3-2-1 Draw!

originally published in Sound Waves Magazine May 2019

There’s a dreaded question in the cybersphere from venue owners and booking contacts that we band leaders are posed from time to time and, every time, it makes my skin crawl, my blood boil, and gives me a hot flash.  The question just isn’t fair, due to the many variables involved with the answer to the question.  When I am asked the question, I usually just completely ignore it and give up on the potential gig, because I don’t think the person asking the question will appreciate my answer.  I know what they want to hear, but I’ve never been a very good liar. I’m like our first president George Washington – I cannot tell a lie.

The question is:  “What’s your draw?”  In other words, how many people are going to show up if I book you?

“Well, let’s explore that.  You want me to say hundreds or thousands, am I right?  Here’s my answer:

Well, if we haven’t played for five years and it’s more like a reunion show, it could be hundreds, unless of course, Netflix has released Season 3 of Stranger Things, then it’s 0.

Is your bar kind of a decent place?  Then it could be around 20, unless of course the final chapter of a super heroes movie is being released that night, then it will be 0.

Are you a sports bar?  Well, if it’s the World Series, the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Final Four, or the Superbowl, it could be hundreds, but your patrons won’t be there for us and their hootin’ and hollerin’ will drive us nuts.

Is snow predicted?  0.  Is a hurricane expected?  0.  Is it a heatwave?  Maybe 5, if your A/C is working.  Is it -9 degrees outside?  0.

Do we have a year’s notice?  Maybe 10, but that could vary. Things come up for people, you know?  Babysitters and such.

Is it a food festival?  Thousands, but they’re not there for us.

What is your venue’s marketing strategy?  Do you plan to advertise the event, throw out some specials and cater to my band’s every whim so we’re nice and happy and entertaining?  Probably 10.

Is it flu season?  0.

Has there recently been a bar fight or a stabbing at your establishment?  0.

Is the event outside?  If it’s raining – 0.  If it’s too hot – 0.  If it’s too cold – 0.

What else is happening in your locale the day of the event?  Arts Festival?  0.  Barret Jackson car show?  0.  Is somebody like Elton John or Kiss playing their last show ever at a local casino?  0.

How are your acoustics inside the venue?  Does every band sound like they’re in a muddled box of mud?  0.

Are we playing during a biker poker run?  Hundreds, but they’re only there for five minutes to pick up their card.

So essentially, my dear booking contact person, our draw, is the luck of the draw.”

Rock on.

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Out of the Closet

originally published in Sound Waves Magazine January 2019

It has come to my attention, because due to certain circumstances I have been forced to actually pay attention to people – listening to what they are saying – casually observing them – caring about them – instead of worrying about my dogs all the time, that there are a boatload of closet musicians out there.  You know, dudes who only play in basements or their bedrooms – some even with other closet musicians.  It’s like a secret society of maestros and geniuses who don’t play in bands, don’t play in bars, and basically just shy away from spotlights all together.  They timidly ask to try out a guitar in a music store and proceed to shred like some reincarnation of Stevie Ray Vaughan or Hendrix, in their own world, with pure joy on their faces, while the rest of us struggle to not keep our mouths agape at what we are seeing and hearing.  Screams from onlookers ranging from “Oh My God!” to “Who are you?” to “What the heck are you doing in a dump like this?” ensue.  I have just been informed that some of these people actually change their guitar strings, repair their amps and polish and preen their instruments just to get together with other like-minded folk – FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER than to play in the same key with others.  It’s like those guys at the end of “Titanic” who continue playing while the waters rise around them and the leader calmly states, “Gentlemen, it has been a privilege playing with you tonight.”

Yes, these people exist.  And there are a lot of them.  Any attempt by me or anybody else to urge them to share their awesomeness in a public venue is answered with various apprehensive responses such as, “Oh no, I couldn’t play like this in public,” or, “I don’t like the bar scene,” or, “That’s not why I play.”  What the heck is wrong with these people?!  It’s sort of like how Heaven’s got one hell of a band, but it’s right here on earth, in somebody’s old broken-down barn.

And then there’s me – complaining complaining complaining about band practice, the drudgery of the load-in and the load-out, the blank stares from the audience, the pains and pitfalls of booking gigs, the haggling over money, song choices, writers’ block, band drama, and so on and so on and so on.  Where’s the joy?  Where did it go?  Am I doing it all wrong?  Why can’t I bottle up that joy oozing from those guys’ faces and have it emanate in a performance setting?  What the heck is wrong with me?!

Maybe the closet people really do have it all figured out, and I just don’t yet.  Maybe it’s because I don’t say enough – “Gentlemen, it has been a privilege playing with you tonight.”

Okay, I’ve said it.  Whew! I feel better already!  So, rock on people (wherever you’re hiding.)

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I wrote a book about this stuff!  “They Made Me Play a Polka” is available here:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1725534584/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0