The submission date has now passed for the gig story raffle for the Upton bass pickup, and we’ve gotten a bunch of great gig stories as a result! I’ll put the remaining ones out this week and announce a winner (picked randomly from the stories entered) at the end of the week. This is the first of many Upton pickup raffles, so if you missed the entry date for the last one you can hop on board for next month’s raffle (not gig stories next month… I’ll let you know the new raffle topic soon).
First off, just quickly, I have written a little free e-book titled,
“marketers stage fright/ and how avoid it.” While it’s really
designed for people in the marketing world, I am finding that people
in the performance world are enjoying it even more as it is a
pragmatic look at the elements of stage fright. It’s free,
downloadable through my web site at justinlocke.com/msf.pdf.
Also, I’m on a free e-book binge here, I did up a tiny little abridged
version of Real Men Don’t Rehearse. It has maybe three stories in it
. . . Justinlocke.com/rmdrx.pdf.
And now for Justin’s story:
The Battle on the Ice
I started “gigging” in Boston at the tender age of nineteen and a
half. Back then there was just enough freelance work in town to
support three bass players, and one of them, none other than now
Maestro Richard Fletcher, got an unexpected offer to take a conducting
class in New York City. So the contractor needed someone quick,
called my teacher, the phone rang, and the rest is history, as told in
Real Men Don’t Rehearse. ’Tis the stuff breaks are made of.
Anyway, going so abruptly from student to professional mode, I did not
own a car the first three years I was freelancing in Boston.
Amazingly, I pulled this off… there was plenty of public
transportation, and for out-of-town gigs, I just bummed rides from
anyone and everyone. Most folks were happy to have someone willing to
pay half the gas.
Anyway, one disgustingly cold February night, I was scheduled to play
the Brahms Requiem with some choral society up in Concord, New
Hampshire. The conductor lived in Lexington, Massachusetts. So to
get to the gig, I talked somebody into giving me a ride with my bass
out to Lexington, where I was to have dinner with this conductor and
her family, and then hop a ride with her up to the gig, which was two
hours north. Free food, free ride . . beautiful.
So I arrived at this beautifully appointed Lexington home. I left my
bass in the hallway, and their teenage daughter dutifully picked up my
suit carrier (which contained both my tuxedo and my black dress
shoes), and hung it up in the closet. (This is where you start
hearing the low strings tremulo-ing in the back.)
So we have a lovely dinner, and then we realize we’re very much behind
in the schedule, as we have to make a two-hour drive in the freezing
cold to get up to Concord New Hampshire for this gig at eight o’clock.
So were driving up route 93, happy as clams, when it suddenly dawns on
me that, while I certainly packed my bass in this woman’s station
wagon, my tuxedo and my dress shoes are still happily hanging in a
nice warm closet in Lexington. There was no turning back, we had been
in the car an hour or more.
Now this may be hard for your younger readers to comprehend, but this
all happened way back when, before the advent of cellphone technology.
So absolutely no “problem solving” could occur until we got to the
gig. Bear in mind, the outfit I was wearing was my then standard
casual wardrobe . . . And it was not exactly what you might call
“sartorially resplendent.” I think I was wearing a ripped pair of
blue jeans, a yellow polo shirt and a faded gray sweatshirt. oh– and
Adidas sneakers– you know, bright white with black stripes. Not
exactly formal attire.
Well, we arrive in Concord New Hampshire with very little time to
spare. After a quick discussion, one of the local ladies in the
chorus called her husband, and he brought down to the gig a dark blue,
broad pinstripe, suit. There’s maybe 10 minutes till downbeat. It
was a bit of a snug fit all around, and the lapels were so wide you
could have driven a truck over them. But it was better than nothing.
And I had to do SOMETHING, as I was the only bass in the orchestra.
One small problem though,… this guy didn’t have a spare pair of
dress shoes. Well as luck would have it, in this concert’s
configuration, it was in a cinderblock high school auditorium. The
orchestra was down in the pit, with the chorus up on stage. So
thankfully my my unshod socked feet were out of view of the audience.
But . . . the floor of this pit, and I will never forget it, was
unfinished, plain old, concrete. It being February in mid-New
Hampshire, I would estimate the average temperature of that concrete
floor to be approximately 38 degrees. And I stood on that ice sheet
concrete floor with my slightly damp black socks for that entire gig.
Talk about getting cold feet.
I admit, this comes nowhere near Jason’s expressway flaming car story
(does any story match that one? I doubt it), but in terms of pure
angst, embarrassment, and long-drawn-out inescapable physical
suffering while cranking out the notes, it was one of the worst gigs I
ever played in my life.
How we suffer for our art.