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30 song live audition - Not much fun for me

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by oldrocker, Nov 29, 2020.

  1. oldrocker

    oldrocker Supporting Member

    Feb 13, 2005
    Long Island, NY
    Recently relocated to Florida after living my entire life in NY and Long Island.

    Really long story - not a rant just a story and I don't really feel better after telling it - lol

    TL;DR - put a lot of prep into an unrehearsed show with a new band. No joy.

    I placed a CL add and received a reply from a band - guitar drums and keys - looking for a bass player. I checked out their FB page and was able to find a couple of YT videos. They play 50s - 70s mostly. I'm more a late 60s - 70s classic rock, southern and blues rock guy but they seem to be able to get gigs in decent places, they play uncrowded outside shows mostly mostly safe so I figured what the heck.

    I'm definitely no pro and not a great bass player so I usually rely on a lot of practice - I like to get songs tight so the band sounds good but they say they don't rehearse, which would usually be a red flag for me

    So I arrange to go see them at a show, outside restaurant 2 seeks ago. They seem happy to meet me. I stay and watch a set and a half. They play very loose and do a lot of song mash ups or medleys and as I found out later play a lot of their own takes on the arrangements and play songs in a different key from the original recording. They ask me if I can play this stuff and I tell them I'm not a pro but yes I can play it. The songs themselves are not hard but I would have to learn them. They said that they understand that. There is a suggestion that I come and play with them in 2 weeks at another show. A couple of days later they invite to their closed FB group.

    A week goes by, then Tuesday of last week 1 guy posts 3 sets and some extras for a show that Friday. I ask if they expect me to play that show, and the answer is Yes.

    At my request the next day I get a list of the keys and some chord charts for most of the songs. I tell them I will look over the songs and that I will play the ones I think I know and lay out on the songs I'm sure I don't know. No response..

    I've played a lot of songs over the years so typically when i get a new band set list there are about a third of the songs I've payed before, a third that I know but haven't played and about a third I'm not really familiar with a few that I've never even heard of. This list is skewed to 50s and early 60s but a similar mix and really nothing that difficult to play.

    This is way out of my comfort zone but I figure what the heck, what's the worse that can happen. So I have basically 2 days to learn 3 sets of songs - some of the songs I had to track down to find the artists version of the song to listen to.

    By the time of the show there are only 2 songs, 1 in set 2 and 1 in set 3 on the main list that I don't know at all that I'm planning on laying out on. I do know most of the extra songs.

    We meet at the show, 1 guy is complaining that he pulled a stomach muscle, 1 guy hurt his back and can't move his neck and the other is just complaining, wishing he could hold a regular job so he would have to play shows like this. No joy or anticipation for a good show.

    The first set is a little rough. To me, the songs that I know and that they stick mainly to the original arrangement sound pretty good. One song that this band comes in on different chord - They come in on the I instead of the IV from the original after the signature opening riff, so that one I had to play catch up. It was also tough flowing during the mash ups when the change over from 1 song to a really unrelated song seemingly at random mid beat. No train wrecks. They did restart 1 song that the guitar player came in on the wrong key.

    No comments or words of encouragement after the 1st set so I'm thinking I might be in for a long night as I'm more familiar with the 1st set songs so the other 2 sets probably will not be as good.

    After the 1st set set I tell they guy that sent me the charts and keys that I don't have one of the songs on the 2nd set. I have no clue how this song goes.. I suggest we can either sub one of the extra songs or I can lay out. He seems annoyed and tells me that it's too late for him to do anything about it now. That song comes up and they go right into it and I lay out as promised.

    After the 2nd set set I tell them that there is another song in the 3rd set that I don't know. Now another guy is annoyed too. That's 2 out of 3 now. Luckily, turns out they didn't need all the 3rd set songs so they skipped this one when it came up.

    After ending the 3rd set, even before finishing breaking down their stuff they payed me off and sent me on my way. I know how this is going to end but as a matter of course I them them it was fun and to let me know if they wanted to do it again some time. No eye contact, no real response.

    2 days after the show I notice I've been removed from he private FB group.


