BAR STAFF MORE INTELLIGENT THAN GUITARISTS?
Whenever I’m asked to perform at an ‘open mic’ night for free, I ask the question, “Are the bar staff getting paid?” Of course they are – they are not stupid; only musicians arrive at their local pub with £1000s of gear and then perform for free.
If you are any good then you should be paid – if you are not then you shouldn’t be performing in public. Simples! Will Halligan, Southport
Oh Will, that’s a very loaded argument. Having done 1000s of paid gigs myself, and quite a few free ones - “There’s no money I’m afraid, but the publicity will be good for you and you might get other work from it” is the usual old chestnut – I know where I SHOULD sit. The thing is there’s a fence propping me up and I can see over both sides! The other one is where the band says (and who hasn’t done this?), “Oh well, think of it as a dress rehearsal in front of an audience – it can only help.”
Also, having witnessed many dire open mic performances (and contributed a few myself, most notably one many years ago where I was so nervous that I got paralytic and couldn’t speak, let alone play or sing!), I feel that particular pain too.
Now, I know this will sound like a cop-out, but I think it’s down to the individual to decide. After all, one thing people often fail to consider is the sheer enjoyment and exhilaration in playing in front of people. Why shouldn’t good musicians (many of whom have no other vehicle with which to do so) have a bit of that? And, thinking about it, should we deny those less musically able the opportunity to experience the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd? Those bar staff are probably on the minimum wage, are hassled, abused and insulted, while the performers get their egos massaged and taste a little moment of stardom. Of course there’s the issue of venues exploiting musicians, but, again, the musician can always say no.
The Ultimate Rock Workout you did recently was really enjoyable. The thing is, I’m a more bluesyjazzy kind of a player (not heavy jazz, but blues with a bit of jazzy colour added to it), and I’d love to see another workout but with this kind of player in mind. Rock tends to be a bit repetitive and sequential, and a bit ‘square wave’ by comparison. If I were preparing for a big blues gig, or even fancied beefing up my blues chops, it would be great to have some well set-out ‘circuit training’, as I think you referred to it, for my particular tastes. Is there any chance of such a thing any time soon? I’m sure many readers would love it. Dan, Worthing
You’re in luck, Dan. From the outset we envisaged one or two more of these. People might imagine that a workout is a workout, but you’ve hit the nail on the head when you describe the differences between genres. And practising a load of sequential major scale tapping arpeggios is hardly going to set you up for that moody slow blues in G, is it? So watch the next couple of issues, as it will be appearing as our cover feature in GT233 – your bluesy six-pack awaits you!
The unpaid open mic performer: exploited or not?