It was late Friday. The weekly guitar thread had slowed a little and I was enjoying a conversation by PM with someone who seems to think I’m a source of quality advice and trustworthy enough to keep our exchange private.
Their trust is not misplaced, don’t worry.
It was during that conversation that I created this .txt file, and named it ‘start.txt.’ As you can see, quality file naming and file management is not my best trait!
It was in that text file that I typed the following:
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
– William Shakespeare
Because, almost without exception, every performing musician chooses to achieve greatness. Almost invariably, as true vurtuosos are quite rare, we have worked very hard to acquire our skillsets, often with multiple instruments. Our skills aren’t limited to music playing, but extend to performance and all the various labors that entails. We must understand the people we play for. We must know how to make ourselves appealing. We must understand the audience’s objectives, even when they don’t articulate it well.
But, we choose greatness, meaning we choose to put those hours in to master our instruments and the art of performing. We choose it. We aren’t usually born with it, nor do we usually have our greatness thrust upon us. Though, curiously, that does sometimes happen. For example, the bass player for Dropkick Murphys hadn’t even played a bass when they did their first show. (Which, I suppose, says a bit about bass players in general!)
Which leads me to…
Last night, the band was great. Notice, I did not say they were perfect.
I tried to offer as little influence as I could, allowing them the chance to make the show what they wanted it to be. For the most part, they did pretty well.
This last type of event isn’t an easy event to do well. They did make mistakes. Rather than concentrate on the positive, I’m going to share a few and try to explain what those mistakes were. (Ed. Note: Not very well.)
If you don’t remember the event type, picture a reunion of academics that are beyond their midlife crisis. Now, make them getting a bit rotund, experiencing fiscal success, and sharing a lot of commonalities. They’re maybe balding, going gray, and drinking.
At least this one wasn’t a key party! (Oh, the things we see…)
Once again, they’re there to enjoy each other, food, and booze. They drink and dance and feed. Then, presumably, they leave and couple up in hotel rooms not their own. I don’t actually know that that’s what these folks did, but I’ve seen that type of behavior before.
With the length of my career, I’ve been responsible for so many people getting laid! You’re welcome!
We aren’t supposed to monopolize an audience’s attention at this type of event. You, the audience, is actually the center of attention.
Let’s pick up at the beginning. This story has to start somewhere! (This is so poorly written. I hope editing helps.) (Ed. Note: It won’t.)
I showed up before the speeches were done, which is good. That’s when I was supposed to be there and when EH and J were supposed to be there. We were on time!
Things went immediately wrong when the guy at the door didn’t want to let me in. I believe what he said was, “I’ve seen them. I haven’t seen you.” Then, he demanded I show him my invitation. I had no invitation.
What I should have replied was, “Fuck you, I’m a rock star.” Instead, what I said was, in my most snotty tone, “You don’t know who I am?” I then hobbled past him. He made no effort to stop me and I looked for the bar.
I found the bar and wandered through the sea of reunioners to reach it. I ordered a double of Ice 101, on the rocks, and two beers. The bartender could see I was on a mission and seemed like they were a person that knew things. So, I tipped them a $20. I then made my way to sound and sat in a chair, contented by my libation acquisitions. The band had taken the stage, and I was watching EH push a few buttons and slide a few sliders while pretending I actually knew what she was doing and approved of it.
The band began and did the whole get the crowd pumped thing. That was going over about as well as a fart in church when the dude from the door and some guy I never met (but had talked to on the phone) came up and both were visibly upset.
The door dude began with bellowing, “He’s not supposed to be here! He didn’t show me an invitation!”
Manger dude had never seen me and began to say something. I realized this could escalate quickly and, not wanting to let them get the upperhand, I interjected and pointed out that I was, in fact, sitting here in sound – making it painfully obvious to all but the dullards that I am, in fact, with the band.
Door dude turned bright red as manager dude stared at him as though he had made his life very difficult and that manager dude was going to respond in-kind. He shuffled off and manager dude was saying something that I couldn’t hear.
This amused me and I tried to return to my all-too-important duties of drinking and observing. The manager dude was having none of it and he figured that both of us should yell at each other over the now blasting music.
Which is where I made a mistake… Fortunately, it went unnoticed!
