May 09



In a day and age where live music opportunities seem get get less and less, more than ever we need to hold onto the gigs that we have. It is not just good enough to be a great musician. We need to pay special attention to the details. Arriving on time. Keep the breaks short. Dress appropriately. Add new repertoire on a regular basis. Sometimes the most difficult one is take special care on how you interact and speak to your audience. Some people can be such idiots, and if we react in a negative way, it can cost us the gig. So KEEP YOUR COOL AND KEEP THE GIG.

Those of you who have played music for sequence dancing, know how awkward the dancers can be. Doesn’t matter what you do ,the tempo is wrong. The fact that you have prepared your beats mathematically, and you know you tempo is exactly correct, they will always know better.
A friend of mine working on the Isle of Wight had been playing for Sequencing dancing day in and day out for two years. He had just reached his limit of complaining. The next time somebody said to him with a whining voice “It’s too slow” his reaction was ” No Lady. It’s not too slow. You’re too old.” Needless to say, the next day he was out of a gig.
Its good to have your speech about the rhythms being mathematically prepared  and deliver that tactfully, but sometimes that is not enough. What you can do is say to the complainer that you will raise the tempo, or slow the tempo for the next tune, and make a show of tapping five or six times somewhere on your equipment, as though you are changing the tempo. This often works, as there is a lot of ego involved with amateur dancers. This show of changing tempo has then made them feel important. You’ve KEPT YOUR COOL AND KEPT THE GIG.

Ballroom dancers are seldom much better, and very good at knowing better than you do. A couple of nights ago, I introduced a tune as a Quickstep.. Somebody was very quick to contradict me and say it was a Foxtrot. Fortunately somebody very quickly disagreed with him, and agreed with me. I have been playing the tune for years for Ballroom dancing, and have never seen any couple dancing a foxtrot to this tune. I could have said this on the mic and been confrontational. Rather I said “Ill play the tune, and you can decide whether you dance a Foxtrot or a Quickstep.”

How you talk to your audience is very dependent on the type of venue you are performing in. I have seen many entertainers working in 4 and 5 star hotels who had learnt their entertaining skills in Working Men’s clubs, where it is normal to be aggressive and insulting with your audience. It is considered funny to pick on one person in the audience and put them down. This just doesn’t work in an hotel situation. In a bar you have a little more license with risqué humour. In an Hotel keep it clean.

The area of audience control that requires extreme tact and skill, is dealing with drunks. Especially if they are trying to come onto your stage. I’m particular sensitive to this, as I have 2 guitars and 3 saxes on stage. I have had a drunk knock a sax over before, which incurred a hefty repair bill.
I’m very quick to say to drunks “I’d rather you were not on my stage, as you are drunk, and I don’t want problems.”
The next step is to inform management (if they are around) that you have a problem with a certain person. Then if I does escalate you have some measure of protection.
It does help to be sober yourself. This is another area of paying attention to details, that so many musicians can let themselves down on. If you are sober you are more able to be clear headed and make the right decision of how to diffuse a situation.
The funniest situation I’ve had with a drunk, was with a drunk woman. She was hassling me, and I had done the speaking nicely bit. I informed the bar manageress that I was having a problem. At this point the woman started heckling me. The audience was very supportive of me, and started shouting at this woman. The bar manageress came over. The drunk woman adopted an aggressive stance(boxing style). The manageress wasn’t waiting for any more problems, just hit her full in the mouth. The woman dropped like a stone. The audience cheered and applauded. I wasn’t the best entertainment that night.
Make sure that it is the manager/manageress or bouncer that does any punching, because even if you are right, you will lose the gig.

So next time you deal with a total idiot, remember how much you need the gig. Close your eyes for a second and say to yourself KEEP YOUR COOL, AND KEEP THE GIG.

Audience control.

sequence dancing, ballroom dancing,repertoire. foxtrot,quickstep,Isle of Wight.hotels, bars, working mens clubs

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