Soundcheck #3

A few nights ago I played a gig for which I was paid in beer, for the first time ever.

It’s a new thing for me; getting paid at all for what I do. About a month ago I made the princely sum of £16 for a half-hour set in a pub’s back room. My pay came solely by virtue of the number of people who came to see me, which is the first taste I’ve had of what it must be like to be a ‘real’ musician. Technically, the people in that back room paid me, just as you pay the artists you love every time you go to a gig, buy an album or download a track.

It was a good feeling, just as it was the other night where I played in a pub whose ’stage’ was basically the floor where some tables had been an hour earlier. It’s my first experience playing to so many people who weren’t there to see me, and proved simultaneously fun and intimidating. Highlights variously included:

1. A drunk idiot getting on the drumkit behind me and hitting them (arythmically), before being removed by the staff.

2. A different drunk attempting to shake my hand before he left, while I was still mid-song.

3. Yet another friendly drunk shouting out requests, one of which I actually knew. He joined in, singing better than me as I played “Caledonia”, a fitting close to my set. He bought me a pint and his friend gave me four quid for another.

Sure, its nice playing acoustic nights and folk gigs, but there’s a very different excitement to be found in playing to a busy pub full of folk who haven’t paid to hear you and quite probably don’t want to hear you; winning them over just by being yourself, without pandering to what you think they’ll want to hear (apart from “Caledonia”, thats a classic!) is a good, good feeling.

I like to think back on the words of my new, incredibly tall Polish friend from Hell is Harmony: “You are a very brave man, I couldn’t get up there and do that without my friends.” Being told you’re brave by a guy who looks a bit like a Viking is high praise indeed, but my friends are always there, in one way or another – if not in the building, then in the music, which I think is why I can keep doing it.

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