Playing music your whole life teaches you a few things about people. It teaches you human behavior and the effects of alcohol on these said “people.” Sometimes you just say to yourself “WOW” what the fuck is wrong with people. It really is an eye opener to stand on the stage and look out for so many years. That will be the point of this exercise. He is just a bass player watching the shit show. Most nights it is just that, a Goddamned Shit Show and you’re in the eye of the storm.
The arrival and entrance to a gig usually goes as follows. About 90 percent of the time you’re a tad bit uncomfortable, as if the establishment is doing you a favor. You never see this till later because it is an unconscious thing. Musicians (not all) have a tendency to have a lot self-doubt contradicted by a huge ego. This makes this breed a very strange one. Back to my point now! As we get set up we always make some kind of relationship with a staff member or a curious patron “Hey what time do you guys go on? What kind of music you play? Can I buy you a beer?” said every drunk guy I’ve ever come across. This is when you start to settle in. You now have touched base with the natives if you will. Setting up for a gig always creates a bubble that helps you deal with anxiety. Gear has to be moved, the P.A. rig has to be set up. This gives you purpose and now you start to feel justified that yeah you are working regardless of what people think about you. For me I usually find myself and my nerves settle in about the time we are done with set-up; naturally now it is time for a beer.
The set-up you ask? Yes this is its own paragraph. There is a method most pros use when loading into a gig. That is the difference between a pro and novice out in the gigging circuit. All big things first, and let’s also mention, everything is on wheels. Most of the large speaker cabinets have their own wheels on the cabinet or rack itself, and anything that does not your have your hand cart. The hand cart is the most important fucking piece of equipment you own. Recently I was asked by someone at a gig “What had I learned from playing music my whole life? I understood this guy was trying to pose a philosophical question, but my sarcasm required to say the most honest thing possible. “NEVER MOVE ANYTHING WITHOUT A WHEEL,” and it was a completely honest answer; just not the one he was looking for. All large items first then cables and lastly the small stuff: guitars, stands, your personal fan, your beverages all the things you will need up there with you.
The first set is usually my favorite the energy is usually at its peak during the first two sets and the magic usually happens then as well. It is during these first two sets that you start to see the alcohol induced human drama. From the vantage point of the stage you can see who is hunting who, who is going to get thrown out for being over served, and which guys are getting angry because their female companion is paying too much attention to the band. It’s like you’re in a reptile zoo and somebody is feeding booze to these to these goddamn things. It really is the strangest show on earth.
You wind up using your short breaks for a quick pee maybe a smoke outside so you’re never really have time hang out with friends that come to see you. You just watch them join into the human drama and hope they make it out alive.
I have learned to predict fights between couples by watching their facial expressions, I’ve seen the drunk guy fall down before he does, seen which partner the dancing girls choose before they do and even predicted where the waitress is going to spill the contents of her tray by watching what is going on in her in her main traffic areas. Many times I have felt like a Goddamn soothsayer by the end of the evening.
Alcohol has always been the great equalizer in this situation but, I spent two years sober from alcohol recently and I felt like the wet blanket during this period. I will leave out the name and rank of these particular parties that were involved with me during that time, but it was a difficult experience for me. This time was often quite a lonely place for me. I felt a disconnect with everything and everyone. Sometimes it was a little too obvious and I would come across as being rude or “too good for everyone, you act like you’re above us.” The irony in that statement really made it clear to me that I have social anxiety issues. I became very sensitive during that time for many reasons, but the sobriety heightened my sensitivity.
You learn the rhythms of the individual spots that you play at as well over time. You can tell by what’s going on around town, or by who’s working what kind of night it will be. You even see over time that particular types of people gravitate to certain parts of the establishment regardless of whether they know each other or not. It is really quite entertaining how it all works
And year after year it seems to go on the same. The same ol’ lines you hear out of the same types of characters. Don’t get me wrong I love what I do. I just sometimes become sensitive to the vapid things people say and do. It just gets to me I guess. Other times, I am right there with them.