A couple of days after Christmas, my bass player called and asked if I'd be interested in playing a New Year's Eve gig at a bar where my last band had played fairly often. They'd scheduled a DJ who cancelled at the last minute, so we could step in as the entertainment.
Of course I said yes, because my husband had a gig that night with a country band at a biker bar and there was no way I was going with him either way.
We arrived in the late morning for setup so we wouldn't disturb the bar's dinner shift by dragging equipment past the diners. Our guitarist had to work, but the rest of us got the PA going and did a sound check. The bar owners recognized me from my previous band and were very nice.
We were scheduled to play three sets between 9:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. That was good because so far we only have three sets of material worked up. It was also bad for reasons I'll get into shortly. Our drummer got lost on the way there, so he pretty much walked in the door at 9:29 and we began playing immediately.
Early on, we could tell we weren't meshing well with the crowd. Apparently none of them had turned on a radio since 1979, so anything we played that wasn't both old and relatively mellow was met with near-total silence.
Remember how I mentioned that my last band played this particular bar quite often? Well, this new band's set list is not substantially different from the old one. In fact, I think we actually have more classic rock and less new rock than the last band.
The low point of the evening was when we'd started a slow, newish song and the bar owner came up during the song and said, "If you guys don't switch up your playlist, we're going to go back to the jukebox."
I actually stopped the song and we skipped to the next one on the list, which happened to be the first in a stretch of more uptempo songs. Still, the newer ones failed to get any response from the crowd. I spent the rest of the set trying to ignore the fact that my mouth was dry and I was uncomfortably sweaty.
During the break, the band members all commiserated. We knew we were in a situation that we couldn't do anything about. You have no choice but to work with the material you have. For the final set, we nixed the Green Day song that we had planned to play and moved "Roadhouse Blues" by the Doors to the top of the list, figuring that we could do a super-duper long solo in the middle and keep people dancing, assuming that they were dancing in the first place.
The midnight countdown came and we managed to get the crowd back, thanks in no small part to their general drunkenness, I'm sure. They loved our Doors jam and we had dancers for almost every song up to the end. We packed up our gear, got paid (which had been a matter of some concern between us for a stretch there), and went our separate ways at least knowing that we'd started the year off a little better than we'd ended it.
I think it's worth mentioning that the crowd reaction at our last gig was almost the polar opposite of the one we got last night: they'd liked the harder, newer songs and weren't much into the older and poppier ones. You just never know how these things are going to go.
So that was my New Year's Eve. How was yours?