Monday, November 03, 2008

To Play, To Freeze

The journey of this gig is a long one, but I will make it brief. (Brief is tough for me.)

In the summer, we played a wedding and it was right after the ceremony that this little wisp of a young gal asked us for a card.

When she called, she informed us that the gig would be out of town. About an hour and a half out of town in fact.

Rule #72: Always charge for travel. Gas, time and hassle, especially hassle, all factor in greatly. So, like every sensible group, our in-town and out-of-town fees will differ greatly.

This bride was intense and needed almost weekly or biweekly contact to reassure her that we were in fact going to be there and sound good. She also wanted to haggle over the price which she felt was high. Certainly higher than the two other musicians she was considering for the job. Li-Li did more than her share of keeping to her guns price-wise.

True story: A law firm once hired us and put a young intern in charge of dealing with the musicians. Every time she called, she would try in no uncertain terms to try to get us to lower our fee. Let me say this: our fees are comparable to any one's in the valley. But this little shark kept biting at me until I said,

"Mam, do your clients set the hourly fee for you?"

A sheepish "No." came forth and then the truth: "They wanted me to see if I could get the best price possible." OK. You were trying to impress your superiors at the firm. Now we are on the same page.

Rule # 14: Be willing to walk away at any negotiation, especially a wedding gig. For what they will pay for ONE flower arrangement, they can easily afford you.

She tried everything, even citing declining gas prices. We did not change our fee. Though Li was the main contact for the gig, she even tried the old divide and conquer by calling me. She was polite, but even though I avoid confrontation at almost any cost, I can get real with people if I am pushed enough. With a calm that hopefully masked my annoyance, I tried to sell us and justify our fee compared to the other musicians.

It must have worked and we certainly had one ace in the hole: she wanted a song sung at the ceremony. The other musicians, both of whom play in the symphony, I gambled would not be able to fill this order.

We were hired and the calls still came, but each one certainly contained an inquiry about "How is the song coming along?" "Does he know it yet?" "Does it sound good?" There was even a suggestion that she HAD to hear it over the phone.

Oh boy. What hath we wrought?

I, of course, delayed learning the song as long as possible because it sounded a bit painfully cheesy when I listened to it on YouTube. Do you blame me? Duty bound, I will endure anything for the right price and learn it I did. Sans twang, of course.

The drive was wonderful. Lisa and I have been pals for a long time and we are comfortable with each other like an old married couple. In fact, people ask us if we are married. She snidely retorts with this gem: "No, that's why we are good friends." (If people get the sarcasm, they don't show it on their faces as it is frequently met with just a polite smile.)

The sun burst through at one point as we passed over the New River Gorge. We have to keep reminding ourselves that a constant vigil must be kept or we will keep talking until we end up in another county.

Rule #24: musicians must be obnoxious when it comes to parking. People will get pretty bitchy about parking, so you must explain that you have more than a backload of equipment to move. I parked as close as possible and ignored the warnings from the caterer. It's my back, dammit.

The setting was gorgeous and perfect except for one major thing: it was freakin' freezing when the sun wasn't out which was most of the time. If you squint at some of the pics of the bridesmaids, you'll see they were exposing quite bit of skin. I did feel really sorry for such an weather inappropriate choice for the bridesmaids.
It was suggested that we set up on the walkway. Nope. Rule #121: The people who hired you usually have no clue as to where you should be. Sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe is a better choice both from a sound perspective and from a staying out of the way of foot traffic one. A guitarist is relatively safe, but Lisa's instrument could knock her teeth out with a clueless guest.

Why don't people see you?

Because we are invisible.

We chose to set up at the back entrance, under covering, facing our amps out towards the ceremony. We still froze and Lisa suffered the most. At one point, she didn't look so well. Eyes watering, shivering and her playing started to get an exaggerated vibrato to it. She had my jacket on and still was bone cold.

I got through my song; singing in the fall freeze, looking out on the New River Gorge. Lisa told me later that it sounded pretty good. That's all I need to hear.

My fingers were fine until the procession song and then my left hand decided to become almost nonfunctional. The freeze had caught up to me.

After the gig, we warmed up inside with food and beverage. Nothing like a deep freeze to make you appreciate basic comforts.

On the way home, Lisa told me how burned out she felt about the whole gig. The calls, the constant reassurance, the planning, the price haggles, etc. She said that the gig had taken quite a lot out of her. Sometimes we cannot calculate how much a simple operation can cost us from a personal perspective.

Back at her house, her husband, being the perfect host, offered me a vodka and cranberry. "Hell yes." was my answer without hesitation. Lisa had to roll out in less than two hours to play a gig. Ironically, I had been invited to play this gig, but the band leader had forgotten he had invited me. I told her I was going to show up, sit in the table closest to the band and play along. Or I could play the disenfranchised band member who had in turn become the band's biggest supporter by applauding way too loud and too long.

In the end, I would have liked to have played, but appreciated the luxury of staying home. Oh yeah. It's good to play, but it's also nice to appreciate home life.


The Only Mister Ed said...

All the hassle notwithstanding, it's so cool that you have a chance to play for pay. All my musical buddies turn out to be mutts.

eclectic guy said...

This musician's life is a good one, not a great one, but that which was once annoying has become funny. One value to getting old as shit.

Surely there's someone to play with that's got similar taste and goals?? I know it's hard.

primalscreamx said...

Seriously, I followed the link.

Easily the gayest song I've heard all day and I hear a lot of gay songs in a given day. That one wins the feather boa and the size 14 heels.

eclectic guy said...

SO glad you followed the link. Now you see (hear) the horror. Very funny comment.

The Only Mister Ed said...

Oh, good Lord! I had to drive an icepick into my ears to get it out. Somebody please scrape their fingernails on a blackboard.