Saturday 2 March 2013

Talk me through a night at the gig JAW!

Thursday afternoon, 28th Feb 2013, as per usual I leave work early so I can have dinner with the family and still get to the gig on time.  After dinner, and giving the wife and kids a kiss, I put the guitar and the amp in the car.  I leave two instrument cables in the car at all times, and one power cable, but I always take the guitar and amp out at the end of the night.

I wear the same as what I wear to work, nice trousers and dress shoes but keep it casual with a polo shirt up top.  This time of year (summer) the trousers can get a bit hot, but I don't want to be seen in shorts :)

When I arrive about quarter to seven (I'm always on time), I can lug the amp and cables in one hand and the guitar in the other to the gig, no trolley needed, one trip only.  The amp is just a buskers amp so it isn't big, but it is heavy because it has a big battery in it.  I run it plugged in however.  It has a very clean and crisp sound, very true to the natural sound of the guitar, and has enough oomphf for the venue.  I play outside, the maximum capacity is about 50 people, I want there to be enough volume that people can hear me, but they can still have a conversation without having to shout.  Next amp will be a PA...a subject for another story...

There are regulars on Thursday night - Steve, Barry and Ian are there almost every time.  Steve and Barry both love Whiskey and pour me two or three...I think they use me as an excuse to have a drink :)  Not a problem though, they are educating me on whiskey and are very generous with it!  They often invite other blokes down for whiskeys, Ian would be there every second time and he always puts some cash in my guitar case.  Great guys!

The shopping centre "caretaker" loves to come and listen, I often ask her what is the favourite song I play, she always says "any of them, I'm not fussy!"  I must learn her name.  I make it a habit to learn as many names as possible.  This is a good life skill for anyone for anything!  Mal is the owner and his wife Liz is often there.  They have a friend Vivian, who is often there, she calls me "Jason the engineer".  Mauricio runs the kitchen and is a really friendly guy.  He and his wife came over from Brasil and just a few months ago he had to spend some time in Bali, out of Australia, waiting for a new visa.  He's back now, which is great, he cooks me a fantastic wood fired pizza every Thursday!

All of the staff are great - sweet baby voiced Hannah...Milli, Korina, Troy, Das, Adam - staff do come and go, but it's good to get to know them.

I plug in, I put the amp on a limestone wall that borders the venue, I've learnt that having the amp more at ear height is better than on the ground.  I like to have it pointing towards the crowd and having me sit off to the side, but slightly in the direction the sound is coming from.  That way I can easily monitor the sound - you want to be able to play to the sound.

I tune up, have a bit of a chat to the regulars, and start with a few warm up songs.  Something easy, but catchy.  Retune after the first song as your body will have warmed up the guitar and put it out of tune.  There after, tune every now and then, but mostly if you've been playing hard and can hear it is out of tune!

I play a few crowd pleasers, I generally stick to themes. I'll play a few rocky songs, then a few quieter ones; or I'll play a few Beatles, then a few Pink Floyd.  I get a feel for the crowd, which changes week to week.  I get a few return visitors (for me or the cafe, who knows?! :))

A mum comes over with a young daughter, about 9, for a photo.  A mature aged lady, passes by and then sits down for an hour and a half listening and talking occasionally to me.  A younger couple stays to the very end; surprisingly, the maybe 20 year old girl knows almost every song I play.  A dear old lady as she is leaving comes up to me all smiles and thanks me for the music.

I play a few "work in progress" when I'm down to about 10 people left, I try to keep the tempo constant so even if I muff it, which I do, it still holds together for the casual listener.

I generally don't stop, except to pour myself another glass of water.  I've got more than 2.5 hours of material with only around 2 hours of gig time.  My fingers don't hurt, but my butt can get sore so I stand up every now and then.  Yeah, I know, playing non-stop isn't very professional, but I want to be able to play as much as I can, for me it is practise!

Since I'm a Pink Floyd nut, I always want to go through all my floyd...but if I detect that nobody is "getting it" I ease back on too much floyd.  Probably 45 mins of my set would be floyd.  But, play to the crowd!

By nine pm the staff are packing up, most of the customers have left, so I pack it in for the night, collect some money and a pizza, all done until next week!

* * *

Look, it took a while to find something like this that was "compatible" with me.  I didn't want a big wild gig, something cosy and small is what I wanted.  I didn't want a weekend gig, although they would prefer to have me on the weekend they let me go on a Thursday night.  It took about 15 potential places before I stumbled on Mal who wanted to "liven" up his cafe with live music.  Good on him.  He now has me on Thursday, Ben plays Friday and a Jazz trio plays Sunday.  I think it probably costs him money, but he is looking long term - to try and establish his venue as a place for live music.  I'll tell you what he pays me if you want to know, you might not be impressed though.  Some nights there might only be fifteen people all night, some nights there might be seventy.  You have to charge, you can't work for free, even if like me you have a day job.  There are too many struggling musicians out there.  Okay, he pays me $60, and pretty much as many pizzas as I want.  It is cash, I'll let you decide what that means.

Nervous?  Nope, after more than six months of doing this gig, I don't get nervous.  Bored?  No, it is still a highlight of the week.  Time consuming?  Only if you want it to be.  Most weeks, I don't even take the guitar out of the case between gigs!  I'd like to add some more songs to the set, but my life it already too full.  One day.

I think it is a great gig, it was a bit of effort to get it established (35 years of playing guitar and a year of talking around) but it is doable.  Give it a try!



  1. Completely off the topic but i stumbled across this and think if anyone can appreciate it, it would be you..

    haha enjoy,


  2. sounds great JAW
    I recently spent 4 weeks in the hospital and had one of my guitars there, I have never played for anyone except at church before and was quite surprised when the nurses and even some other patients came to the door and told me how much they appreciated my playing and singing. It was a real encouragement, your note on your gig lets me know there are other places to play, along with you I am a Floyd fan, I love Gilmour's style and try to mimic him as much as I can. thanks

    1. Great story Ian! I think as guitarists we all somewhere deep down want to share our love of playing guitar with someone who appreciates it. I battle between thinking this is a pride thing, "look at me!" (which I'd hate it to be) or if it is simply being so excited about playing you just have to share that excitement with people - and getting a thrill seeing them enjoy it!

      No doubt there are places to play. In fact word of mouth I've been asked to play on Sunday at a different venue, it's a fundraiser so volunteer work, but that's no problem. I will always maintain that playing the guitar should be paid, doing it for free is hurting the people who are trying to scratch a living out of playing. As for accepting below market rates...well, there has to be some sort of compromise. But volunteer for a good cause is always justified!

      You just need to go with the flow with the venue and audience. For a long time I had some sort of ideal vision in my head what playing in public would be like. I've learnt to completely let that go :)

      But see now that you've had a taste, it is hard to go back. Keep looking, ask around a lot, and don't be shy. It took me around 30 years before I was brave enough to play for audiences, nobody should wait that long!


    2. It would be awesome if you could, somehow, record all or most of your set. I would love to see how you go about it.

  3. hey JAW!
    Finally Found you, again... I stumble into one of your videos in 2008 or 09 when i was starting "again" playing guitar, but my laptop was stolen and I lost all my bookmarks. I have been playing almost every day for the past few years but lately I have been hitting a wall or something I feel like stuck, so a get back to my origin and started to relearn old songs and luckily stumble into you canon in d video again. I'm glad that you are such of an accomplished guitarist now and that you are still enjoying it so much!

    best wishes form the other side of the world :0)


    1. Glad to help! Have you put any videos on youtube? It is the next best thing to performing - give it a try, you'll be surprised!