Good Gig Bad Gig — This IS my job!
Good Gig Bad Gig — This IS my job!

Good Gig Bad Gig — This IS my job!

In my career as a musi­cian I have played some really neat gigs, some cool ven­ues like the Com­modore Ball­room and the Red Robin­son Theatre, more than one ware­house turned into a ven­ue for a Christ­mas party. Vari­ous fancy hotels down to tiny res­taur­ants or pubs, cram­ming a 20 piece jazz band into a small corner, or a flat­bed trail­er turned into a stage. Gigs like those are always fun because I usu­ally have to clam­ber into place in a down­stage corner and just kind of sit there til it’s my turn to sing, because there’s no mov­ing around, or mak­ing an entrance. Some­body’s gonna fall off the stage, and it’s prob­ably me.

There are two gigs that really stand out in my memory because of the con­trast between them: good gig bad gig. They were both wed­ding recep­tions, both with the same fel­low, a jazz pian­ist named… I’ll call him James. So he had these two wed­ding gigs and asked if I would sing with him. The first one was held in the stu­dio space at the Sur­rey Arts Centre, a black box theatre space where they had set up sev­er­al round tables to hold, y’ know, 8 people or so. This was a pretty small, intim­ate wed­ding. The stu­dio had been dec­or­ated with light­ing, and city-scapes on the walls with light­ing. We were hired to play some tunes dur­ing the cock­tail party. James played on a gor­geous grand piano, and we did all kinds of jazz stand­ards, as well as some Beatles tunes with a jazz feel, and we were fully pre­pared to provide back­ground music, but in fact, every­body stood around and actu­ally listened, and clapped. It was more like a con­cert, it was really neat. And after we played, there was a beau­ti­ful buf­fet din­ner, in which we had been invited to par­take, which was lovely, and gen­er­ous. We fully expec­ted that we would fill our plates of food and take them down­stairs to the green room that had been provided by the ven­ue, but no! Instead… Get this. The bride and groom did­n’t have a head table. It was just them­selves, the maid of hon­our and the best man. So they invited James and me to sit with the four of them! It was amaz­ing. And lovely, and pleas­ant, and we chat­ted about this and that and had an abso­lutely won­der­ful time. I have often wondered about that couple and how they’re doing.

A couple of weeks later was the second wed­ding gig I did with James, only this time it was a jazz quin­tet, so the two of us plus three oth­ers. The bride and groom were edit­ors of some fit­ness magazine, so no black box theatre space for these folks. This wed­ding recep­tion took place at a massive home in South Sur­rey, in Pan­or­ama Ridge. This is not what you might think of as… a mod­est neigh­bour­hood. This is a wealthy neigh­bour­hood. The recep­tion was tak­ing place in the ten­nis court in the back yard of this house. An enorm­ous tent had been set up, walls closed in around the area where the tables were, but open at the band end. The tables and chairs all had fancy cloths and cov­er­ings, and the centrepieces on each table con­sisted of these… sort of vase-like can­de­labra com­plete with feath­ers sweep­ing out of them. The cater­ing was by the Pan Pacific hotel, so we’re talk­ing nearly $400 a night for a room, so… “fancy shmancy” is what I’m say­ing. No short­age of budget for this event.

Inside the house was a river run­ning through the liv­ing room floor. Com­plete with fish. It was all lit up and covered with plexi­glass so you could walk on it, and there was also a massive fish tank that took up about six feet of wall space.

The theme was Black and White, so I had to actu­ally go and buy a dress to wear for this event, and of course I’m not going to wear that dress while we’re set­ting up.

Ok, now here is where the real con­trast between the first wed­ding and this one reared its head.

Once we were set up I wanted to change into my dress. I asked where the wash­room was so I could change. I was told by the cater­ing staff that there were porta­johns out front. This is true, there were. And they were fancy ones. But! I explained that I wanted to change clothes, not just pee. They said I had to use the porta­potty. I’m like… No. I have to change into a long gown. Any­way, I dodged the cater­ers and found a wash­room inside. Ok, that’s done, I’m ready.

They did not provide us any chairs. We had to ask them for chairs to sit on, and boy oh boy was that a pain in the ass for them. They grudgingly hunted down some chairs, but not enough for all of us. James got one, as the piano play­er, and I think there were a couple oth­ers, but I had to sit off to the side, on the out­side of the tent, which, as I said was open at that end, but still, I was out­side of the tent on a little rock wall. They did­n’t offer us so much as a glass of water. We had to ask for those, and we each got one, and I def­in­itely had the sense that I had bet­ter make it last.

We star­ted play­ing, while guests were arriv­ing, and again it was kind of a back­ground music situ­ation, which is fine, except that even when you’re play­ing back­ground music, you kind of expect to be able to fin­ish a tune before the MC speaks. You know, dude, if you have an announce­ment, let us know, we’ll fin­ish the song and let you speak before we start up anoth­er one. Not this guy. He inter­rup­ted us in the middle of a song to make some sort of announce­ment. More than once. In fact, at one point he inter­rup­ted in the middle of my singing, to tell the audi­ence that jazz musi­cian Diana Krall’s dad was here as one of the guests. Really?? It was abso­lutely appalling. Like, 1) who cares, and 2) don’t you think maybe Diana Krall’s dad has an appre­ci­ation for music and might be listen­ing? It was just so rude! Any­way, I think we only played for an hour or so, and we were all won­der­ing why the hell they bothered. Just have canned music, if you’re going to keep treat­ing us like canned music. So then we fin­ished play­ing, and the cater­ing staff is deliv­er­ing these beau­ti­ful plates of roast beef and chick­en and veget­ables and salads and all this fancy stuff. The band? We were giv­en sand­wiches wrapped in plastic and told to go sit up on the porch. And when we were done, we had to hunt around for the per­son who had our cheque. “Oh, the best man has it.” “Oh, I gave it to so and so,” “Oh, no I don’t have it.” And the real kick­er was that James only charged them $500, so we each were get­ting only $100 out of this thing. And when the dan­cing got under­way… they did have a DJ and canned music for this part, they also had a chocol­ate foun­tain. So we’re stand­ing on the out­side of the tent area, look­ing in, wait­ing to be paid our pit­tance, drool­ing over the chocol­ate foun­tain. Some dude asks if we would like some­thing from it, and we respon­ded with enthu­si­asm. So gets a plate and brings us each one piece of fruit dipped in chocol­ate. One.

So yeah, one wed­ding where they treated us like part of the wed­ding party, and the oth­er where we were treated like we were less than the cater­ing staff. At least the cater­ers received please and thank you.

We finally got paid and got the hell out of there. I won­der if those two are still mar­ried? *sigh*