Saturday, February 04, 2006
Where's the Beef?
Sometimes the band goes out on long-distance party gigs where we need to be fed. It is fascinating (read: excruciating) to observe the dynamic between band, host, and caterer. It's rarely the same thing twice, and my gang has seen everything from being promptly filled and thoroughly lubricated and later handed beer to go, to driving two hours and setting up for two before waiting around for two more and not being given dinner until our pleas turn to threats. (Read: my pleas, my threats.)
When you are at an event as a vendor, which is not a term the fellers and I normally associate ourselves with, you are there to work. And when you've driven four hours and it's dinnertime and your PA system is oozing the soothing sounds of Ella & Louis while the guests strap on the feedbag, it's time for you to eat too, while no one notices. It's been discussed beforehand; it shouldn't be a surprise to anybody. Should your host tell you to start playing and should you have to skip dinner, you're eventually looking at ten, twelve hours without eating. That plus rock and roll plus a couple of beers isn't as much fun as it sounds like.
Me, I always hope the caterers, bar staff, and band will form an alliance and do things throughout the evening to please each other. You give me a nice scotch on the rocks, you get yourself some Allman Brothers. I'll gladly offer some James Brown for a cannoli to whoever's asking.
Tonight we were going down the wrong path, but people stepped forward and made things happen. I mean, the band did enjoy an appetizer of oysters on the halfshell, but ninety minutes later we were in definite danger of being ordered to our instruments with nothing but those oysters to sustain us. We waited and waited, pacing the bandstand, as the many guests grew closer to putting on their dancing shoes.
It turned out in the end that the caterers had not been told about our needs. As soon as they understood the situation, though, they set a table and quickly brought out a meal. Grilled beef with a red wine sauce and mashed potatoes. Even a mixed green salad with raisins, dried cranberries, and shredded mozzarella. (Shredded mozzarella? On a salad?) Balance was restored.
Then, while we were playing our first set, one of the catering staff brought us a huge tray of cookies and left it behind the bass rig. She was the one who had thanked me earlier for playing Buena Vista Social Club on the PA while everyone was setting up. The bond had been formed.