March 11, 2011 in the mind of a coffee shop rocker part 2
First, read this morning’s post. It was a pep talk to myself and all of us. Get out there and be brave, this sunny friday in March, a day open to anything for those with courage in their fist and breath in their chest. But if you go to the coffee shop I spoke of, I won’t be there.
I had to go out and check the sound equipment and learned that a band I’d never heard of was coming on at 8. Interesting. My name was nowhere, not even for the month. I came home and checked my email to make sure I wasn’t crazy. I am crazy, but I found the email which said March 11. My advice is to disregard the positivity I exuded earlier and double check your dates with people, even at risk of redundancy.
Just kidding, I’m not mad. More relaxed than I was an hour ago. And given that I now have the night off, I have time for a story if you do.
It happened in New York’s Lower East Side, the 169 Bar, or vaguely Chinatown I now remember. With heroism and diligence I had been battling the NYC circuit of open mics, and when I was approached online by the 169 Bar to play a 30 minute set, I felt slightly affirmed. The 169 Bar boasted they had been the set for an episode of HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords,” and that they were a music venue of recognition.
I booked the show. In an email they asked if I could realistically expect 25 people. The show was in three weeks and I figured by then I might. So far I knew about 15 folks, meaning I would need 100% attendance, plus dates. I met an excellent musician to accompany me and we rehearsed at the Manhattan School of Music where he was finishing a masters in jazz trumpet.
The night of the gig was exhilarating. We were the third of six openers for the headlining 70′s acapella group, “The Persuasions.” The doorman asked who I was there to see and wrote down my name on a clean page. By the time Ashley came and the trumpet player’s friend arrived, we had two marks on the pad.
During the set before mine, the doorman came to me and said that unfortunately they were going to play house music through my set.
“Because you’ve only got two people here to see you.” He rolled if off like it wasn’t supposed to hurt. It was as matter of fact as if I’d asked the drinking age.
“Okay, thanks.” I stared at my glass of water for a little while. Then I went to tell my band. Outraged, we were outside talking to the doorman in seconds, with my friends pointing out that the club was entirely packed, no room to sit, and we were prepared to play.
“Look here. You said you’d bring a crowd. There ain’t a crowd that came to see you. When you fail, we fail. The bartenders fail. For 30 minutes we don’t make that money.”
I was stunned. We were doing this for free. Here I had a gig, and this guy said I could play only if I had 25 friends to pay. I left, rubbing my hand on my neck.
The next day the manager wrote in an email,”If you can’t bring out more than two people on a Friday night, you’ve got to be kidding yourself.” That was the entire email. He had taken the time to change the font to green and make the size 18. As if I’d been dishonest to hope.
The story came to mind in the song, “Take Two” from NYC Spanks Levon Walker:
“I stand on these stages, to see if I can win the crowd,
But the manager’s game is already played by the number of the folks come out.
So if you think you like what you hear let me tell you how to ease my mind,
Find the man with the clip of money, say you’ll bring a friend next time.
Say you’ll bring two, or three or four
Down the highway, come back for more
And I’ll play for you.”
It’s 7:57 and time to publish.
Tags: 169 Bar, booking, coffee house rocker, cover charge, door man, Flight of the Conchords, hbo flight of the conchords, lost the gig, manhattan school of music, nyc spanks levon walker, take two, the boot norfolk virginia, The Persuasions