So I’ve played either with a band or solo in over 400 different gatherings, locations, and celebrations, and during many of these escapades, I have ended up in strange places. One of the most memorable of these was the time that me and our current band at the time (The Fate) were playing for our bassists sisters’ wedding. Being that the actual wedding was on the beach, and reception a few miles away, we scrambled to break down and set up everything once again in the reception hall- mind you, that we had to do all of this before the hundreds of hungry family members and friends decended among the place. By the time we had finally gotten all of our equipment in working order (no thanks to the 100 degree weather) The throngs of happy, hungry people were waiting at the door. Guitars, amplifiers, and band members still covered in sweat and sand began to perform the 2 hour set without missing a beat, and the wedding gig was a success.
Another strange place to perform was inside of a women’s department store during a clearance blowout sale. The manager being tipped off that I was a somewhat successful musician of the area, called me, needing some type of live performance during the sale. With only 3 days to prepare a two hour set list, I hastily covered old songs that have always been a staple to my solo gigs. Playing in a department store is odd enough, though it only became more awkward when I was asked to set up in front of the women’s pajamas and robes. So I play the first two hours without a hitch, making over $80 in tips an hour, the likes of which I’ve never seen playing small, quiet coffee shops. Once my set is complete, I walk by the manager to inform her that I was going to take a break, and afterward, pack up. She quickly stopped me and said “You don’t understand; the sale is from 5-9pm. You have to play for the entire sale!” I quickly explain to her that I only have 34 songs on the list, and that people do not want to hear the same stuff over and over again, to which she replied “I don;t care what you play as long as you make it creative and can keep it going for the next two hours.” With that, I sat back down, with no lyrics, no chords to play, nothing, yet began to play. I played 28 songs and 3 jam sessions without the need of lyrics or any type of musical aid. I ended up making almost $400 in tips alone and made the company $3,000 more than expected due to the attraction of attention.
A shorter, yet still interesting place was during a high school testimony session with my friend and bassist Caleb Barefoot on guitar. (Caleb is also an accomplished guitar player as well) For two and a half hours without break, we had to play fingerstyle acoustic melodies that were very dark in nature, in order to keep the mood serious throughout the meeting. This also happened to be the same stage we played a rockabilly christmas show for a high school PTF meeting during the holidays a few years before.
Finally, one of the most bizarre and chilling places I’ve played was my own uncle’s funeral. Playing only two short songs atop a small stage in the funeral home parlor, I sang down to the casket that held my uncle, who passed away at just 45 from cancer. Not only was this very difficult to follow through with, but I also had to play a graveside rendition of Amazing Grace as the funeral was closed out.
I have played in many quirky places; from art galleries, community colleges, churches, coffee houses, street corners, barns, even attics, but cannot write or even recall all of them now. Being a musician will take you to strange places. Sometimes good, other times not as much, but you will always remember that no matter where you are or how awkward the circumstances may be, you will be remembered for playing in these awkward places.