Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mad At Jazz

Maybe I'm just tired. But last night's show really pissed me off.

We'd booked this gig months ago, at a little bar down the road in Perigueux. Having played there before, we knew what the deal was. Some money, dinner, drinks, hopefully a couple of fans, curious bystanders and just plain bystanders along with regular bar customers.

Then jazz came to town. We got a call the other night from the bar owner - seems there was a New Orleans jazz festival going on this week and the world-acclaimed musicians had been stopping by the bar for some jamming each night. The crowds had been unbelievable! Did we mind if they showed up after our gig and did some playing, on their own equipment? We might even get a chance to sit in, if we liked.

Ohh..kay. Sounded like not such a big deal.

But the whole thing felt wrong as soon as we showed up, because of all the posters we'd sent the place, there was not one up. But, prominently featured in the front window - posters for the Jazz Festival.

We asked, nicely, and the guy went and put one of our posters up. One, cause that's all he had left. So where were the rest?

Then during soundcheck he came up to tell me my distortion pedal was too loud - since the jazz musicians were coming to play into the wee hours, he didn't want to test the patience of his neighbors with our unruly volume.

Hmm. Don't think that's ever happened to me before. How loud does an acoustic guitar really get?

The place was hung with paintings of prominent jazz musicians, like, umm, Bob Marley and even Jimi Hendrix. Serious, artistic stuff.

We finished our soundcheck and ate dinner, which sucked and took forever to come. I noticed a nice couple at a nearby table who appeared to be waiting for us to play. They'd read about the show on one of our sites. That was pretty much it for an audience, because the owner had decided jazz was the way to go and had made a point of not letting anyone know about our show that he'd been so very pleased to book a few months ago. Now that jazz was floating big euro signs in front of his eyes, we could just be like a noisy potted plant in the corner of the bar, adding a little atmosphere while the audience filed in for the "real" music that would happen later. These New Orleans musicians were, after all, world-renowned, and who were we? Two unfortunates who happened to live up the road, and weren't we lucky to have a place to park our sorry asses for a few hours so people could hear us play for free.

The lighting in the bar looked way too bright and before we started to play, we asked if he could please turn some of the lights down?

Oh, no, no - the "New Orleans artist" who did those marvelous jazz paintings had insisted that they must be bathed in glaring light at all times - so that the public could fully appreciate his genius.

At that point, the culprit behind the so-called art, who'd been sleazily sucking up to Eric, telling him what a fan he was, strolled past and then exited the bar, practically shouting over his shoulder that he'd be back when the jazz musicians arrived.

We convinced them to turn a few lights down and we played for an hour, with some people enjoying it while a few others trickled in, looking confused because we didn't look like jazz.

We were wrapping things up with the last few songs of the set when the owner excitedly came onto the stage to tell me "Mr. World-Renowned New Orleans Musician" (who no one had actually heard of) had just arrived.

I saw a man in a loud shirt and straw hat casting an irritated look in our general direction. What exactly were we supposed to do? Yell out, "Hey everybody! At last, there's some real talent in the house! Mr.WRNOM's finally here so we'll just shove off so you can be a part of something wonderfully artistic, creative and spontaneous that is sure to bring in plenty of bar revenue and leave you all feeling so much better about yourselves for having been in the presence of...well, damn, can't remember his name but trust us, he's from New Orleans so it's got to be better than this shit we've been subjecting you to"?

Invite him to play with us, even though neither he nor us knew what the other person did?

That may have been the way to go, but there was no chance to be neighborly because as soon as we started another song, he made a point of walking right past the stage and out the door.

We finished up, packed up, and loaded the van. But not before the owner tried to short us on the money. And asked Eric if he could help the real musicians figure out how to work the P.A. Giving Eric every legitimate right to now claim that he has worked with New Orleans legend Mr. What's His Name.

