It’s no news to some of you that I often play in a blues/rock cover band. I make decent money at it, and sometimes the shows are fun. Plus I really like the other two guys in the band… But I’ve complained on and off about the places we play since we’ve started playing. Part of the problem is that we’re largely playing places with no natural draw. We’re not playing the GOOD bars–we’re playing the bars that expect the band to provide the audience–which, frankly, I can’t promise for that group, since I’ve got my OWN material to support. It’s a failing business model, to begin with. If you’re a bar and no one’s in you on a Saturday night, you shouldn’t be employing a band in the first place…but I digress…
As much as I get irritated with the drunks, the bar owners (who are often just freaking insane), and sometimes even the setlist… I’ve got conflicting emotions about even playing in bars at this point. Actually, I don’t mind the 9:00-11:00 crowd. Most of them are the responsible club-goers who know when to stop drinking, or at least know when it’s time to have someone else drive them home… What I mind is the 11-1 crowd. The sloppy drunks. They come in three categories:
- The Young Idiots – These are the ones who think it’s awesome to be out at 1 a.m., instead of just being either naturally used to it, or realizing that it’s kind of a pain to be out that late and have to get up the next day. They think they’re “closing down the bar!!!” but they’re really just irritating the owners by not leaving when “last call” has already been announced. At least they usually enjoy the music, though.
- The Old Idiots – These are usually also the bar’s regulars. These are the guys that would be there if there were a band or not, come rain, sleet, or apocalypse. They have long since been defeated by the world, and now all they have left is beer–and not GOOD beer at that. And they DON’T like the music.
- Miscellanea – Some people just end up there until closing and they’re not really sure how it happened. Either they came in with the Young Idiots and can’t leave because someone else is their ride, so they’re bored and just waiting to go home…or they came along with someone, they started having fun, and they just lost track of time. (This is usually easy to spot. They often look at their watches around set three and say, “Alright…one more.” Then they look again during set four and say “Holy *&^%!!! I’ve got to get up in the morning!” – The particular profanity is their call.) They may even be people who just don’t go out too often who finally got a babysitter who was willing to keep the kids overnight, so they’re having a rare night out. That’s cool. They usually enjoy the band, and I actually usually like these people, or at least sympathize with them for having burn-out friends that they’re stuck with. Either way, my qualm is not with them.
The first two groups make me sad. I wouldn’t probably think about it if I were playing 45-minute sets in a multiple-band setting. But over the four-hour gigs, you see people come in at 9 (or worse, they were there before you) and leave at roughly 1:30, practically being shoved out of the door because they “don’t have to go home, but they can’t stay here.” They’re slowly murdering themselves with alcohol, they have no real life to speak of, and they stink of failure and sad.
…and I’m their entertainment.
I struggle with that. People point out the fact that it’s not exactly like I’m contributing to their excess, since they’d be there anyway…but I’m not sure I agree. I mean, I’m getting PAID to watch these guys drink themselves to death. It makes me sad and I often walk away feeling like it’s blood money in my pocket, always knowing that if I ever say anything like, “Man, I think you might’ve had enough” to one of them, I risk either getting into a fight, or giving the band a “reputation” around town and losing bookings.
Now…I’m no prude. I enjoy a good drink as much as anyone. I like a good party. I also like moderation. If I went out and drank like these guys (or–even sadder–ladies) do every week, I’d probably die within a month. I stopped liking being drunk YEARS ago. I usually will have a couple of beers over the four hours, but I’ve never been in a drunken state while playing, and I’ve certainly never tried to drive home that way. If you want to be one of the Miscellanea who are just out for the sake of being out, and maybe it’s even kind of “special” for you to be doing it…that’s great. But if you’re a “regular” anywhere, I kind of pity you.
So…y’know…I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. Sometimes I’m just not sure the money’s worth it. Sure, maybe it’d go on if I were playing or not. In fact, I can GUARANTEE it would…but that still doesn’t mean I want to watch it every week.
Maybe I’m just burnt out.