Friday, September 03, 2010

Benefits Who?

I am the not the dude for benefits. That is, benefit gigs.

Call me jaded, cynical and just plain cold, but if you are looking for me to come and play free for your organization, I politely decline. I will play weddings for good friends. That's my only exception.

Got a call from a lady who had a cohesive sales pitch, but then it came to the portion I was interested in: when? and how much?

I explained that a noon to 2pm gig would cause me to have to take off work and I told her the truth: we, speaking for my fellow musician, do not play freebies. After much explaining, she ended with a poor choice of words: "You don't have to make any more excuses." "E-ouch," me thought. (Later, she apologized for those words. I accepted that apology fully. Most people wouldn't bother.)

Then the better half of the Dynamic Duo calls me and asks me to play a bennie on a Monday night. Really? The she launched into the deal which included minimal cashola and pizza. But this was no ordinary pizza, this was going to be Lola's pizza. Pizza made in heaven.

"What's the time?"

"Six to nine."

I'm thinking eeeeooooowwww. But then I start thinking about the food. She reminds me of the food. My musical partner knows me well. If I am treated with anonymity and generally disregarded by hootie snoots and the money is a joke, then food, by God, might just pull me in.

It did.

Instead of playing inside, we were told to play on the porch. We even got a close parking space. In short, setting up is far worse than the playing ever could be.

This is not so bad. I had resolved not to silently bitch about the gig.

All the spaghetti guitar cables in place, I test the THIRD member of the duo: My Digitech Jamman. Oh yeah. This little beauty has added a new dimension to out music. I can instantly record myself playing the chord changes and then zap-instant playback while Lisa solos. This frees us both. I don't have to play constantly and, more importantly, I get to solo. That is to say, I get a chance to practice soloing over complex chords in public. While I am not quite the jazz cat yet, the learning process is fun.

At one point, I was just adjusting levels on the unit and a man walks up, listens for a moment and then says, "Is that the Digitech?"

"Yes, it is. Listen to what I just made up." It was a quick seat-of-my-pants improv, but yet it had a certain je ne c'est quoi. I gave him a quick rundown of what it could do, but mostly how damn fast it is. "I'm getting one," was his answer to my impromptu sales pitch. I love the damn thing. Even Lisa, someone who does not embrace technology calls it "neat" and that's good enough endorsement for me. I thought she might find it a bit alien. I was afraid she would be annoyed by it, but I was really wrong.

With the Jamman playing the ersatz guitar player, I put guitar down and went out to listen. Hell, you can't tell the difference. I like the freedom baby.

We took a break and I shoved my face full of Lola's pie. Errr....That doesn't read well. I shoveled that delish pizza. It was like Pierre was bringing out plates of crack. I had to seriously try to exercise self-control. The food was worth the gig.

The sun had set and we could see someone walking down the hill. Well, it was Ryan. He had come to listen, but I felt like laying back and letting someone else play. That's the way I am anymore. Once I get my fill, I am more than happy to let someone else do the playing.

At first, he didn't want to, but I know how much he loves it. He lives it.

Soon, I was chillaxing in a chair listening to them play Agua de Beber, one of my all time fav Jobim tunes. This ain't bad. If only there was a place where soft guitars and flute play Brazilian music while the finest rum is served. A guy can dream, can't he?

And Lola's, God love 'em, let two pizzas and a salad go home with me without charge. I wasn't expecting that. God love 'em. They are good people.
For a "bennie," it wasn't a bad night at all. Not at all.

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