Gigs–Bars and Clubs   1 comment

The latest gig that sucked out my soul happened just about 10 weeks ago.  Here in the wilds of western Pennsylvania, Christmas was coming fast and we’d finally had enough snow and cold temperatures to actually make it feel like mid-December.  My little sister, who was working at a private club in the area, sent me a quick e-mail to let me know that she had a gig lined up for me and was just waiting for the club’s directors to green light it.  The money being offered wasn’t great, but I hadn’t had a job in 5 weeks, so I was happy to take the date and put it on my calendar while I got posters ready to go.

And then came word that the club now wanted a DJ instead of live music for their Christmas party, but I could still come up and play for a couple hours–for 1/3 of what they originally offered me for 3 hours.  I agreed, but with a significant reduction in the level of my enthusiasm.

On the night of the gig, I headed out in plenty of time to get there and set up, which was good, because the venue was 2 miles further north than I remembered it being and it took me 20 minutes longer to find the place than I thought it would.  However, I got there and started unpacking the car with enough time to start and not be late.  Then they showed me the spot they had for me.

And I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding, right?’

The building had two adjoining rooms of approximately the same size:  The one by the front door was set up for meetings, dinners, dancing, etc.; on the night in question, it had tables and chairs set up for their Christmas party/dinner.  The second room had the bar.  In fact, the bar, a 3-sided rectangle surrounded by stools, pretty much ate up every square foot of space in that room.  The distance from a patron’s back to the wall behind him was probably 30 inches.  This was the space they had for me –in a corner–by a bathroom–beside the only entrance to the bar.  I had roughly 4 square feet to set up 2 guitars, a stand and rack case, a stool and a Bose PAS . . . and I managed to fit in it without injuring myself or damaging my gear . . .

. . . or swearing loudly enough to be heard.

Two hours later, after dealing with the usual assortment of drunks, bad jokes, and over-the-hill Beauty Queens who think they’ve still got enough sex appeal to make the musician get interested and play ALL of their requests for Barry Manilow and Kiss, I tore down my gear and started trucking it out to the car.  When I was halfway done, little sister comes out with a mic stand and a message:  It seems the Powers That Be had expected me to start later in the evening and to play for 3 hours, not 2.  However, they were magnanimously prepared to have me haul everything back in, set it up and play another hour or so for the money they promised me, or I could just leave now and they’d give me HALF of that.  If you’re keeping score, you’ll see that sum comes down to less than a quarter of the original amount they offered me when we started this debacle.

Now it is true that I had feasted ravenously on some of the cold ribs left over from their dinner, since I’d skipped supper to get there on time.  It is also true that those ribs were quite tasty, or would’ve been if they hadn’t had all the flavor boiled out of them and if they hadn’t been so tough that I nearly pulled out several teeth trying to separate meat from bone.  I suppose the PTB figured that the  ribs and the 2 cans of Coke I drank would make up the difference for the cash they owed.  I took a somewhat different view of the deal, finished packing and left with the five dollar bill that had found its way into my tip jar as my only compensation for the night, which was about the same amount of money I spent for gas to get there and home.  (I  have always wondered that the same people who yell for ‘just one more song!’ and swear that I’m better than Ezra, the Beatles and Willie Nelson can never seem to find a single damn dollar bill to throw into the tip jar.  Getting that fiver was actually something of a miracle.)

The kinder, gentler, fairer-minded of you will wonder if my experience there were just a fluke.  You’ll be generous and say, ‘It was just a simple misunderstanding–they never meant to rob you blind.  They’re really good, honest, honorable folks–really!’  Ah, well–perhaps–but the fact that they later fired little sister so that one of the director’s girlfriends could take her place makes me rather doubt that, especially when said girlfriend had already been fired once before when she refused to show up to work her scheduled shift.

I’m reminded of the old saying, ‘There’s never a flamethrower handy when you need it.’  So true.


PostScript–One good thing did come from the whole night:  I got so pissed off, I sat down and wrote a song based on actual events that I’ve lived through in the 30+ years I’ve been playing.  Click here to give it a listen:

Copyright © 2012 Pete Grubbs


Posted February 15, 2012 by bluesdawg

One response to “Gigs–Bars and Clubs

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  1. I’ve had a few beauties too. I remember being asked to fill in for a friend in the east end (I’m live near Toronto, Ontario, Canada) at a small club. I decided to take a small amp instead of my large PA and plug my guitar and a high impedance, 1/4″ mic into the amp.

    When I started setting up I was unable to get the mic to work. It worked fine the night before. I finally noticed the tip of the plug had come apart and gone missing. I have never had that happen before but, of course, being my first time at this club and wanting to make a good first impression…well you know.

    So I ask if they happen to have a mic I could borrow. They did…a low impedance mic with the standard mic cable which won’t work with my amp. It’s 10 minutes past the time I was to start and the bartender begins bugging me to play so I turn the guitar down a bit and start singing as loud as I can without a mic.

    One girl who was there right from the beginning keeps asking me to play fast dance music for her. I was trying to stay with ballads and stuff I could handle without a mic. Apparently she was the owner’s daughter and was not pleased when she didn’t get her way. About an hour later the bartender looks under the bar and finds a $10 plastic karaoke mic with a 1\4″ plug, just the thing I need to use with my amp. (Apparently it was left behind by some karaoke dude.) I plug it in and it works but sounds like crap. I did make it to the end of the night. I even got paid but my buddy that I was filling in for got told in no uncertain terms to not book that fat f***king folk singer again . . . dang, it’s good to be loved.

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