    We're not talking a lot of money and for me it's not about the money but really the fun of making music with others, of which there was very little here.

    I am a bit bummed as I put a lot of work in a short amount of time, no appreciation and no joy.

    I'm not beating myself up over this as I thought I did pretty good given the circumstances and I did what I told them I would do.

    As I mention this was really out of my comfort zone as I like to practice and be rehearsed but took this on as it was safe, outdoors, and I wanted to play and after reading from a lot of TBers here that that typically play shows without any rehearsals I figured this was a low pressure situation to see if I could handle it.


    I'm not sure what they expected, can / should they expect that a bass player can come in cold and play 3 sets - songs with different arrangements and keys, several unrelated mash ups or medleys??
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2020
    dSay, Obrad Lacarac, GregC and 32 others like this.
  2. Oddly


    Jan 17, 2014
    Dublin, Ireland.
    Sounds like you did as well as could be expected.
    These guys clearly weren't the right fit for you.
    Better luck next time out!
  3. I don't understand why people do this thing of waiting until the last minute to send out set lists to a sub. It's a setup for failure. Sorry this happened to you :(
  4. That sounds like a band no-one really wants be in if they are all complaining about something..... you did your best and that's all you can do.... something better will come along
  5. QweziRider

    QweziRider Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2008
    Northern Nevada, U.S.
    When you tell them something like "They ask me if I can play this stuff and I tell them I'm not a pro but yes I can play it," I'd say yes, that's what they should expect based on what you told them. Yeah, they dropped the list on you pretty short notice, but then you said you could do it. I'd be perturbed too if someone came new into our gig and said they didn't know a couple songs and would lay out on those when we were told the person could do it.

    I'm not going to get on you at all. I would say if you see red flags (a band that doesn't rehearse when you prefer to), or something you see ahead of time is going to be out of your comfort zone, listen to those voices. Take the whole thing as a lesson to not put yourself in a similar position in the future. It's not fair to the band and it's definitely not fair to yourself to be in that when it can be avoided. I've done some stuff in my past too that became an absolute train wreck or embarrassed the hell out of myself because I wanted to be able to do it and, unfortunately, proved myself coming up short.

    Know your strengths, your abilities, your needs in a band (i.e., the rehearsal thing), and stick with that.

    And let this one roll off like the educational experience it is. It's done, it's over, and you lived. ;)
    Joe Nerve, Max, redlizard and 8 others like this.
  6. 60bass

    60bass Supporting Member

    Apr 24, 2005
    Charlotte, NC
    At least you got paid, time to move on and forgettaboutit. You did everything right and they did everything wrong. For me the tip-off that they were burn outs would've been the 'we never practice' line. When I hear that line, I bail period. IME, It always means the same thing. They have a bunch of tunes they've all played for years, are stuck in a rut, and they're not going to put forth the effort to practice or learn new tunes. However, they expect whoever comes in to put in the effort.

    If they're not into music enough to rehearse, learn new tunes , and get better, I'm not wasting my time with them, and you shouldn't either. Too many bands need bass players amd life's too short to put up with musical BS.

    Keep Low :bassist:
  7. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    Yep - even a “pro” would have trouble navigating that sea of despair!
    Core Creek, Fishtude, pcake and 13 others like this.
  8. mike57


    Feb 12, 2009
    Our Fair City, MA
    Out of curiosity what were the tunes that were the trouble?
  9. I did a lot of gigs like this. I was typically called in to a working band after their formerly-current guy got the boot (usually as they were too drunk/stoned/hit on the drummer's wife, the usual foibles) and had to walk in, hit the ground running, and make it sound right. As you observed, often on these kinds of gigs, the arrangements are mangled, different keys from the recordings, too fast, too slow, you name it. But it's your job to make it work, at least for that one night.

    These sorts of things are the equivalent of 'working without a net', and IF you can nail it, these situations put steel in your spine. You were lucky, I never got set lists, rehearsals, any of it. I had to stand and deliver, and when I could make it roll down the runway and lift off (which I did most of the time . . . . ), it really built my confidence. I walked into a train wreck or two where I was in over my head, and those are teaching moments, too. There are always going to be songs you haven't heard before, nobody knows everything.

