kills us is we really seriously talk every time we're about to have a show, 'I don't know if anyone's going to show up this time.' We only play like five times a year. I think that nobody's going to show up if we play more than that."
Then the self-doubt really kicks in --- only to be squashed by the band's obvious popularity.
"Maybe now we're underexposing," Nebula wonders. "But then everyone shows up. It's like 'Holy crap, somebody gives a shit.'"
Catch the band and it's like watching a 3-D TV with the vertical hold gone haywire. Nebula's feet rarely touch the ground between his aerial splits, Bruce Lee scissor kicks, and NBA hang time.
"I'm afraid I'm going to slip and fall if I put my feet down," Nebula says, even though he's more likely to crack his head on the ceiling.
Eddie Nebula and The Plague is a powerful four-piece band from Rochester. There's rock energy, metal riffs, punk insanity, and plenty of stinging sarcastic wit, both lyrically and in the way the whole fiasco is dished out. If you've ever wondered why "poor me" replaced "fuck you" in rock 'n' roll, you might want to dig The Plague.
"That sums it up right there," Nebula says. "That's exactly where I'm at. When are we gonna get back to bitchin' and having strength and having something to laugh about?"
Hungus openly taunts bands that don't adhere to that mantra.
"Emo," he says, looking like he just sucked a lemon, "yeah, have some self esteem. You're on stage, fuckin' like yourself a little bit."
The Plague packs 'em in. And it's not just the free, personalized, mini bottles of bourbon they hand out either.
"I think it's the songs," Hungus says. "Ed's a great songwriter. When you come to our shows, the first few rows of people know all the words to the songs we wrote. And that's awesome."
This leaves Nebula somewhat pleased. Someone bought the record.
"Basically it means that somebody actually listened to it," he says. "And I don't have to print the lyrics every time." But again the doubt: "Or maybe I should."
Still, he's somewhat mystified with the attention. Who are these people?
"It's more of a cultish following," he says. "I know half of the people that go to the shows. The other people, I don't recognize some of them, and I don't see them at other shows. So I don't know where the hell they're coming from."
Maybe it's the band's vibe that draws them.
"Ed has a ton of charisma," says Hungus. "And we just give off a fun vibe as well. We don't take ourselves seriously."
"But the joke is... The Plague was supposed to be Rochester," Nebula says. "The word plague meant where I am, where I'm at in Rochester. I always thought of it as like Mordor or Gotham City. I'm stuck in it. It's a love-hate thing."
Nebula's love is for what he dubs "the Rochester sound."
"Although all the bands in Rochester don't sound the same, there's a little bit of an area sound," he says. "I think we all have this sort of ongoing feel. I think it's a little sarcastic, lyrically. I think there's a dark tone to a lot of the bands, even the more upbeat bands, even the Hi-Risers. I'm set up to write silly heavy music and there's still a darkness to it. It just comes out that way because, I think, of where we are. The weather's kind of crappy."
Nebula's darkness doesn't seem as barometrically centered on the third and new CD, Sub Bourbon Nights. He's still pissed, but his lyrical gripes fit well with a band that's obviously maturing.
On the new disc, the band capably corrals classic metal tones, punk speed, and melodic hooks. Even when the band blasts through a number like "Sons Of Bitches," Nebula's vocal timing and timbre are penetrating. The cut "Rochester Girls" starts out with a lonesome Southwest ghost rider tinge, only to careen into a rock chorus on how much local girls suck.
"We tried to mix it up and put in some different tempos and different feels," Hungus says. "I think we're just going forward 'cause you gotta evolve. And it was a logical progression 'cause we were listening to more and more weird stuff and less and less punk rock."
"To me there is a value in trying to write quality songs even if they're ridiculous tunes like some of the stuff we do," Nebula says. "But also people who show up to your show, they don't care how successful you are outside of what you're doing that night. They know it's Saturday night, it's you, and it's them."