Posted by keithosaunders on December 12, 2011
I played a casual last night. Here on the west coast gigs that are affairs — weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, corporate parties — are referred to as casuals. Why they are called casuals I don’t know. They are anything but casual. In fact, you often have to wear a tuxedo, although last night was not one of those nights. In New York such gigs are referred to as club dates, yet another misnomer. Canadians call it jobbing.
Years ago I had a sax player buddy who nick named me Captain Casual, not because I played that many casuals, but because I was really bad at them. I didn’t know that many standards, and I knew very few pop tunes. I didn’t even know what a cha-cha was, let alone have one in my repertoire. Not that this is anything to be proud of. It’s just that over the years, from necessity, you learn enough of these tunes to get by.
These jobs are a necessary evil of the music business. Why? Because they’re the only gigs that pay any damn money! Especially with today’s economy — few of us are in a position to turn down these gigs. And if you are lucky enough to play them with good musicians, under the right circumstance they can be enjoyable, or at least painless.
On Saturday I played a casual in San Mateo; a large-scale corporate party for Virgin American. For some reason these parties often have a theme. Why they feel compelled to have these themes I’ll never know. It’s corny. Why can’t people simply eat, drink, dance, and go home? Is that asking too much?
Saturday’s theme was chocolate. Or was it candy? It was never really clear to me. Somehow there is an invention that can pump various scents into a room. Our room smelled like chocolate, while another room smelled like peppermint.
In our room there were a half a dozen TVs showing the old film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory — the one staring Gene Wilder — not the soulless Tim Burton/Johnny Depp monstrosity.
The move kept playing on a loop, and since it was a long gig it was on several times. For some reason I wanted to see the part where Charlie finds the golden ticket, but I kept missing it. I don’t know why it was so important for me to see this scene, but the more I kept missing it the more I wanted to see it.
That’s basically it. I made my money and drove home. Just one more thing, though. The San Mateo bridge is the longest bridge I’ve ever been on — it’s eight miles long. That’s one long-ass bridge.