Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Halifax, VIP

What's with the VIP, anyway? I mean, what's it mean? Like Very Important Place, or something? You should know that this city has been here a long time, and it's bigger than Charlottetown, cooler than Saint John, more sophisticated than Moncton... Heck, it's on the same coast as Boston and New York City! Practically a sister city! Let's play pretend today...

The cops follow us around town as we promote this evening's show. I come to look at it more as an escort. We drive up and down the Citadel driveway a couple of times to get our blues message out over the tops of the buildings below.

Taking a hint from New York City, Halifax removed the Occupy protesters in a clumsy, backhanded fashion. It's a pretty town, unless you are soaking wet in a jail cell.

We roll by the gig early to see about load in and sound check. There are no posters of us in the venue display cases outside. There are no posters of us in the venue or performance area. No marquee... A quick trip to the bathroom locates a single poster up over the urinal. The sound man arrives and informs us that our posters had been taken down "only hours ago." I wonder why anyone would want to take down all advertising prior to an event? But no one knows. I'm only told that since there have been just two advance tickets sold, that these will be "taken off the computer so we don't have to pay SOCAN." It's an upscale, downtown joint with pictures of Blue Rodeo on the wall. The sound system is actually built into the walls and ceiling- little speakers all over the place. Dave and I are set up and sound checked in less than 10 minutes. Four boom stands, 2 SM58's, 2 SM57's. Leave 'em hot, put a blanket over the board.

Clearly we can't afford to eat here, and as hospitality is not offered, we wander down the street to see what our options may be. Only a block away we find Q, a good looking, good smelling BBQ joint. We have one of the best meals of our tour at Q! Check it out. I don't know if it is actually the best BBQ north of Boston, but it might well be.

Back at the gig, we can tell that it's not going to be crowded on this Wednesday night. But there are a few folks coming in- some of my fans, some of Dave's, our pal Dale (the only Blues Society guy to come here), and the welcome face of Canadian blues icon Joe Murphy. He'll sit in with us later in the show.

We play a really good show to about 20 or 25 people. Joe Murphy gets up and does a couple of numbers with us. Later I discover that not all of this small crowd has even paid to get in. The venue didn't want to turn anyone away on such a slow night. Actually, at the end of the night the sound man tells me that after ticket sales are deducted Dave and I OWE THE CLUB $275!!! Didn't anyone tell you you had to pay for sound?

You know and I know that I've got a full Long and McQuade PA out in my car. Not only can I have it loaded in and set up in less than 20 minutes, but I can call and get anything else I need in a matter of minutes. Dave and I mix our own show, live, on hot mics. It's called dynamics. In the real world dynamics of venues and artists there's something going on here. No, the manager isn't in tonight.

It's an interesting business where presenters can feel that this is normal practise- to build and design fixed operational expenses to be directly taken from the incoming shows. Who would think that it would be anything but normal to pay a small Halifax, Nova Scotia venue's sound man over $300 for a mid-week show? Presenting shows is always a partnership of some kind, and it involves some kind of balancing of assumed risk as the partnership brings elements to the table and calculates possible returns on the risk. Anyway I go to the car and fetch the Tourbook... the small print in my agreement does read that there may be miscellaneous expenses up to $300. It DOESN'T say that this is actually a FIXED EXPENSE to pay a staff person's wages, but that's the way it is. Of course, a simple misunderstanding. How foolish of me not to expect, know, and understand that the venue sound man will get a fat guarantee out of my pocket! Hey, the venue seems to have a good reputation. Other shows have come and gone- apparently successfully.

Dave and I leave the venue with exactly $0.00 for tonight's show. Dave and I have been full time professionals for over 40 years and neither of us has ever been billed at the end of a show. It's a first for us. It's embarrassing. It's somewhat degrading. Clearly, in the scheme of things, the chef, the waitress, the beer company, the bar tender, and the sound man all deserve to be paid. But only two guys leave with absolutely nothing at the end of the evening. Much less than nothing. Sometimes you don't make what you might have hoped on a door deal- and that's the nature of the business- but we leave here tonight feeling tired and used, like low status objects. Only one guy is made to feel stupid. Yup, you got my ass. Just a country boy, bumbling like a fool in the Big Town.

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