My mistake? I yelled at him that I didn’t have time for this shit and that I was busy. Fortunately, he didn’t hear me!
He got closer and yelled that he would make sure that my drinks were were on the house to make up for the door dude. Crisis narrowly averted, and seeing my chance, I motioned for him to follow me and hobbled my way to the bar. I wasn’t going to let this gift go, and I wanted to make sure the bartender knew it.
At the bar, the bartender smiled and asked if I wanted the same thing, having noticed that I’d cleverly left my drinks behind – or at least had none in my hands. I agreed that was fine. I tipped ’em the same amount and told ’em I’d be back frequently.
Manager dude was still wanting to talk and we’d deduced that I was actually the person they’d spoken to on the phone, multiple times. He wanted to talk about future engagements, so I pretended to listen while trying to get these fresh drinks into me before I’d have to walk back to the booth. I nodded where it seemed appropriate and noticed that EH had turned the volume down a bit and that maybe 30 people had made it to the dance floor.
The band had done well, having noticed their mistake and fixed it.
I continued to pretend I was listening, drinking, and watching the people in the audience. He continued talking. I drank rapidly and asked them where the bathroom was, as I figured I’d learn something useful. He seemed to think this wasn’t me acquiring data for later, and that I needed to use the bathroom immediately. He was kind enough to offer to show me and I told him that I could see it and that I’d use it when I finished my drinks.
This seemed to satisfy him that I was satisfied, and he meandered off after informing me that he’d check in on me later. (Ed. Note: I never did see him again.)
I cracked a few jokes with the bartender, asked if he liked his job, and finished my drinks at a rate that’d make a frat party cheer in appreciation. Then, I headed for the bathroom.
I found the bathroom unoccupied and decided that I’d use a stall to fortify myself a bit further. I went into my stall and, of course, made the usual sniffing noises. Which is is when I heard a toilet flush… I’d made a mistake!
Thinking quickly, I hollered out across the stalls to ask if they wanted some, as they’d obviously heard me. They asked what it was and I told them. They decided that they wanted some and next thing I know, the music had stopped and I’d spent most of the set in the bathroom with a stranger. Knowing this meant there’d be a rush for the bar, I figured I’d stay in the bathroom and continue fortifying myself and my new buddy while we waited for the bar to clear out.
That was probably a mistake, as it also means there’s a rush on the bathroom and some of them also wanted fortification and two other guys had also brought fortification. The music began again.
Seeing my cue, I headed for the bar to get new drinks to bring back to add to my collection in the booth. The bartender saw me coming and had them ready for me. I tipped them again and asked if they liked fortification. They indicated they did, so I found a dark corner and tipped him some fortification. He seemed pleased with this.
Taking my drinks back to the booth, I had to stop and talk to a few people that I’d fortified with – but I made it back to my chair without needing additional fortification. The band played on! They were probably about half done with that set when I made it back to the table.
I don’t know if the band saw me and interpreted something, but they tried to bring the stage more energy and get more people on the dance floor. I thought that was possibly a mistake, except they managed to get a bunch of people out there wiggling. I sorta suspect it was the fortification that helped drive it. Doesn’t matter, it worked and EH gave everyone a bit more volume. Good.
I did notice my schnapps were gone, but I’d brought a nearly fresh one with me. I settled into my chair and observed. I’d managed a few sips of my delicious schnapps and to finish a beer, and then the band was going on another break.
Damn it! I had screwed up my timing!
Hobbling with a bit more vim and vigor, I took a beer and headed to the bathroom. I’ll let your imagination fill it in and I escaped the bathroom fortification fairly quickly, stopping at the bar before returning to the booth with near perfect timing.
I noticed my schnapps were, once again, missing. I was going to ask EH about my missing schnapps, as surely someone must have stolen them, but she was busy. She’s actually pretty busy in there. She’s controlling lights and sound, all remotely of course. She can steer a spot better than I can. I made no effort to help. At that point, I was even less qualified than I normally am! In sound, with her hands moving to control sound and effects, it almost looks like she’s dancing.
And, I watched that set – almost entirely. The band managed to bring up the energy levels in a way that didn’t jar the audience. They’d somehow made themselves almost the center of attention – while still letting the dancers focus on each other. The volume was rather excessive but they seemed to enjoy it. The only people with hearing protection were the ones working. Eardrums were harmed.
