It’s been a little while since our last post… summer holidays put a stop to our productivity but like the rain, we are back and here for the foreseeable future!
When it comes to Saturday nights, we invariably have a booking of some sort lined up. Our preference would be a lovely wedding in a country house but when we don’t have anything in the books, we will generally play in a local pub. God forbid we had a Saturday night off to socialise… notions! This post will delve into the murky waters of pub gigging, providing some insight for those who are just starting out on this career path and some light comic relief for those who know the trials and tribulations of pub gigging all too well. Our lovely wedding couples will also get a chance to see what we get up to when we’re not playing at weddings.
So why do we do it? Would we not be better off sticking to weddings? Do they not pay better? The answer is yes and if we had the choice we would predominantly be doing weddings and nice corporate gigs. Sadly, however, both of these markets have become saturated in recent years meaning it has become more difficult to play this type of gig regularly without lowering our prices. It’s a supply and demand thing, yadda yadda yadda. Currently, we do several weddings a month and then we’re left with one or two Saturdays each month that we fill with public shows. It can be nice to do a pub gig after a long run of weddings as they can be less stressful and there is certainly less prep that has to go in to them since there are no first dances, song requests or early starts. We also like to keep our pub gigs local so that we’re not too late getting home afterwards… you’d be surprised what a difference this can make! As well as all of this, it’s a recurring stream of income; once we get our foot in the door of a pub and the crowd likes us, the venue will always book us for a number of dates each year. Happy days, we have a pub gig this week? I can pay my car tax… Adulting at its finest.
Now, let’s touch on some of the less glamourous aspects of pub gigging… there are a few. When we arrive at a new venue, the first thing to assess is always the location they are placing us and how can we carry our gear in without annoying too many punters or staff. Sometimes it can be a game of Tetris to get all the gear and a full band into the smallest corner of the bar without blocking access to the toilets or deafening Jacinta, the local patron who loves to stand with her ear lobe touching off one of our speakers. Jacinta will wake up the next day a little heard of hearing and wonder why? Hmmm. Which brings us to the issue of volume. Volume is a constant tug of war between bands, venue owners and punters.
The venue wants everyone to hear the music and we want everyone to hear the music… Yes? Yes. However, the customers want to enjoy a nice chat with their mates in the pub as well as hearing the music. The staff want to be able to hear drinks orders and still hear the music. Hmmm, yes, this is where the problem starts. Though bar staff sometimes have trouble hearing drinks orders over the music, they never seem to have any issue understanding customers who are complaining about the volume of the music… (too catty?). This falls under most venues’ policy of ‘The customer is always right’ which we of course agree with. In most cases, we have no issue turning down our equipment. As professional musicians, we value our hearing more than anything and we don’t wish to damage any ones hearing. At a certain point though, we can’t continue turning down our equipment as there is a base volume which we can’t go below i.e. the sound of a live drum kit. So, often we ask ourselves, would the customers who regularly complain about volume not simply drink in bars that don’t have music? As I can tell you from extensive research, there are more bars in Dublin that don’t have music than ones that do. This issue can also be down to the venue owner however, as not every bar is suitable for live bands. Some are too small for the sound to disperse without deafening the audience and a nice Nathan Carter playlist on Spotify might be the ideal solution here. Rock me mama like a…wait, no, I still have to get on to the wagon wheel post!
Punters, Customers, Drinkers or Dancers. There are many names for the lovely individuals who frequent the bars we play in and they can make or break our night. If they’re in good spirits and the drink is flowing, they’ll dance and we’ll all have a great time. If not, they’ll sit quietly on their phone making minimal eye contact with their spouse while sipping a pint of Smithwicks. I have nothing against this brand but trust me, it is always the Smithwicks drinkers that don’t dance. Though, I don’t blame them, I wouldn’t feel like dancing after a few scoops of Smithwicks either… *shivers*.
Whether or not punters dance can sometimes be dependent on the songs we play, although after several years and hundreds of gigs we have refined our set and only play songs that will get a crowd going. Now in some instances, our setlist just isn’t quite cutting it for Susan from blanch who loves a bit of Joe Dolan. So out come the pen and a posted note, betting slip, beer mat or in some instances, a five euro note to let the band know the perfect song to play right now. This usually happens about half way through the night and we honestly don’t mind. If we know your song, we will absolutely play it for you… That’s after we have deciphered your barely legible chicken scratches and determined that you want us to play ‘Tina Turner’. Poor Tina, as far as the greater Irish public is concerned, she only ever recorded one song. The infallible floor filler, ‘Proud Mary’. I can feel the whiplash in my neck just thinking about it, it’s off with the heels and neck ties for this one! So yes, we love the odd request as long as it’s roughly in keeping with the rest of our set list… like just a little, please. Our singer is Female and under the age of 25, do you really want to see her singing Joe Dolan or Daniel O’Donnell???
So, after this much complaining, why do we still do it? Because we love it! 99 percent of the time we love what we do and we would rather be playing music with our mates to an empty bar than sitting at home watching love island. Part of it is validation, we’d feel like we weren’t very good at our craft if we weren’t out gigging on a Saturday. We do also have to maintain a public presence so prospective clients have a chance to see us in the flesh and as a result, we quite often play in the same couple of venues each month. This suits our business model but isn’t ideal for others.
Now to address the title of this blog post! At one of our first gigs, a customer sat right in front of us for the entire gig and proceeded to play the spoons along the band. At the interval in our set, this lovely old gentleman then asked if we could turn the band down so he could hear his spoons… I shit you not! These are the kind of bizarre stories which we carry with us on our musical journey. We’d love to hear from some other musicians if you have any cracking stories of unusual encounters with the public. As usual, this is just our take on pub gigging and in the grand scheme of things what do we know? About anything? Well, whatever we do know we are happy to share! Feel free to drop us a line and we can shed some light on any issues raised in our posts. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Facebook.
Till next time!