Friday, July 27, 2007

Another Fun Gig

This is rare - two noteworthy (ouch) gigs in one month!

The night before last I played a last minute, thrown together gig at a beach-side park on the south side of Chicago. Our little band was subbing for a group whose leader had just suffered a heart attack, which is a helluva way to score a gig. This was a peculiar kind of job called a "trust fund" engagement.

If I understand it correctly (and that's a large if), several decades ago the musicians union established the Music Performance Trust Fund. This fund was a response by the American Federation of Musicians (our national organization) to the huge loss of jobs suffered in our industry by the advent of the phonograph record. Used to be that every radio show, TV show, theatre and corner tavern had live musicians of some sort. When recorded music became the norm lots of working class musicians had to scramble to either find other kinds of music gigs or get a new line of work. The MPTF is partially (or completely, I'm not certain) funded by the recording industry. The fund co-sponsors events for civic groups, non-profits, schools and other non-commercial outlets. The events are always, to my knowledge, admission free.

In this case the job was co-sponsored by the Chicago Park District. We were playing in a beach house pavilion at a pretty spiffy park right on the lakefront at 63rd Street, just off the famous Lake Shore Drive. The only bad news is that these gigs pay very little - way below our normal scale. But we do them to be good citizens and also, hopefully, for fun.

And this one was really fun. One of the best things about the freelance music biz is that I get to hang with people I've known for years. It's not like an office job because the cast of characters keeps changing. Sometimes I won't see a musician for a year or two or five but when we get together to play it is often magic - it's as if we never stopped playing together. So the other evening I got to see three folks I rarely get to play music with. Everyone was in a groovy mood, the handful of listeners we had seemed to be enjoying themselves and I must say that we sounded pretty darn good. I was playing my Lakland fretless bass, which I've been using more and more, and it was the right bass to bring for this outdoor gig.

If this keeps up, I'm going to start expecting gigs to be a good time. This, of course, goes against one of my core principles of survival: If you keep your expectations low then there's a decent chance you might be pleasantly surprised on occasion. Hey, it could happen...