Last Friday night was going according to plan as best it could – David had been feeling poorly most of the week, so I scuttled our last chance at a rehearsal so he could stay horizontal for a couple of days, heal up before our gig; but beyond that, everything was copacetic: got a last-second Facebook announcement out, had more than a few RSVPs from my email blast earlier in the week, the Lady Fair had gotten home late, but early enough to hit the road with time to spare, the PA was in the SUV, and my hair looked fabulous. My sweetie changed her cloths, I splashed on some cologne, we piled into the Saturn, and we sped off to Greenville – with the normal slowdowns over the lake heading to Rockwall, I was only going to be maybe ten minutes late – completely acceptable when you’re aiming for an hour early and you only need a half-hour at most to set up the gear. Just as I pulled up to the venue, I could see the patio was packed; I could also see the guitarist serenading the guests. My thought was, “We’ve got an opening act. Okie-dokie. Let’s hope he finishes quick.” I pulled into the crowded loading dock and was met by my visibly upset partner before I could kill the SUV’s engine. “We’re cancelled. Gig’s been double-booked.”
The patio was a wedding reception; inside had a jazz-ish duo on a keyboard and guitar. My partner and I were one musical act too many.
I got out of the car and grabbed my smart phone, quickly posting to my Facebook page the gig was kaput. I posted on the event page, then tried to contact my parents to warn them off – too late, they’d already been there 10 minutes, they’d been inside confusing the hostess about who they were there to see. With Mom’s help, called the other RSVPs of the scheduling conflict. Once all the announcements and phone calls were made, I invited David and our booker, Julie, back to the parent’s place for some wine and fellowship – they declined and headed off to their necks of the woods; my Lady Fair and I headed to Mom and Dad’s to ponder life’s mysteries and view my folks’ photos of their trip to Ireland.
Julie, bless her heart, spent the majority of Saturday morning beating herself up over the snafu; separately, David and I told her the same thing: don’t take it personally, it’s just business. Jules got the message and is now hard at work trying to pin down a new location for the David & Keith Show.
I’ve spent the last eighteen years as a graphic designer, web designer and production artist, three jobs that just thirty years ago would have all been lumped together as commercial artist. In the commercial art field, you’re expected to have all the creativity, talent, and skills of an artist while maintaining all the discipline, ambition, and teamwork found in a business professional – you literally have to keep one foot in one world ruled by half of your brain and the other foot in another world ruled by the other half of your brain; and it’s the inability to keep those conflicting demands balanced that scuttles most rookies. I can do the balancing act, I can keep all the plates spinning, but I don’t enjoy it – one of the biggest reasons why I’m trying to become a rock star.
The upside to the eighteen years of playing with crayons while wearing a tie and sports coat is I learned a while back not to take things personally. The suit from the suite on the 18th floor didn’t like the layout – that’s not the same as being told you did a lousy job or that you’re a crappy artist; it only means the suit from the suite on the 18th floor didn’t like the layout. Once you understand this, once you understand your job isn’t to create the most awesome layout ever, your job is to make the suit happy by making their sometimes bass-ackwards ideas the best the idea can possibly be, you find your job gets a hell of a lot easier. Not easy, mind you. But easier.
Same holds true for gigging, especially in a city full of locations but lacking in hard-core fans. Bars in Dallas, Fort Worth, and the surrounding metroplex are primarily owned by entrepreneurs – there’s a handful of big name franchises like the House of Blues and Gilley’s, there’s a resort or two like the Gaylord Texan, but by and large the places willing to book me and my crews are mom-and-pop joints. It takes two personality traits to open a bar: an insane belief in yourself and an utter disgust of the 9-to-5 grind. These traits make for some damn fun people to have at your party, but a booger-bear to deal with on a professional basis: always expecting you to make time for them, always expecting you to be gracious while they’re allowed to chip at your pride, always expecting some kind of compromise which entails them getting everything they want while you get to feel fortunate you got a deal at all. And God bless ’em, that’s part of their job as owner and operator of a venue: paying as little as possible for as much value as possible. Would be nice if some of them were a little less dick-ish about the process, but like I said, it takes some major stones to think you’ve got what it takes to succeed as a bar owner in this town – superiority complexes come with the territory.
And it’s not like musicians are that much better. The better the artist, the more they’re apt to think they walk on water while needing constant ego stroking – which manifest in them being just flat-out flaky. Forget about trying to get a decision on something pertinent, signatures on a contract, or getting your phone calls and emails returned in a timely fashion – you’re lucky to hear from them within the week. AND THEY ARE NEVER SATISFIED: Lead guitarists are pissed they’re not getting as much of the spotlight as the lead singer; lead singers are pissed the lead guitarist never has to worry about sore throats or sinus infections; bass players are pissed they’re constantly overlooked by the audience and taken for granted by the band; and drummers just want all the gawd-dang drama to go away so they can get back to beating the skins and having a good time. If you’re lucky, you get to deal with professional musicians that are professional; if you’re unlucky, you get to deal with prima-freaking-donnas. And today’s professional can be tomorrow’s prima donna at any time.
When I made the decision to branch out musically, the first person I contacted after clearing my plans with Paul and getting on the same page as David was Julie – Julie was starting a promotion company, I knew I didn’t want to book gigs if I could avoid it, so I happily partnered up with her. I knew from the first day there would be problems from time to time: she’s an attractive women in a town filled with good ol’ boys dealing primarily with alpha males on one side of the business and touchy-feely creative types on the other – shit would happen, there’d be no way to avoid it. With luck, when the dookie did occur it would be the alpha makes and/or touchy-feely creative types to blame and not my dear Jules, but I was still prepared to not take it personally if Julie stumbled.
I don’t know what happened Friday. I didn’t take it personally. Moving on.
I’ve got David’s open mic night tomorrow, the band is playing a rare mid-week gig Wednesday, then I’m headed to see my brother’s band Friday for what is rumored to be their lead singer’s last gig – if I have any energy left over, one of my other favorite groups is playing the nearby biker bar Saturday night, would love to hear more from their completely amazing new female lead singer. With any luck and more than a bit of hard work, by the time next month’s Friday night David & Keith gig arrives, the snafu will have been sorted out or a new venue will have been located.