The other sets had been 45 minutes and this one went on for the same amount of time. The band then pretended to talk among themselves and then played an encore until after 21:00. They even told the audience that they were going to play one more, because that audience was special. Yeah, sometimes we have to lie!
Then, they made another mistake…
They said they were going to ask a guest to come up and play. Knowing what was coming, I rapidly turned one of the booth’s corner lights onto EH and clapped for her.
Mission averted! Nice try, suckers! I told ’em that I wasn’t playing!
EH was happy to run up on stage and my schnapps had somehow gotten lost in the shuffle.
You’d have thought she was a rock star, and she certainly played the part. It was, of course, Free Bird… It’s always Free Bird… Well, it’s almost never not Free Bird. Either way, this really wasn’t the venue to be a rock star at.
None of this was appropriate for this venue. I poked a few buttons on the board, but they did not seem to change anything. The slider labled “MSTR VOL” did not not do a damned thing! I’m pretty sure EH was clever enough to lock me out of it. I don’t actually know how this board works. It’s got a ton of buttons, sliders, and displays. It’s got shit connected to it that I don’t have a clue about! ‘Snot my job!
Anyhow, the band did fine and the audience actually loved it. The vast majority were dancing and having a good time. Either that or the audience was making a last-ditch effort to get laid? Either way. the band had pulled it off! That’s not something I’d have tried at a gig like that.
And, as I said, EH’s antics were certainly not what I’d suggest at this type of venue. No, no that’s not what I’d have suggested. She managed to somehow channel the spirit of Jimi Hendrix’s stage manerisms. I shouldn’t need to remind you that Jimi didn’t actually play Free Bird! When she was ‘taking a taste’, she was doing this passionate dance with her guitar that is best described as ‘spastic.’
They left me in sound without adult supervision. I didn’t flash the light to tell them to get off the stage. That right there was a mistake. Never leave me unattended.
So, they went around again and did more solos. EH seemed inclined to try to lean back every time she’d do a long string bend and, for some unknown reason, was down on one knee at one point, and moving to a rhythm that wasn’t anywerre close to the beat of the song. If she’d fallen over, I’d have expected her to start speaking in tongues.
Oh, how I giggled! This was the funniest thing I’d seen all night!
Of course I wasn’t going to remember to flash a stupid light. I’d have watched that for hours!
The audience seemed to enjoy it. There were dancers and people watching the band. So, it worked out pretty well. Either way, I was having a good time!
The band figured out that no light was ever going to shine and gave up, bringing the song to a close. The dancers, perhaps in a daze and certainly with hearing loss, milled about for a while, perhaps a bit confused, and the band began the long process of tearing down and loading out. I fortified myself, secured a few more drinks, and found backstage.
Which is where they gave me shit about not flashing the light and not playing! So, I told them they were all fired. They paid that statement no attention. None!
I fetched stuff for a while, as EH and J packed their stuff. I fortified myself until I was out of fortification. I gave them shit but it was my brilliant work earlier in the night that had gotten the bartender to serve as he was cleaning up.
By then, I was pretty well fortified and kinda tipsy, which he greatly appreciated. I never did pay for any drinks other than the first three. I just kept tipping ’em! (I ain’t sorry for bad puns!) (Ed. Note: I should be.)
My schnapps disappeared. I never did find out who was taking them!
Anyhow, that’s the mistakes that were made. Their set choices were standard fare. They know they are down to 5 players and they adjust accordingly. They did a few things we’d not normally do as a band. Remember, they all played together in a band before I pretty much stole them from their other leader.
I believe I fired them all, several times. They paid this no attention. They’re insanely efficient. They’ve got a pretty good system for moving the gear. At one point, one of ’em told me to get out of the way and that that area was able-bodied people only. I fired them.
I’m told the truck needs brakes and should probably have winter tires to go on it, at least next year. The band doesn’t have enough in the kitty to cover all that. Those are safety issues. They’ll be addressed this week. Once again, the band can owe me money. I should fire all of them! They ignored their firing and kept working.
They’re pretty great! They’ve chosen greatness and worked to achieve it. Choose greatness, even if it is a lot of work. Until next time…
Shut up and play us a song!