Night at the office
Posted by keithosaunders on January 30, 2016
Being a musician is a strange career. Often times the easiest part of our job is the playing. Most of us have been practicing our instrument – honing our craft – every day of our life since the time we were kids. (in my case since I was 8) We have logged more hours in pursuit of our quixotic profession than any doctor or lawyer. By the time we go to work in the evening the execution should be like turning the ignition key in a car. Sure, there are nights where our playing is less than inspired and we may clam a few notes or forget a some chords, but for the most part we play at an consistently high level.
From where I sit the difficult part of our job is maintaining our concentration amidst what are often less than ideal performing conditions. What we do requires a heightened sense of listening which can be challenging under the best of circumstances, but daunting in a room full of screaming bar patrons.
I often play this gig at a crowded dive bar in the Haight Ashbury section of San Francisco – Club Deluxe. For the most part I love this place. It is integral to the Bay Area jazz scene, providing a space for musicians in a city that is practically bereft of jazz clubs. The vibe at Deluxe is usually good and although people are often noisy there is enough positive energy (and free beer!) to make for a fun night.
Last night, however, was rough. The place was unusually busy for a Thursday and it was packed with inebriated 20-something tech people. Sitting directly across from the band was a trio of loud, drunken dudes. It’s one thing to deal with the white noise of a jam packed bar — it becomes a background din and you can deal with it. But when you have people in close proximity screaming at each other at the top of their lungs, not only is it jarring but it becomes like nails on a chalkboard.
Three hours into the gig the frat boy alchys were still there and louder than ever. As we were beginning our final set our bassist could take it no longer and he asked them to move. One of the dullards said something snide and our bass player, giving his best dead-eyed Clint Eastwood stare, said, “Get the fuck out.” At that point I stood up and flanked the bass player. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking – I’ve never been in a bar fight and I’m pretty sure I would get my ass kicked – but I was ready to go to war with these louts. Somehow the sax player was able to de-escalate the situation and the drunks ended up leaving. But the whole thing left a sour taste in everybody’s mouth.
The good thing about the music business? Tomorrow is another gig.