The World According to Keitho

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It’s gigging season

Posted by keithosaunders on June 14, 2010

This is the storm before the calm — my final busy period in New York before the approaching gig-drought in my new home, San Francisco.  I am so busy now that I even have doubles on Monday and Tuesday.  My only day off this week is Wednesday and this is the way I like it.  I would gladly work a 50 hour week if those 50 hours were gigs. 

This is the busiest it’s been in quite a while.  Last year the economy was in the tank so nobody was that busy.  I’m getting the feeling that things are beginning to loosen up and there are more gigs happening.  At any rate it feels great to be this busy and I can’t help wondering if I’ll ever be this busy again.

I played a couple of parties this weekend and ended up eating as if I was going to the electric chair.  At Saturday’s gig, a 50th birthday party, we were invited to partake of the crab meat and jumbo shrimp before the music even started.  Let me give some advice to prospective party hosts:  Don’t invite musicians to eat shrimp and crab meat unless you have an enormous supply. 

As it turned out this host had an enormous supply.  We could have spent the entire evening by the crab bowl if it weren’t for the appearance of…roasted pig!!  Believe me when I tell you that you have yet to taste a more tender, succulent entre.  It was a real party enhancer, if I do say so myself.

With all of this it’s hard to imagine that we actually managed to get in four sets of music.  By the end of the night we were happily exhausted.  Then came the moment of indecision inherent in  such gigs:  Overtime?   

The bass player and I had each had a previous gig so we were not in the mood to stay any longer.  But you never say no to overtime since you can always use the extra cash.   We were beginning to pack up when along came our host who proceeded to bellow “YOU CAN’T LEAVE!  STAY!  HAVE A DRINK!  CMON, WE’RE HAVING FUN!” 

I thought about staying, but I had a 30 mile drive home and I knew that if I stayed I was going to drink, and I didn’t want to risk being pulled over.  At some point the host and his friend said they would make it “worth our while.”  This is great on its face, but it really means nothing to us.  Someone, either the host, or the leader of the band, had to say “We’ll play for another hour for X amount of dollars.”  Otherwise we can find ourselves in a situation in which a four-hour gig turns into a 6-hour gig for not that much more money.

I know what you’re thinking:  These guys ate and drank like kings — how can they be so ungrateful?!  That’s fair if, in fact, we were personal friends of the host.  The truth is that we are going to play the gig whether we eat or not.  It is wonderful when the host is generous, such as the other night, but that still can’t detract from our professionalism, and the bottom line is that we must be fairly compensated for our service.

I’ll be the first to admit that this is a grey area.  We are constantly balancing our business sense with our desire to ‘do the right thing.’  In the end we could have stayed, but we didn’t.  Our host had received more than a fair price and we played for an ample amount of time.

And everything turned out alright.  There was a guest who was a rock/folk guitarist who ended up entertaining the remaining folks, and I’m sure it was a nice contrast to the jazz standards that we had played. 

Our leader was in a tough position because he was a personal friend of the host.  I can understand why he wouldn’t want to ask for more money, while at the same time respecting our need to get home.  It all worked out well, however, and it was a good night. 

Since these gigs are among my last in New York I have a feeling that they will tend to be a little more resonant to me.a t least for the time being.  I”m going to try to keep documenting them and to let you know what the experience is like.  The chances of me leaving another city in which I have resided for 26 years is extremely remote.  This is a huge time for me.

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One Response to “It’s gigging season”

  1. bkivey said

    Another great insight into the life of the professional musician. My opinion is that unless stipulated in the contract the comestibles are ‘gravy’: any professional should be fairly compensated for their work.

    Your statement about living in the same city for 26 years caused me to think about where I’ve lived the past 26 years and I was a bit surprised to realize that I’ve lived in 8 different cities for periods ranging from 1 to 10 years, plus a number of ‘away missions’ ranging from 1 to 3 months.

    Hope you get up to speed quickly in ‘Baghdad by the Bay’.

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