It’s amazing how many people think that the life of a musician is a glamorous job – all glitz and glam, adoration, limos and of course we’re all ‘rolling in it’, apparently.
Those with a little intelligence realise that this only applies to the 0.001% at the top. The rest of us travel around in rickety vans, endlessly hump gear up & down stairs, and are largely unappreciated.
Most of us, the full-time musicians, ie those without a day job to finance ourselves, have to take on some pretty unappealing jobs in order to make a living! There’s a pretty straight correlation:- the more money you get for a gig, the more of a headache it is. The really enjoyable and rewarding ones will make you go into the red.
Just to demonstrate this point I’d like to highlight a gig we did recently. Naming no names of course. Now – the money was great. No question of us turning that one down! Living in the South, it was quite a trek to get there (yup – somewhere in the North) – a good 4 hour journey. The job was to play at a private Christmas party for a company in a beautiful old building in the centre of town which had been converted into a ball room and conference centre.
So far so good. The place looks lovely, and a lot of money has been spent on lighting etc. Alas very little had been spent on infrastructure. All the sinks are blocked, the lift keeps getting stuck…
On arriving we are forced to stop outside the venue on a double yellow on a bus only road. In this scenario we have to move quickly. Someone dashes inside and finds out where we’re playing, loading etc. 10 minutes later and still nothing. The few staff in the venue don’t know what’s going on and eventually direct us to a lift to go to the 2nd floor. By the time half of our equipment has been loaded there, they decide that actually, we might not be playing in that room after all. They’d have to check. Another 10 minutes and we are instructed to move all of the equipment back across the building to a different lift. Getting a little tetchy now.
The lift in question is ancient and big enough for one fat lady. With the PA and lights and instruments this would take at least 6 loads. 1 of us goes up with the first load while the others climb the double flight of stairs, only to find…. That the door to the ball room is locked. Back down the stairs. 10 minutes to find someone and another 10 minutes for the door to be opened. It takes us a whole hour to load in after arriving. Thank god we were early.
Next. No stage in the room. No-one around to tell us where to set up. Another 20 minutes wasted. Finally someone with a list and a running order turns up (hurray!). We set-up and start sound checking. Of course the young barman with the long hair knows how to set up our PA much better than we do and keeps telling us how to do our job. It eventually stops when I point out that perhaps he should get his own band booked next time rather than serving drinks. Another oik offers to show us his drumming skills. ‘’Yes – we drove all this way just to hear you play. Not.’’
Next of course comes the indeterminable wait between sound check and actually playing and we abscond to our ‘dressing room’ which is a board room at the end of the corridor, crammed full of stuff and shared with the human table (don’t ask) and various staff members trying to bunk off work (especially when I’m trying to get changed). A pretty blonde and her male counterpart rush in late and out of breath to get changed into the santa mini-dress in order to serve up Jaegermeister shots to the guests.
The 1st set is predictable. Few are drunk enough at this stage to pay us much attention. Lots of beefy blokes eyeing up the minority female contingent, who are sporting a disproportionate number of fake boobs and tattooed thighs. Luckily there are always a few who start drinking before they leave and will jiggle around to anything.
Back into the board room. Meanwhile the ‘shot santas’ have helped themselves to copious amounts of Jaegermeister and can barely stand up.
Set 2 and everyone is slaughtered. A quick trip to the toilets beforehand had given me some warning due to the retching sounds coming from the cubicles. Predictably, everyone is now too drunk to pay us any attention, and most of our attention is focused on catching anyone likely to stumble into the band. The last song comes as a relief and we go into commando pack up mode. PA, lights, instruments.
Getting out is another logistical nightmare. Weaving heavy equipment through the drunken throngs… to the lift. And this is where we are truly tested. Imagine the scenario:- the door to the ball room leads straight onto a 2 by 1 metre landing with stairs immediately going down on the left and the 1 fat lady lift one step ahead. Revellers are going up & down these stairs to go and smoke their fags (and crash other parties in the building). Obstacle 1 – getting the gear into the lift without throwing people down the stairs. Obstacle 2 – getting out of the lift at the bottom. Doors open and the narrow corridor (1 small step to the loading door) is full of people. Even worse, the loading door opens inwards and blocks the corridor.
Tempers really started flaring at this stage with security getting irate that the corridor keeps being blocked, but not actually offering to help us, whilst we’re desperately trying to haul 6 loads of heavy equipment into the open air.
Just to finish off a pleasant evening:- the van is now parked in the access road at the side of the building just around the corner of the main entrance, which is blocked off by a large ornate railing – about a metre from where we were loading (they didn’t tell us about this road until after we’d loaded in..). Over the railing hang several party-goers….. throwing up. Luckily we managed to move our instruments in time to avoid the splash back.
Then 4 hours to get home. All in a day’s work. Still think being a musician is glamorous?
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