Friday, 20 February 2009

75 quid a gig. Is it worth it, he says?

My band, Pocket Rocket, played last night at Tommy Flynn's in Camden High Street. The gig, organised by our drummer Nigel, was for employees of the Wunderman advertising agency that he works for, and is the latest in a series of 'Wunderstock' gigs that he has put on over the last year.

The benefit of playing such gigs is that they usually guarantee a good turn out, and are boozy affairs. Before the recession they would also include a free bar; now, with redundancies imminent, such generosity would of course be insensitive. Maybe this lack of generosity or bad feeling towards management is why numbers seem down tonight?

Still, the pub is full enough. Our soundcheck is short and sweet and we sound fine. The vocals are the only thing going through the PA and there's no stage monitors, so this keeps soundcheck simple. I can't hear my guitar very well because between me and my amp on the small stage is Nigel's drum kit and a lot of cymbals, but I can live with it.

I have my first drink (a bottle of Newcastle Brown) as the band before us take to the stage. They have serious techanical problems with the singer's guitar and I do my best to help him remedy these but with little success. I feel for the guy, who is having a total nightmare but his band do an excellent job of covering.

I take the remainder of my Newcastle Brown and a glass of Jack and Coke on stage, but end up sticking to water while we play. We have a 45 minute set. The first few songs sound great but our aural pleasure is soon spoiled by the gradual introduction of verbal noise into the music. The audience's indifference is evident as the applause at the end of each song dimishes gradually to none. Our third to last song Your Teenage Dream is scrappy and we start to feel we are overstaying our welcome as it comes to a close at about 35 minutes in. With hindsight, I think we should have played our last song at this point and got off, but instead we play a couple to end. After a tune up, the last song Laura sounds ferocious, and would have been a perfect rendition had we not cocked-up the end, which is highly unusual.

Mike, who plays bass, is not happy. I can see it and feel it as we play our way out of the cock-up at the end. He looks demoralised and tells me when we come off stage that the indifference of the audience and his frustration at the rhythm section's lack of tightness, have depressed him. Unfortunately, he let's this affect his view of the whole business of being in a band.

He then proceeds to way up the financial cost of playing the gig by adding up money spent on the two rehearsals before it, drinks and his cab fare on the night. "Tonight's performance" he says "has cost me £75 including drinks. Is it worth it?". "If you don't enjoy it, Mike, it's not", I say.

And technically that makes it a 'pay to play' gig, doesn't it? And an expensive one at that; 75 times by 4 is 300 quid.

My lasting concern is not financial but is that 45 minute sets by unknown bands before indifferent audiences, are too long. 30 minute sets, as I've said before, seem hardly worth playing; Therefore, forty minute sets in front of indifferent audiences or audiences unfamiliar with your material, are the perfect compromise. Let's try that next time, eh? And drop Your Teenage Dream.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Four weeks...

Four weeks 'til the first Rock-Til-You-Drop live event at the Dublin Castle on 11th March. Flyers are going out to rehearsal rooms and musical equipment shops. Posters are going up too, here and there. Press releases are going out to the weeklies and the dailies.

The monthlies ignored me. Except the musicians' magazine Play Music Pick-up, that is. Turns out the editor Tim Slater is a mature musician himself so that was a touch. The club got a mention in the Camden New Journal today. And the Camden Gazette have promised a feature - so that's a start.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

"No more heroes anymore"

Iggy Pop is selling car insurance for; John Lydon has been selling butter.... "whatever happened to the heroes?"