Advice from Sasha- To play or not to play? That is the question.

Photo Credit- Dylan Verner

Chris and I are “a band”,  “romantically involved” and we live together. As we like to tell people who ask, no, actually, we don’t fight. We can’t. There is no room in our schedule for fighting.  Not to say that we don’t disagree or have conflicting feelings about what we should have for dinner, who leaves their clothes on the floor more often or who messed up the intro to the new song at the last gig. We’ve got plenty of normal band/couple/roommate friction in this duo, but there’s just too much to get done making it nearly impossible hold tightly to any negative feelings. All of our disagreements and hurt feelings must be quickly dispatched to the land of forgotten grievances so that the gigs get booked, the house gets cleaned and we have time to record an album, make dinner and laugh at just how much the main character from Bones resembles myself. But every once and again, a disagreement just won’t let go and we spend a significant amount of time in conflict. The most recent such occurrence was, not surprisingly. about whether or not to play a particular gig.

My Argument: All gigs are important and, barring a scheduling conflict, we should never say no.

My Justification: We are a relatively new band (two years) and, eventually, we want to tour full time. In order to accomplish this goal we have to build both our audience as well as our road chops. We have to be able to play in any scenario, on any stage and do so with professionalism and enthusiasm. And hey, you never know who you’re going to meet at a show no matter how remote the location, sparsely attended the show or measly the pay-out. Fans come in individual packaging, and I believe that (almost)every opportunity to play is worth the effort.

Chris’ Argument: The gig is a waste of our time, energy and money.

Chris’ Justification: We’re trying to save money and there’s no point in driving six hours to play a short set in a potentially crappy location with other bands that we will probably not have any occasion or reason to network with. And we’re tired. And we haven’t eaten a non-convenience store meal in days. And many of our friends have really fun gigs that night, so shouldn’t we stay and support them?  And finally, don’t you want to take a nap? (This last one truly is a killer argument.)

Final Decision: We go. I am willing to admit to owning a closet full of bossy pants. I even have them in multiple sizes depending on my waxing and waning female figure.
On the way to the gig: It’s cold. Very cold. And where is this basement anyway? Who will be there? What will the “house kit” be like and will Chris get so frustrated by playing someone else’s kit that he will sit and sulk in the corner all night? We still haven’t eaten a proper meal and although it turns out that there was a lot of pizza at this house party, Ms. Gluten-Free and Mr. Low Carb are wary of being hungry, which as we all know is the precursor to the appearance of Mr. and Mrs. MEGA CRANKY.

Final Assessment: We had so much fun!!!! Everyone was absolutely delightful, friendly, hilarious, smart, and generous. The music flowed seamlessly from act to act, the basement was rigged up with great lighting, a nice array of amplifiers for people to use and absolutely zero dingy basement smell. The host and hostess were super psyched for our set and we met bands from VT, Maine and NYC. The variety of musical performances was engaging and we reveled in the thrill of having a packed basement full of people bobbing their heads, cheering loudly and dancing, yes, you read correctly, DANCING! We played a full set, and even got to play an encore. This was one of those shows that makes you happy to be part of a larger community of people who are willing to open their homes, share their talents and let loose on a Saturday night. Whether Chris and I actually reach our ultimate goal of being a full time touring band was not even a remote worry on this winter’s night in northern Vermont. All that mattered was that we were playing the music we wrote to a great crowd of people. Sheer rock ‘n roll bliss.

So where’s the advice? I suppose the kernel of wisdom is this: You often don’t know exactly when and how the delight of being a musician and performer will come into your life. My advice is to make as many opportunities for yourself as possible and then be open to the possibility that things can, and often are really great. It’s true, sometimes gigs are downright horrible, and that’s also to be expected, but hey, all those gigs will make for a great memoir one day. People will want to know what it was like to have every single dapper steam punk hippie walk out of a small coffee house in that New England college town when you started to play and you wound up performing for the bartender and a drunk pedestrian who was there only to use the bathroom and then you left at the end of the night with $0.50 in tips, bought an overpriced bag of stale tortilla chips and cheap salsa at the gas station and in the morning shelled out the dough for your $125 hotel bill. These stories are way more interesting than “Tales from my couch whilst on my ass.” Get out there and enjoy, there will be plenty of home cooked meals and nap time when you retire.
Rock On!