I have decided to step away from our band, here are the reasons why.
My hands hurt constantly. It’s especially bad if I do any kind of gripping or work that involves using tools, etc. I can’t do yard work the day of or the day before a gig because my hands will cramp up in the middle of a song. It has happened many times before. One or both of my hands cramp up into a loose fist shape and it takes some time for it to stop. This is particularly bad when it’s in the middle of a song. I usually take a couple Advil at the beginning of the gig and that helps–but doesn’t help me afterward.
The other health part of this is my memory. I think having sleep apnea for so many years and not using a CPAP machine until 15 years ago has taken a toll on my brain. My memory is mush. It’s getting worse every day. Many days I can’t think of people’s names, the names of songs, venues, you name it. I look at things I’ve worked on in my workshop and have no recollection of taking it apart or working on it–and that’s things from weeks or a month before. Luckily I can play my instrument by ear, so there’s no forgetting the bass line’s notes as long as I remember the song’s melody.
The next thing is the rigamarole that is playing a gig.
- Load up the gear – Sure, I could travel lighter and I actually used to bring more to gigs. Now I bring 2 basses, one guitar, guitar stands, mic stand, a case of extra cables and extension cords, bag of cables I will use, a case of wireless things for my in ear monitors and wireless instrument devices, my pedalboard and laptop and a case with the mixing board.
- Drive to the venue – Lately for us, it has been at least an hour in the car each way, not to mention traffic. For gigs that end at 12am or 1am, after packing up, BS-ing with the band for a few minutes, driving home, you’re now getting home at 2:30am minimum.
- Unload the gear – Hopefully parking is not an issue or god forbid you have to pay to park and hopefully it’s not raining. Rarely do we play when it’s snowing, so that’s a plus.
- Set up – If the bar has a stage, that’s always a bonus, sometimes we’re just sitting up in a corner of the floor. If they have decent, clean power, that’s unusual. It’s always sketchy plugging into an outlet that might fry your electronics, even if you’re using a power conditioner and surge protector. I’ve fried two power conditioners; thankfully my electronics were not affected.
- Soundcheck & Run Sound – I have been running the PA for our band for a few years and while another bandmate has stepped up to help doing soundchecks, it’s something that should be active throughout our performance–but it’s tough to monitor when you’re playing. Here’s what I do: I’ve got to walk off stage, while we’re playing a song, take out my in ear monitors, listen, adjust the sound mix (this requires walking up to the mixing board or the app on my iPad–did I mention this is while I’m playing a song?), go back out into the audience, make more adjustments, put my in ear monitors back in–and that’s for one song. God forbid it happens again, which it will. Here’s what leads up to that, in no particular order: The drummer plays louder, the guitarist or bass player plays louder, so the singer tries to sing louder but doesn’t want to blow out his voice. Or the guitarist’s sound patch for a song is louder than the other ones he’s been using but he swears they aren’t. Now everyone is softer in the mix. You can switch that around so the singer is singing softly on a song, but the guitarist is at the same volume but now the audience can’t hear the singer and then someone in the audience comes over to me in the middle of a song and tries to tell me that they can’t hear the singer or can’t hear the guitarist because the drummer is too loud or god forbid the bass guitar is actually audible. And this is just what the audience is hearing. Many times during the gig, a band member will need more of an instrument in their monitor mix throughout the performance. I’ve brought up the idea of a dedicated sound guy, but that cuts into how we divide up our pay for the gig. Plus now here’s another person we need to coordinate with (see Scheduling below). So during every song I’m concerned about the sound–mainly am I even audible in the mix?
- Play the songs. I used to prepare sound effects, MIDI bass pedal notes, etc. but nowadays I don’t put too much work into it. Why? Because we’ll do a song a couple of times and never play them again. Why spend hours of my time preparing for something we’re only going to play a couple of times? Or spend hours preparing the sounds, patches, etc. then for whatever reason we don’t end up doing the song at all.
- Hang out with my buddies – We have a lot of fun on stage and off and it has occurred to me that I’d much rather be rehearsing than playing a gig with these guys. They’re the reason I’ve been sticking around. We get along so well; they’re my extended family. I love these guys. This is simply the best part of a gig.
- Play to a lackluster audience – So many times we play and there’s no reaction from the audience. This bleeds over to my performance. I’ve played my ass off, been so prepared with my sound, my setup and using my sound effects or playing actual synthesizer notes while I’m playing bass and get little to no recognition from the audience. It’s so frustrating when after a set or gig an audience member comes to the stage and congratulates the guitarist for being so great, tells the singer how good he sounds, maybe tells the drummer how well he plays then they turn to me and don’t say a word; they just turn around and walk away. Dude, I just played bass, rhythm guitar and sang lead on a few songs while triggering notes or sound effects with my feet on my pedal board during the show while running sound. Nothing, really?! This is the norm. I get it, no one cares about the bass guitar. So why try? About 6 or 7 times I have turned the bass guitar’s mix all the way down or WAY down in the mix for the audience and not once has anyone said anything. The only one who noticed was our singer who also plays bass and I had cut the bass in his in-ears mix. As a matter of fact, recently we played a gig, I turned the bass all the way down in the mix and a guy came up and congratulated us on how well the mix sounded after our set. Unbelievable.
- Buy a drink or food at the venue – 95% of the time, we have to buy a drink at the bar because they won’t pony up a couple of bucks for a beer for each of the band members or give any kind of discount for food. I realize we’re getting paid, but we already spent part of the day driving up using fuel, I’ll probably need to eat at some point and it would be nice to have a beer. I’m a one drink a night guy, so I’m a cheap date. Did I mention paying for parking? That comes up sometimes too.
- Play to a lackluster audience some more. Did I mention now matter how many times you tell your friends about gigs, they rarely come? I’ve given up posting on social media about gigs because I seem to have a better success rate of having people come when I don’t post about our gigs. I hear this all the time: “I should really come and see you guys play, bro.” Yeah? Well, we’ve been playing out for five years with this band and you haven’t come, so I’m not going to hold my breath.
- Load up the gear and drive home. Again, this can be in the wee hours of the night and if it’s an hour or more away, I’m not getting in until very early in the morning.
- Get home and unload the gear – Unless it’s really hot, I just drive my car into the garage and unload after I wake up.
- Scheduling – I understand that I have agreed to said gig date, months in advance. Sometimes it’s up to one person’s schedule when we’re scheduling gigs so there’s a kind of guilt for me that comes in–I should say okay to X, Y & Z day so we can play–I don’t know why. Lately it seems like anytime I want to do something with the family or friends, I’ve got a gig. These past months I’ve just been asking the band to find a fill in for me because I’d like to do things more than playing a gig on a weekend–out of town. Honestly, who is really going to care if I’m not there besides my bandmates? For the most part, in the last year or so when I look at the calendar and see I have a gig, I let out an audible “ugh.”
I think the remaining members should go on to form another band and that may be down to 2 members, who are not original members. Finding another bass player to fill in isn’t fair to all the work I’ve put in, plus I started the band–so if they want to continue, choose a different band name. Maybe if there’s a local, private gig I might be interested to play again as TDH.