    Playing is better than not playing, and it sounds like this wouldn't have been a good fit personality-wise, so it's one more learning experience, and you move on.

    If asked, I'd NEVER lay out of a tune I didn't know. I'm guessing this crew wasn't playing jazz charts or anything really technical, so I'd have asked for the key, and played something in the neighborhood and got through it. A BIG part of these kinds of gigs is having big ears, intuition, and finely-honed radar to where you can sense a general shape of a song and follow what they're doing, even if you're playing very simply to get through it . . . which is FAR better than 'sitting this one out': That silence, even with average players . . . . sticks out like a spotlight.
  10. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

  11. I have experienced similar situations, and have as a result set a rule for myself. I will not play without either a rehearsal or charts provided by the band. I have passed on several opportunities when the BL would not agree to rehearse. I violated my rule on one occasion that turned into a train wreck; when I asked to meet with the band to go over the songs, the BL said "get there early and we'll go over everything". I arrived in plenty of time and found that the BL was in no mood to rehearse; he also did not have any charts for me. On another occasion I subbed with a band at the last minute when a rehearsal was not possible, but they did have charts. That one worked out great, and I am now a member of that band.

    I really think that some BL's don't consider bass players to be serious musicians and therefore put little value on their contribution to the overall sound. Years ago I joined a band and learned several months later that I was their fourth bass player in the last two years. Turns out there was a reason for that; the BL played keys and thought she could play the bass parts well enough and that a true bass player wasn't needed. The other band members wanted a bass player, and since the BL really didn't want someone on bass, she made sure she was difficult to work with when it came to the bass player.

    So going forward without rehearsing can be a crap shoot; most of the time it's not a good experience, but once in a while it can be great. In the case of my bad experience, I was almost as angry with myself for violating my own rule and agreeing to the situation as I was with the BL for his part in the whole train wreck. It should be noted however, that this is a relatively small town, and if he ever approaches me in the future I will refuse to play with him again.

    Thump on,

    Ronzo, erratick, Sixgunn and 4 others like this.
  12. Mosfed


    Apr 21, 2013
    Washington DC
    Partner - CCP Pedals
    they sound like a nightmare. This is supposed to be fun
    Ronzo, Sixgunn, murphy and 5 others like this.
  13. I would agree it sounds like expectations were a bit puffed up on both sides. If I'm going to agree to a show as a sub, I need to state in writing what my requirements are, which includes when I expect to see a full set list. I do not know every song there is to so know and, while I'm fairly good at flying by the seat of my pants based on the fact that 99% of what's written is extremely formulaic and predictable, that's not going to work for everything. I need to have at least some basic familiarity with the material to fake my way through.

    Seems like they thought the OP would be able to do it with minimal prep, and seems like the OP thought they would give him a little more wiggle room. I do agree that you don't lay out on anything. That's pretty much what likely killed it for the band. You stand up there and you watch people's hands and you pay roots if you have to, but you play on every song.

    That said, the whole thing could have been handled better from both sides. It's a learning experience.
  14. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Supporting Member

    It is what it is.
    You did the best that could be expected under the circumstances.
    Maybe they will find someone who does the job better for them but considering what you had to work with I wouldn’t take it to heart.
    I’ve been there a million times. You do what you can to prepare then fly by the seat of your pants and hope for the best.
    I have a gig coming up in December that’s going to be a horror show.
    Solo acoustic singer/guitarist who decides to occasionally throw together a band.
    He doesn’t play in time, doesnt bother to play four bar phrases (just changes chords when he feels like it) ,doesn’t hand out a set list, doesn’t play stock arrangements, plays everything in alternate keys and doesn’t even play the correct chords. But he gets gigs that pay and I’ll make $200.
    it’s going to be the longest three hours of my life....
  15. MD-BassPlayer

    MD-BassPlayer Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    It's a hundred times better to play root notes and a simplified version of a song than to sit out on a song. With online chords available in ten seconds and you can listen to a song anywhere, it's really not acceptable. In the end, you and the band weren't a good fit for each other.
  16. oldcatfish


    Jan 8, 2011
    --As a sub, I totally understand it. And kind of appreciate it. Because their unorganized behavior is probably a big reason that they have to get subs frequently. I mean, if all bands were a joy to work with...their would not be very many sub jobs available .

