There are a number of ingredients to having a successful gig.
- Band Chemistry
- Good song selection
- Good rapport with the venue owners
- Good rapport with the audience
One of our biggest problems has come in the area of drummers. Our most recent guy could play pretty well, but he was a complete mental defective. While I would set up, he would follow me around asking me how to do simple tasks, and sharing stories of how some guy I didn't know treats a girlfriend or wife I don't know, and then would take forever to set up.
Well, we got a fill in drummer, who was supposed to be the original drummer of this band, but had other projects, and didn't want to build a band from ground up with me, since he didn't know me, and didn't know what I could do. I have referred to him as Drummer Zero, since he technically came before Drummer One, but we can call him Scott now, because he appears to be on board, and an actual band member now.
We got a show at the Navy Club, which is my kind of show. I love VFW's, Foreign Legions, etc. I like to play for members of the military, because I appreciate them, and because they are the right audience for us. We are a Classic Rock band, and a lot of these guys seem to really like that, especially the ones that are a bit older.
I like to use pieces of canned music for set intros, such as "Ride of the Valkeries," from "Apocalypse Now," for example, and then we hit 'em with "Tie Your Mother Down," or something. Our other bass player, (and my wife,) Krystal, doesn't care for this, and discourages me from doing it. For this show, I had my eye on a track from Neil Young's "Living with War" album, which is just a choir singing "America the Beautiful." I thought it might be cool to play at some point in the night, but rejected the idea, thinking my band wouldn't go for it.
Well Scott actually suggested we start off by playing something patriotic, and I told him about that recording, and he lit all up, and said, "great," so I put it on the iPod.
So we're playing the Navy Club, with probably the best drummer we've ever played with, although he's only rehearsed with us twice. Our show is from 7-11, which means I can convince a lot of people I work with to come check us out, because they are always complaining our show are too late, or too far away, and I have a feeling I can get maybe 40-60 people in, at best, and 20 or so, at the very least. Our rehearsals have been going great, and I don't have anyone in the band WHO ANNOYS ME, so there's a much lesser chance that I will be stressed out.
The woman in charge is very sweet, and has asked us not to play too loud. Some bands have come in and emptied the place out before. Scott can play with dynamics, so we don't have a basher back there, and we aren't an overly loud band, anyway, so I feel we can oblige.
They're very nice to us. An elderly guy in a Cadillac sees me going around to the back, and asks if I'm in the band, because he's seen my picture on the poster, and he tells me which door they will open, and who to talk to, etc. We have a good load-in, and set-up goes very smoothly. We're in the door at 5:30, and have only an hour and a half to get set up, sound checked and ready to start, and my OCD isn't even kicking in! I'm relaxed, and feeling good.
So they have some raffle, and then they announce us. I queue up "America the Beautiful," and everyone in the place stands, and faces the flag. This is a very good omen, and we kick it off with "R-O-C-K in the USA," by Mellencamp, and the show is going flawlessly.
I had 35 of my people show up, and everyone who is a regular at the club decides to stick around, so we have pretty much a full house. People are lined up at the bar all night, and the nice lady who booked us is all smiles. I ask her if our volume is OK, and she tells me we can turn up a bit, and we do.
Most of the audience stays through three sets, and the ones who stay to the end are very enthusiastic, and whooping and carrying on the whole way.
THIS is how shows are supposed to go. We picked up three more shows at the Navy Club; a lady who I work with is involved with the VFW and says she can get us hooked up there; a lady who is doing a big, multi-band benefit with some of the town's "name" bands wants us on the bill, and we booked a private party, who is willing to pay up front. (we only play private parties if they pay up front - sorry; burn me once...)
We're unloaded, and sitting on the couch by midnight, and I don't even feel tired.
There's a lot of lessons in a show like this, and that's why I'm writing them down here. We are a Classic Rock band, who should play to a Classic Rock audience. When we do that, all we hear is that we're the Best Band in the History of Bands. Let the kids play the modern rock to the kids, and let us do what we are good at.
And having a real drummer makes all the difference. Scott is a metronome; he is a showman; he has dynamics; he has a great rapport with the audience; the guy LIVES to be a drummer in a band.
But he needed to see what this band was capable of, before he was going to get invested in it. What he saw was a band that has stuck together with three core members for four years, with the weak link ALWAYS being the drummer.
So one more lesson for me is that persistence pays off.
God bless America.