Gigs–Restaurant   2 comments

By Downtown Freddie Brown, singer/songwriter/piano tuner from Toronto, Ontario:

Have you ever been desperate enough to take a gig where they tell you “If we make money – you’ll make money!”  You set up. Most of your friends and fans show up. They drink, they eat, they enjoy the evening. At the end of the night you pack up and go to the owner to get paid and he says they didn’t make any more money than they usually do so he can’t pay you but he won’t charge you for the wings and the beer you had for supper. Grrrrrrrr….

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Posted February 14, 2012 by bluesdawg

2 responses to “Gigs–Restaurant

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  1. One of the weirdest gigs I ever had was at a restaurant in a little Amish community called Smicksburg. I’ve never seen so many buggies, beards and horse dung in all my life . . . or so many tourists. There were little shops all over this tiny village–more shops than houses, I’d guess–and the whole place was just crawling with Pittsburghers or folks from even further afield.

    The little restaurant that hired me had not more than 75 seats, but in all the gigs I played there, I never saw an empty one. There were many Saturdays when the waiting line stretched from the cash register all the way out the door. I’ve seen that line so long, it went out the door, across the porch and down the stairs–and this for a menu that included fresh-baked bread, small pizzas, a dozen different sandwiches, coffee, Tazo teas, pop and sweet potato fries–no steaks, seafood, beer or wine!

    The owners I worked for didn’t pay particularly well, but they had me set up across from the cash register and insisted I put out a tip jar. It wasn’t at all unusual for me to find $40, $50 or $60 in tips at the end of the afternoon–yup, not evening, afternoon. I usually played from Noon to 2 or 3 and it was every Saturday–steady money, which has been a rare occurrence in my career. I also got a free meal at the end of the day.

    Not much to complain about, right? Sadly, there was one little fly in the ointment–it seems I always just a little too loud. I spent as much time turning down as I did playing.

    Have you been in a busy restaurant lately? ever notice how much noise 30 or 40 people make when they’re talking, coughing, slurping coffee, clanking silverware, shuffling chairs, placing orders? The restaurant in question had hardwood floors with plastered walls and ceilings. Sound bounced all over the room. It wasn’t unusual for me to be totally unable to hear my own voice for the noise in the room, but I soldiered on, even when customers would walk over and ask me to turn UP so they could hear me.

    Then came the day when I was between songs and momentarily at a loss for my next tune. I was sliding little one-string runs on my dobro, vamping until I could think of another song, when the owner’s wife came up to me and said, ‘Why don’t you take your break now? It’s too loud in here with you playing and all the customers.’ Too loud. Right. Single note runs on slide from a guitar THAT WASN’T PLUGGED INTO THE AMP.

    I took my break.

    • Addendum–

      I eventually left that gig. Note that I say ‘left’ as opposed to ‘lost.’ The majority of my runs at a venue have ended when the owner/manager/Grand Poobah has informed me that, ‘things just aren’t working out so we won’t be having you back.’ Not the case here.

      I sailed in one afternoon to set up and play but had to wade upstream against the horde of people coming out of the building past the larger horde standing in queue to get in. I’d never seen the place so slammed. John, the owner and inspiration for the character in the 4th verse of my song ‘3 Decades Down’ was cashing customers out as fast as he could and had ’em 4 deep at the counter. The waitresses were run ragged, poor things! and every seat was filled. A fine day to make some tips, thought I.

      As I walked in to set up, John gave me a quick glance and said, ‘You’re a little late aren’t you?’ I wasn’t sure of the exact time, but since I could never play softly enough when I actually brought in and set up any kind of amplification system, I’d taken to just bringing two guitars, a stool and a tip jar. Two trips to haul it all in; 6 minutes to set up tune and play. So when, in response to my question, he told me that it was 9 minutes after Noon, I replied that I had plenty of time since I began playing at 12:15. And then I turned ’round to set up in my usual spot . . .

      . . . to find it occupied . . . by a 6′ by 3½’ by 18″ display case . . . filled with pies . . . and I said,

      “Where do I sit?”

      And he said,

      “I don’t know yet.”

      I went back out to the car and got the rest of my stuff and then took up my position standing around, looking more profoundly dorkier than I believe I ever have, while I waited for John to figure out my seating arrangement. He didn’t know at 12:15.

      He didn’t know at 12:30. . .

      nor at 12:45 . . .

      . . . nor at 1:15 . . .

      . . . nor at 1:35 . . .

      . . . nor at 1:45 . . . 1:55 . . . 2:05 . . . 2:15 . . .

      . . . and whether he finally found a place for me to sit after that is a mystery I’ve never unraveled because I picked up my gear, packed up the car and drove away, never to return.

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