    Now, as to the OP, maybe you underestimated your ability, or maybe they had unrealistic expectations. Either way, chalk it up to a learning experience. Maybe next time you get an opportunity like that, say something like,"I can play it, but only if I have enough prep time." Then give them a realistic time frame that you can nail the material in.
  17. oldrocker

    oldrocker Supporting Member

    Feb 13, 2005
    Long Island, NY
    You missed this part of the OP -

    They ask me if I can play this stuff and I tell them I'm not a pro but yes I can play it. The songs themselves are not hard but I would have to learn them. They said that they understand that.

    - They said they understood that I would have to learn the songs.

    And, as I mentioned the the songs that I knew and that they played pretty close to the original arrangement sounded pretty good.

    And, I told then up front when I got the list 2 days before the show that I would lay out on the songs that I know I don't know, so that shouldn't have been a huge surprise. If it was going to be a problem they could have addressed it at that time before the show.

    And, had they been a little flexible when i mentioned this before the sets in question they could have substituted one of the 'extra' songs that I did know.

    And what I didn't mention in the OP - the post was long enough already - but when I first met them and said that i could play the songs but I would have to learn the songs, they said they understood what that meant they told me they would send me the charts.

    I followed up twice asking for the charts before I got the set list 10 days later, no response. Only after asking a 3rd time after receiving the set list did I get any charts.


    Not sure what else I could have done. Wasn't really train wreck, except for the song they stopped and restarted because the guitar player started it in the wrong key.
    On that particular song he started in the original song key and not the key these guys transposed that song to. I had received the chart to that song so I knew the key they played it in. :cool:
  18. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Supporting Member

    FretFree likes this.
  19. Sound like a bunch of fools, or these must be very easy 3 chord songs. Hard to say without the song list.
    Artman and MD-BassPlayer like this.
  20. 2F/2F


    May 26, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    A situation like that needs a pro and a great bass player, if it is to go off really well. 30 songs, key changes, rearrangements, going on stage without ever having played together, needs a great bass player. Stuff like that is indeed challenging, but it's also second nature to a great musician. Your ear, your seamless technicality, and your knowledge of standards gets you through it sounding as if you'd actually practiced together. They know that...or they should.

    That was a really bad statement to make, and if in their shoes, with three days to go before the gig, I probably wouldn't have responded to it either. The only warranted response would have sounded A-holish: "What do you mean 'the ones you think you know?' Your job is to learn them. You have three days – so do it." At the point you said that, they knew they had possibly made a mistake...but they also knew that the commitment was made. So, as the band, what do you do when the sub you hired says something like that? Nothing. Just let the guy figure it out if he wants to, and accept that the gig isn't going to be your best. You can't hold his hand any more, but you also can't replace him at that point.

    It's just as case of not the right player for the gig, and vice versa. But it's Craig's List; what does anyone expect?

    How about posting the song list, and naming what the songs in question are? How about saying what the gig paid? Details like that matter in terms of passing final judgment on the situation. '50s and '60s pop and rock songs are basic musical vocabulary for a musician looking to gig with for-hire covers bands. You don't get to claim musical ignorance of those foundational genres...however, some gaps in ones knowledge base might be more forgivable than others. E.g. Maybe you don't know deep B side cuts from every Connie Francis single...but you had better know "My Happiness." If it was a hundred dollar gig, then they got their money's worth. If they paid you 500 bucks, then you needed to have taken a more professional approach and really nailed it.

    In the end, they might not hire you again, but it isn't as if they blew up at you or told you off. Again: Just a case of bad fit for each other...and it happens all the time.
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2020
    BassDad1964, Ronzo, Aweiss96 and 6 others like this.
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