Benefit gigs

Went to two benefit gigs this week – one as an audience member and one as a player.

The audience member one was particularly fantastic, not least of all because the main musical attraction was Martin Taylor. The other main great thing about it was that it was for Eric Roche’s family. (I’ve just been booked to play at another benefit gig for them on Dec 4th – Eric’s Birthday – at Haverhill Arts Centre – more on that later…)

The first half of that gig was various friends and musical acquaintances of Eric’s playing and paying tribute. Of particular interest was a genius harmonica player called Steve Lockwood (who’s also playing at the gig in December).

The second of the benefit gigs – the one I played at – was on Friday. The events had little in common. What they did share was ropey compering. Given the huge impact they have on the smooth running of any event, it’s a shame when people can’t find good comperes for events. The guys involved in each of these were well-meaning and friendly, just not very good at keeping things moving and linking events.

At the gig I played – a benefit for the Pitstop Ploughshares – the room was an echoey church hall, and the PA was particularly shabby with no monitors, which meant that extra-special care needed to be taken to make sure people were listening, if only for the sake of the performers. This didn’t happen, and while it didn’t seem to bother the folk-singer/performance poet bloke who was on first, it was clearly going to be a problem for the people afterwards. Fortunately, a well placed ‘SSSHHHHH!!!!’ from someone in the audience quietened things down, and as the quality picked up, the chat level dropped.

I have mixed feelings about these kinds of gigs. The cause is one I support, and when I was asked to play, I was very happy to offer my time to help out, but the overwhelming trend with gigs like this is that while you’re thanked profusely numerous times throughout the evening, you’re still treated like some amateur who should be happy they are getting the chance to play to an audience.

I’m still not sure how to deal with these kinds of things – I obviously don’t want to stop doing gigs for good causes just because of crappy planning, and I’m clearly not about to start charging a fee for such things, but it’s pretty demoralising to play in those kind of conditions. Maybe I should just have a technical rider that has to be met for me to do them. I’ve tried the bending over backwards to make life easy route, and it just doesn’t work. I really do need monitors and a decent PA if what I do is going to come across well…

that said, I did sell a few CDs, and got to hear some other talented but very poorly amplified musicians play.

In other news, I’ve just redone the Solo Bass Network site – when I first set it up, the idea was to develop a little community of people who would chat about solo bass and spread the word about gigs etc. etc. Truth was, I couldn’t really be arsed to manage it. It takes a special kind of resilliance to bother keeping something like that going (see the Extended Range Bassist yahoo group – the founders there post incessantly to keep the discussions going, some of it readable, much of it inane bollocks, but it works, and the list has just about got a life of its own…) So I’ve not just reduced it to what it does best – a compendium of links to solo bassists and solo bass related stuffs on the web. Maybe one day I’ll get round to adding a low maintainance gig guide on there, but to be honest, you’re much better spending your time getting coverage in your local newspaper than faffing about with some website where the chances of anyone within 500 miles of you reading it within the time frame of the gig are so small as to be not really worth the five minutes it’d take you to upload the info…

Oh, and I’ve also been mixing an old duet track that I recorded with BJ Cole last December – sounds lovely, and will hopefully be up on the Recycle Collective site before too long.

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