Better yet, I think it makes absolute sense that in France we will now be known as New Orleans musicians. After all, Eric owned a Meters record once. I wrote a song called "Calling Professor Longhair". And aren't we helping my daughter pay rent on a place down there while she's in school?

Did I mention the dinner sucked?


Lindsay Hutton said...

But Amy, you'd just returned from New Orleans so that makes you at least four times more "authentic" surely? They should treat their local talent with a little more courtesy methinks!

mikeollier said...

Well!!! These gigs turn up every now and again, don't they.

The PA is a killer!! We heard of a little fest near us and I asked the guy if he'd consider us. We'd just started and quite understood if he said no, we didn't have a name and we had no recordings as yet.

He immediately said yes, which was a shock. He then asked if we had a PA. We did. Would we like to play all 4 nites??

The penny dropped, he gave not a stuff whether we were good, bad or indifferent, just as long as we had a PA that everyone else could use and we'd be stuck there for 4 nites. We made our excuses and didn't bother.

I don't mind playing for little (or even no money) but I refuse to be used.

I hope you didn't do the PA for them ~ and hey, has MWRNOM had a top 10 hit single?


PS: the Stiff Story is repeated on BBC4 this weekend!!

Grahame said...

Words fail.
Bloody people.

amy said...

Thank you Lindsay! I guess I should have learned by now - quite often bar owners are most interested in (surprise!) making money. I realize how spoiled we've been by our local bar owner Nico, who loves music so much and supports the people he has come in to play (from NO, Nice or Niort, it doesn't matter).

That old trick Mike! Glad you didn't fall for it.

I found an ad in my inflight magazine Grahame - "Cruise Ships seek musical duos" - it's looking more and more attractive. At least there'd be no pretense of culture.

Mike said...

That'd be one cool cruise.

Ed Ward said...

Hmm, it would...

Let me set you straight on something, though: it's not jazz you're mad at, it's this "New Orleans/Dixieland" crap which is so big in Europe. There's a four-day festival each summer in Germany, as I found out when I had my jazz radio show in Berlin. The stuff is a pallid imitation of music played by actual black people (who are damn thin on the ground in these circles) in the 1920s, and it's all superficial excitement, which is why it sells drinks so easily: you gotta be half-lit before it seems interesting.

Anyway, re-bonjour en France, and let's figure out how to get you down this way to, as Andre Williams once said, entertain the people.

Anonymous said...

when i was a stagehand the theatre i worked at did a series of 1 nighters every summer. each year the fastest seller was The Preservation Hall Jazz Band. as one of my fellow stagehands put it, it was "like listening to the Huckleberry Hound theme for 2 hours".
we had alot more fun at The Record Collector with you and Eric.


mikeollier said...

I think people are being a little mean about jazz here, the crux of the story is being booked, not getting what was promised and then being overlooked cos someone else was there and Amy n Eric got overlooked and pushed to one side ~ it coulda been metal, blues or folk.

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

that sucks. same place you were at before in Perigueux? the pub? let's t.p. their establishment!!! lol.

amy said...

We'd have to start with something short, Mike - maybe a weekend?

You're right about the jazz part Ed - it's how people use the word to imply worthiness, not the music itself. Why can't people admit they're just hoping to buy into a guaranteed good time. Not that there's anything wrong with that! It just doesn't seem right to label it the same as jazz musicians who took/take genuine risks.

And we would love to come down that way, maybe during the fall/Winter?

Bob I'm glad you enjoyed the gig in NJ, and that the hot dog smell didn't put you off!

It's a good point Mike O. Maybe if there'd been a folk fest in town that they were really pushing it would've had the same effect. I think it hit me on a night where I'd had enough of all of it. but there is the tendency to take something called "jazz" more seriously than rock or pop music. Someone might be predisposed to "appreciating" it, otherwise they would appear uncultured, where as a rock act would have to appeal to their personal taste.

TP it is Kim - how bout that pink stuff that's so popular around here?