This crazy business of what we call ‘show’ is, as the more spiritually inclined of our brethren might say, a house with many rooms. Up the top end of the East Wing are your international hyper stars, charging the far side of your average pub band’s five way split for a single ticket. Over there, a multitude of jobbing musicians who are prepared to sofa surf and forgo weekly laundry in the hopes of some day becoming one of the former. Round our neck of the woods there is a carousel of fetes, festivals and showcases that you can hop on to sometimes merely by being in the right place at the right time, above averagely talented or simply charming to work with. Having all three in your locker doesn’t hurt at all. Luckily we have Helen for that.
Having been on three sides of the great divide (artist, promoter, hands-on stage wrangler) I appreciate that there are traditional mores to be maintained if everyone’s going rub along the same way. That’s not to say that there isn’t a way to kick over the statues and revolutionise the industry, but I don’t see it happening at my level any time soon. Trying to set up some summer shows for my (our) band can involve filling in multiple application forms, which in turn might require three different social media addresses, or you might remind those nice folk you played for last year that you’re still available, pulling in some personal favours (at this level more in hope than expectation) or simply being pleasantly surprised when someone gets in touch and asks if you’re free on such-and-such a date. It’s all-consuming, and I don’t even do this full time.
Being part of a seven piece band means that these can often feel like Sisyphean processes, and so if you ask me, the least you can do is try to be prompt, concise and polite. It was a pleasure and a privilege indeed to speak directly to an actual human on Friday night and have a gig booked with them by lunchtime on the following Monday. Similarly, a club got in touch with us over the weekend, and by this morning I was compiling a fifty word biography, sourcing a half-decent photo and reading their mission statement regarding what PA they did and didn’t have, how they’d like it used, looking up a couple of references they’d given us as to what to expect and agreeing a fee in advance. And this is for a show in December.
In contrast, we were approached at the end of January by a venue who are proclaiming their commitment to showcasing the best in local original music (thanks for the inclusive vote of confidence, by the way) and really looking to make their mark on the local arts scene. They’re doing it their own way, eschewing the norms and forging forward with all confidence. Good for them. Being in at the ground floor at such a venture can be the making of a band like us. Right place, right time, and all that. We replied straight away with a stage spec, links to our music and a pretty generous offer for our time and services, all as requested, and suggested a date when everyone could make it from the list they proffered. That date is now next week. So we don’t know if we’re playing, whether we need to grab our own PA, whether we’re being paid what we asked for – or at all - and if the gig is confirmed we have less than a week to round up some (or any) of our semi-devoted fanbase, many of whom are in the invidious position of having to organise a babysitter before they can think about devoting their occasional date night to listening to us over two-for-one cocktails.
I can’t help thinking that the old way works better.