Gig Story Part 2: You can never predict the weather

    Part two of my gig woes (edited).

    Saturday was fun with a golf cart; Sunday turned into fun with weather. To start with, we were breathing a sigh of relief on the drive in, not in spite of, but because it was pouring buckets. You see, one of the worst things for a musician booked to play outdoors is if the weather is iffy. If nature isn’t actively throwing rain or lightning down at you, the couple will always choose to be outdoors anyhow – no matter how dark the sky is, no matter how the wind doth blow. Good conditions are: sunny (as long as there’s some hint of shade), or driving rain (then there’s no doubt about it being inside). That kind of gentle grey day, where the sky looks dim but benign and there’s no scent of rain in the air, can be okay too, since it’s often better than baking in the sun.

    This was not an iffy day. Our windshield wipers were on full, tires splashing through puddles. That is, until we got to our destination. Our unease began to curdle in our tummies as we realized, the rain had not got this far yet. The sky was rolling with dark, foreboding clouds, the wind was howling – but no rain yet. When we pulled up to the main building, sure enough, we could see through the trees, a whole bunch of white chairs, set up down in a quaint little valley.

    After waiting with growing frustration in the lobby while the staff continued to waffle and not make decisions about whether to call it (“we should really wait until one of the bridal party gets here…”), the time was growing short. It was getting very close to when we were supposed to start the prelude, and we still had to tune and warm up. Not to mention carting all our instruments and stands and gear down the hill.

    Did I mention I forgot to bring the trolley – again? One might think, after Saturday, that I would have learned my lesson. Never underestimate, however, the potential for a busy musician to get distracted on her way out the door. So, no trolley. Long walk down a grassy hill, across a bridge to a cute little spot on the veranda, with the trees tossing in near gale-force winds. Still no one from the wedding party. This may be due to the fact that the couple, who had seemed well-organized up to this point, had allowed exactly half an hour for the entire bridal party to get dressed – including the bride. In the end, we had to grit our teeth and trundle down to the three chairs left out for us on the lawn, eyeing with dread the complete lack of any nearby shelter. We brought our cases and stowed them surreptitiously behind some large decorative rocks; at the very least, we could sprint for our cases and get the instruments covered up in the case of downpour.

    Before I go on, let me just say that yes, this is covered in our contract, and yes I had mentioned on multiple occasions to the bride that we can’t play in the rain, and besides the groom-to-be was a musician so he should darn well know better. *SIGH*.

    In the end, it did not rain. The wind, however, continued to howl. It was mid-August, and we were regretting not having brought sweaters. We used every single music clip we had, and several clothespins for every piece of music. The music stands threatened to blow over every five minutes no matter how we positioned them, so S. and I ended up playing the whole ceremony with one foot hooked around our stands to prevent disaster. Still – there were several times when I was playing numerous passages one-handed, in order to keep playing while pages flapped and stands swayed alarmingly.

    Finally, near the end of the ceremony, the sun actually came out. The beams of light on our face would have felt positively heavenly, if the wind had deigned to let up for even a heartbeat. When all that was over, feeling distinctly weather-burned, we still had to play for an hour at the pre-reception. This had been planned as another outside thing, but under shelter this time. I even encountered the bride, who reinforced this theory. We had everything set up in the appropriate place, and then one of the ushers approached us. The couple would like us to play inside, please, since that’s where all the guests were; no one, it seemed, wanted to take their drinks outside, likely for fear of being carried away like Dorothy. We hadn’t brought an amp, save my little Pignose that I’d luckily thought to bring to boost the harp sound a bit. We ended up playing as loudly as we could, in a room filled with people who talked louder and louder as the minutes ticked by, and mostly ignored us completely.

    Yes, we are thinking of revisiting our policy and our contract. One thought is to up the overall rates to cover the occasional use of the amp, and instead of charging extra for it, we would just bring it whenever we thought there was a chance we might need it. Of course, you can never really plan for the plans being changed at the last minute.

    I really love playing my harp. I like playing it for other people. I like feeling that I have made a positive contribution to someone’s special day. But there are some aspects of being a gigging musician that can drive a gal crazy from time to time – e.g. being treated like a stereo system rather than a live human being. And no amount of paperwork seems to be able to force people to get a clue. Someday, I’ll be able to afford to say “NO!”. I do already say no to some things – driving three hours just to play for one, for instance (ok, did that ONCE); or playing on any kind of water craft (boats, barges, floating docks). But playing for a living is a business, and sometimes you have to bite your lip and grind your teeth and just get on with it. Fair warning to anyone who thinks it’s all fun and faeries and garland-wreathed ren-faires; just sayin’.

    Oh, and in case you were wondering – today, I brought the trolley. And it’s already in the car, ready and waiting for tomorrow’s gig. At the very least, this weekend I get to relax and play Celtic music at a folk festival, which means wearing shorts and a funky T-shirt and playing by ear with a bunch of laid-back talented locals. Baking sun or no, this is certainly more like it!

    More gig stories here

2 thoughts on “Gig Story Part 2: You can never predict the weather

  1. Thanks Marion for the positive words! While I might warn people about the potential hazards that can befall a gigging musician, there’s a reason I keep doing it, despite the little aggravations that can crop up. There’s nothing quite like being part of a special experience that is incredibly moving for an entire family and their extended friends, even if it does mean playing Pachelbel’s Canon for the thousandth time. 😉

  2. Your story was so funny! Thinking about you and your harp having to move around in a moments notice only to find nobody pays you attention made me laugh so hard! The thing is, everyone probably noticed you, and were touched by your music….they just didn’t show it in that moment. Without the harp, it would of sounded like a noisy auditorium. Whether or not people gave you attention, I am sure they were moved by your music both consciously and unconsciously. Bless your dedication to this truly magical musical instrument!

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