Sometimes booking – especially at the local level – is a little ramshackle…
Things fall through, bands cancel, shows get thrown together on a whim, and every once in a while, you’ve got to salvage what could be a frustrating scenario.
A while back, I played a show with Short Hair Domestics. We booked the show at the beginning of the week, agreeing to flesh out the lineup for a touring band whose vocalist hails from our little city of Muskegon. It was a bit of genre mashup, sure (something I’m all for, and will address in a later post), but that’s just fine. SHD has a policy of taking just about any and every gig that comes our way – we just love to play, and we aren’t too picky about where.
We showed up to the bar to unload to find out that the two other bands on the bill cancelled THAT AFTERNOON. Now, no hard feelings for these other bands or anything, but right from that moment, we knew we a long night on our hands. We collectively shrugged our shoulders and went inside. The traveling band had asked to play first so they could hit the road shortly after their set, and we’d just do our thing when the time came. No big deal.
Then, as we’re hanging out waiting for the first band to start, the sound guy comes over and asks us, “So you guys are a couple of sets, right?”
Upon a little bit of further discussion, we find out the first band is planning on playing a five-song set…
Now, SHD has a pretty decent amount of material, but the songs are short. We’re definitely not a band that can fill and entire night…
And before any of this starts to sound like complaining – it isn’t. Bands really only have as much material as they have. It’s not really something you can change on the spot to meet the needs of a given night. The first band came with the songs they had prepared. So did we.
…Can’t ask for much more than that.
I should also mention that the sound guy, the person who put the show together, and the bar staff didn’t seem to be too worried about it. After two of the bands canceling, the person running the show was happy we were able to salvage something by still having two bands, and the sound guy was just trying to figure out what he would be dealing with.
No one was tense or upset, we were all just looking at the same scenario: a last minute show that didn’t have enough music to fill a whole night.
And this is the part I love – me and my pals making it happen as best we can.
Since the opening band (and the reason for the show in the first place) planned on playing first and hitting the road, the rest of the night was essentially ours to deal with…
A phone call and a short car trip later, we had William with us (who I play with in King Crabapple and Dr. K’s Medicine Show) guitar in tow. That was our backup plan – add one person to the mix and get down to jamming for the “3rd act” of the night.
So that’s what we did, and it worked just fine! We played our Short Hair Domestics set (a little longer of a set than usual), took a break, and started winging it. Hiphop jams were the name of the game, with Malechai (who also plays bass in SHD) spitting various verses over drum ’n bass jams (William on the bass). Eventually, Johnny Stash made his way to the bass and Will played some guitar.
We jammed for maybe an hour or so, and by the time we were wrapping up around 12:30, we felt rather satisfied that we’d done our best to provide music for as much of the night as possible.
And I guess that’s what I’m trying to get at here – we could have been pissed the other bands cancelled, we could have panicked or pointed fingers, but instead we called in a friend, leaned forward, and made it happen.
Fortunately we’ve got a lot of experience doing this improv thing, or it would have been a very different situation…
But that’s kind of beside the point. In a world where bands cancel last minute shows, we added a set of unrehearsed material. I don’t say this to toot my own horn, I say it because I think it’s an important approach to music making. I love to play, and the opportunity presented itself – a challenge that begged to be accepted – so we just smiled and dove in.
We could have played our set and bailed, or bellyached about the change of plans, but getting upset wouldn’t have made the situation any better. It was a chance to have some fun, provide tunes for people, do something that felt like it strengthened or musical community. It certainly wasn’t about money.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, I hope you do the same 🙂