G is for Gigs
Most of them are brilliant. Like this one in Tuscany:-
I have sung at many, many weddings before – but this has to be a once in a lifetime experience! I sang in the setting sun in the gardens of a hilltop villa in Tuscany, with rolling vineyards and olive trees as a backdrop. A massive achievement for me. More details under ‘T’ is for Titan and Tuscany!
Then there are the funny gigs:-
It was a comedy and music gig (stand-up comedy and sit down music). Great audience. Evening going really well. Fortunately I was standing up and talking, and not sitting down and singing/playing piano.
I heard a little ‘pop’ and then my microphone died and I noticed that the lights on my stage piano had gone out. My bloke, who was operating the PA desk, and I exchanged a ‘rabbit in headlights’ glance. I was about to finish the observational humour story I was doing at the time, and then approach the piano for a silly song.
This was obviously not going to happen. So I did some more spoken comedy to ‘fill’. Fortunately it was a village hall and my voice is capable of being heard without amplification.
Meanwhile, after a bit of looking at gear and leads and checking things and thinking, my bloke assumed that our power distribution board had blown a fuse. No problem. We carry spares of everything – and (don’t be rude) verbal fluency has never been a problem for me!
So I was, thankfully, still making people chuckle. Out of the corner of my eye, I was aware of someone from the village hall having a quick chat with my chap, and then scuttling off ‘back stage’.
So the power came back on and I was able to approach the piano, do some singing, and do some more ‘stand up’ and then finish the gig with a rendition of Victoria Wood’s ‘Let’s Do It’.
I was then able to find out what went on when I was ‘filling’:-
John: Frantically replacing power supply and changing our extension lead.
Village Hall Person: ‘Um. I’ll check the meter’.
John: ‘The meter?’
Village Hall Person: ‘The slot meter for electrics. I think it needs another 50p’
Oh you gotta laugh. Rock n’ Roll eh?
And then there are the Gigs From Hell. Memorable but, fortunately, rare:-
Had a typical ‘musicians – oh we hadn’t thought about them’ type gig with the comedy trio.
A marquee – deep joy! Admittedly it was a fundraising evening but they kept selling more and more tickets. This meant they created more and more tables. This meant that with each extra table for ten, our stage area got smaller. We ended up with a tiny stage area, with the bit where I would normally put my piano stool completely missing! Very scary evening for me and a big test of my 'available space' improvisation skills.
Anyway, as part of our contract we request food, and somewhere to change, and three chairs backstage where we can sit when not on stage. Backstage was actually outside the marquee behind the flap that was behind the – um – stage. The changing area was a recently mucked out horse trailer parked behind (i.e. outside) the marquee and the three chairs were outside the horse trailer which was, of course, outside the marquee. Funnily enough, it was freezing cold and it was raining.
We were ‘after dinner’ which would be 9pm. We already knew that that wouldn’t happen (we’ve all done after dinner gigs haven’t we?!) We went on at 10pm. They had an auction of promises and had enlisted the services of a professional auctioneer. He’d brought his own mini P.A system but, of course, there was nowhere to put it (because the stage had shrunk so much!). Could he use our P.A? (oh deja flipping vu).
The auction was after we had finished. Say no more, apart from the fact that there were 16 items to auction in a marquee crammed full of 300 plus wealthy people with bank balances that allowed a certain degree of one-upmanship!
Occasionally, very occasionally, I fantasise about getting a job filling shelves in a supermarket. This was one of them.
So I was booked for a one hour after dinner cabaret. As I had done a similar gig for the guy that booked me for this gig (for his village hall) for £120, and assuming that it was a one hour cabaret after dinner, I naturally quoted the same price.
Turns out it is a black tie (wasn’t told that) fundraising evening for the Rotarians.
It’s in a marquee (wasn’t told that either – and I’m getting too old for marquee gigs in November).
It’s 7pm for 7.30pm – so we’ve obviously got to arrive, set up and sound check, before any guests arrive (they don’t get that one, do they?)
Left home at 5pm (having loaded the car first – they don’t get that either!). Longish drive to Cotswolds gig. Set up and sound check before guests arrive at 7pm. Discovered during the sound check (fortunately) that the turbo charged heater for the marquee kept blowing my music off my stand. This is why musicians carry clothes pegs in their ‘other stuff’ gig bag!
Then jolly posh head-of-everything in penguin suit asked if he could use our P.A. system for speeches (wasn’t told about speeches!). This proved more complicated than it sounds. Can they just use our on stage microphone as well for speeches? Yeah – no problem. Well it seems that one of the speeches comes with a video presentation. The screen is not close to the stage. So we have to move one of our speakers close to the screen – and a mic stand and mic – oh and an extension lead for the mic. Sorted. No – not sorted. One of the presentations (the one that needs the screen) has her presentation on a laptop. She had assumed that there would be a P.A. system that she could play her laptop through. You must realise where this is going?
Fortunately, as I do speaking, and also singing at the piano (for comedy cabaret gigs), I have two mic stands. So in addition to the mic and mic stand that’s already in place (not near my stage), there is now my other mic (with another extension lead) ready to point at the laptop for the presentation.
Dinner was running late, of course (performers will understand the irony and deja vu feeling) BUT we were going to be properly fed – and this is good. What clients don’t always realise is that we would really rather be in a dingy corner on our own eating our dinner. Not so on this occasion. We were at the ‘top table’ and had to endure the most boring people possible for a very long time.
Then came the two TWO (hadn’t been told that) long speeches and powerpoint presentations by the recipients of the money from the fund raising year.
Then we had to re-assemble our equipment so that I can do my after dinner entertainment. As everything was running late (what a surprise) and they still had the raffle (aaaaaaargh) to go – and the Casino thing – could I just do 45 mins instead of an hour?. This is good news. The bad news is that I had to be funny, and half the audience (and me) had lost the will to live.
Then it’s de-rigging the gear and loading the car (slightly hampered by semi pissed audience). Then long drive home. Midnight 30 when we got home. So that’s almost an 8 hour shift. £120 for 8 hours. You work out the maths!
And one of the penquins asked me what my ‘proper’ job was. Grrrrr.