Friday, January 23, 2004

Kev's Guide to Gig Etiquette

(Lee asked me to post this a few days ago, and my first attempt got wiped out by an errant push of a button, so I'll try again. Though this is gleaned from my years and years of gigdom [haha], it's by no means comprehensive, and I'm likely to come back and update it from time to time.)

1) To be early is to be on time; to be on time is to be late. This may sound trite, but it's true. Bandleaders will often hire a lesser player who's reliable over a greater player who's not (because the reliable guy has a better chance of improving as a player than the unreliable guy does of becoming reliable).

2) Show up overprepared for the gig. Brass players, bring every mute imaginable. Saxes, bring all the doubles you can play (OK, maybe you can leave the oboe at home). Guitarists/bassists, bring extra strings and cables. It's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

3) Be discreet on breaks. I'm not saying you have to completely disappear from sight during these times (though there was a wedding reception gig I played once where the band was explicitly told not to speak to the guests); you can be friendly to guests, but remember that, in a way, you're a glorified version of "the help." It's someone else's party; if you're lucky, you'll be treated like guests, but you have to smile and bear it no matter what.

Also, if you must smoke on breaks, try to do so in a designated area and not just wherever you feel like it. It wouldn't hurt if some guests were smoking also.

3b) Do not hit on the guests!...unless they start it, maybe (haha).

4) The white zone is for loading and unloading only. Even though it's a pain, try to drop your gear off at the front (or service entrance) before the gig and then move your vehicle to the back if possible, saving the nice parking places up front for the bride's Great Aunt Tillie or whatever.

5) Dress for success. If you enter through the front, and guests are already there when you are to arrive, show up dressed for the gig if at all possible; it just looks better (concessions made, perhaps, for 100-degree heat, but it's better in that case to come in some sort of service entrance).

6) A Diminished Fifth. If you can hold your liquor, it might be OK to have a drink or two on a gig, but be conservative. I personally rarely drink on gigs, since I want to stay sharp for any possible new charts (and I also don't want to have to leave the bandstand to go to the bathroom!). If you can't hold it, it's best to stay away; I'll post the drunk drummer story eventually.

6b) However, there's a converse to the above: If a customer buys a round of something for the band, it's best not to refuse it unless you're a) under 21, b) a recovering alcoholic, or c) morally/religiously opposed to alcohol consumption of any kind. Otherwise, the customer might think you're dissing them. This only happened to me once, but the Kamikaze shot did loosen me up quite a bit before I had to sightread a big set of changes.

7) No solicitation. It's bad practice to hand out your business card at a gig if you're not the bandleader. Even if it's an innocent situation like someone looking for lessons, the leader may think you're trying to muscle in on his territory. I had a good friend get fired from a band in his younger days for doing this.

8) Be polite but noncommittal on requests. I used to play bari all the time on dance gigs. Sitting on the end, I'd be the one the chatty old ladies would come up to and request songs from the 30's that I'd never heard of. My stock answer would be "I'll see what we can do, but we might not have that one in our book." Then I'd pass the request along to the bandleader, who might not have known the song any better than I did, but at least he could make the call, and I hadn't promised something we couldn't deliver.

9) Leave the fan club at home. Your wife/girlfriend/mistress/relative/best friend can come to your gig if it's a club date or coffeehouse gig, but leave them at home if it's a private party unless you've been explicitly told you can bring someone. Jazz musicians don't, as a rule, need a "roadie" or a "posse," and it just looks unprofessional, as if your hanger-on is a party-crasher.

10) Play nice. Be the kind of person whom other musicians will want to be around. When it gets down to it, the band sounds better when everyone enjoys playing together.

(More later, I'm sure...)


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