The polarities of my feelings about gigs are getting more extreme. I wonder where it’s leading? On the one hand, enjoying my half-hour on stage, whether it’s jamming with theG.co.uk at the Left Bank, negotiating the twists and turns of Lynsey’s songs at the Three Tuns, or belting out first-time-played songs at Leith Market with OOTB. On the other hand, extreme reluctance to go to gigs, hang around, put up with admin arrangements that change by the minute, and hang around some more. And that reluctance is getting stronger by the day.
In what other occupation in life would you constantly be told ‘Can you come and work for xxx minutes? Oh by the way we can’t pay you. But you’ll get the pleasure of working. Oh and by the way it’s not that time, it’s this time. Oh and by the way we’re not ready yet. Oh and by the way we’ve no equipment. Oh and by the way you have to conduct a publicity campaign to make sure there are customers. Or we won’t use you again. Oh and by the way it’s all being put back an hour.’
No-one else would put up with it. The reason seems to be that it is in no-one’s interests to bring new music into the world, other than musicians. Pub and cafe owners are in the business of getting people to drink. A musician is only as good as the bar takings. Gig promoters, if they’re not in this category, are often musicians who have some sympathy with other musicians but are at the mercy of the venue managers, and often end up pleasing no-one and getting it in the neck from both sides (see the recent unsavoury claptrap on the OOTB board re the efforts of Harry and Jamie at the Left Bank), so they stop doing it. They are in the business of trying to please everyone, calling in favours, balancing their favourites against the demands of the managers and the audiences, and cobbling together programmes and equipment from whatever favours they can call in, in conditions of great uncertainty. Musicians are notoriously, unbelievably bad organisers, so that makes it worse. Audiences are in the business of drinking, smoking, getting off with each other and, when it comes to the music, hearing what they’re familiar with. Unless they’re other musicians in which case they’re in the business of waiting till their spot, regarding other musicians with an uncomfortable mixture of sympathy and rivalry. So the performing musician, at the bottom of this food chain, is left to fill the bottom line, making some agreeable noise at the (delayed) appointed time, simply because they have a driving inner need to do so, and can, to that extent, be relied on to provide the goods when the rest fail. I suppose the nearest equivalent in real life is the voluntary care sector. Or am I just being in a particular curmudgeonly mood?