For the past 5 years, the group has played together. We’ve had almost weekly practice sessions and have added songs as we got better. We’re up to about 16 songs and still adding more. We even played at a couple of summer BBQs. We had planned on starting to gig in 2020 however with Covid, we put it on hold. At times we even didn’t have practice.
When our drummer Jonathan bailed in 2021 to Florida, we were disappointed but tried to find another drummer as a replacement. I created a Craigslist ad and received probably half a dozen or so responses but no takers.
I also decided to shift to a Longmont specific place where we can practice hoping that something more central would be more attractive to potential drummers. It cost a little money to rent the space but if we can get a drummer, it’d be worth it. I posted a second Craigslist ad and out of the half dozen responses, actually had a drummer decide to audition. She decided she wasn’t interested in our set list and bowed out after playing with us.
I joined the LeftHand Artist Group at the recommendation of Jensen Guitars in Longmont and posted up a request for a drummer but nothing came of it.
However, in the group someone posted that the Bootstrap Brewery in Longmont had an Open Mic Night every Monday night. I brought it up with the band and we decided to give it a try in an effort to attract a drummer.
Jeanne and I stopped in on a Monday and chatted with Dennis, the coordinator for music, and asked several questions. What do we need to bring and how to sign up being the main questions. We bring our amps, pedal boards, and instruments. They’ll provide a PA and microphones. We’ll have 20 minutes to play and signup starts at 5:30pm, sets start at 6pm. We’ll want to be there early in order to get a position as there are only 9 positions available and some times they can fill up quickly.
Preparation For The Show
We’ve been playing to Youtube drum tracks for the set list we have starting in January. I started extracting the tracks from Youtube and creating a numbered set list on my phone to have better control over the tracks. Jen, our singer, presses play on the song and we play to the drum track. Some of them are harder to play to than others due to solo starts by the guitarists. It causes a timing shift and we have to listen and perhaps drop a note or two to get back into sync with the track.
For the show, since we had 20 minutes, I reviewed our set list and picked out songs where the drummer starts either early or at the same time. I ran it by the band to see if there was others we should consider. I initially picked 4 songs. I will note that Killing In The Name is our signature song and our name is partly due to the song. That one had to be played.
- Killing In The Name
- Breaking The Law
- Stacy’s Mom
- Living Dead Girl
Since the first and last songs are in Drop D tuning and the two middle songs are E Standard tuning, I created a 10 second applause and retune track and a 5 second applause track to give us time to retune and let the audience applaud.
With the pauses and the length of the songs, it took a little over 12 minutes to play the four songs which gave us an additional 8 minutes for setup and tear down. I added a 5th song, Come Out And Play, and the total time was 17 minutes with the extra 5 second applause track. That gave us 3 minutes to set up and tear down. I think we can do that.
In preparation for the show, I’d created several T-Shirts promoting the band. Specific ones like Singer (Jen), Lead/Rhythm (Me), Rhythm/Lead (Andrew), and Bass (Eric) along with a Roadie/Groupie (Jeanne), Former Drummer (for Jon), and Drummer Needed shirts plus a Fan one specifically for Samantha. I even arranged for a Sound Technician (Morgan) to help us because we didn’t have a drummer. We’d want to make sure we sounded right with the drum tracks not too loud for us and us at a good volume for the venue. I also created a half page flyer to promote the band listing the band, Morgan’s shop, and where we were on the Internet.
The Sunday before the show, we practiced the five songs in addition to the tear down and set up and were certainly under 20 minutes by a few seconds. It’d be tight but it could be done. Easy Peasy.
At The Venue
I knew we needed to be there early to make sure we would get a slot. We’d been telling all our friends, family, and even coworkers that we were going to be playing. We didn’t want to get there and not get a slot and potentially disappoint all our guests.
When we arrived at around 4:40pm, we went in and someone was sitting in a chair at the sign up board. So, a line 🙂 We asked if this was the line and she said yes, pull up a chair. She was the mom of a band, ‘Intermission‘, and wanted to make sure she got a specific slot (7pm) because of other things the kids were doing. We were looking at 7pm as well as Eric is coming from a bit of a distance and didn’t expect to be here until around 6:30pm. This left us with slot 5 where she was taking slot 4. Jeanne sat with her most of the time as I got my gear set up, stand, guitar, pedal board, and amp, with plugs into the pedal board and amp and patch cables in the guitar, ready to jump up, plug in, and play. I did notice a meter on the stage left wall but facing the stage. It would jump around high 80’s, low 90’s. I assumed it was a decibel meter.
Andrew showed up a bit later, then after the sets started, Jen and Morgan arrived. Finally around 6:30pm or so, Eric arrived and we’re ready to go.
I spoke to Morgan and asked that we get a nod when it’s time for Stacy’s Mom because the applause might make hearing the start of the track difficult. I also spoke to Jen as she was to do some introduction for the band while we set up. And finally I spoke to Jeanne to make sure her tasks were understood. For the flyers, I spoke to one of the folks behind the bar as I wanted to pass out the flyers on the various tables. The owner (Tommy) agreed. Ultimately I wanted this to go smoothly and efficiently. Professionally.
At 5:30pm I actually took one of our fliers that had been folded up and taped it to slot 5. The lady signed up for slot 4 and the rest of the folks coming for Open Mic Night lined up to take a slot. There were so many that Dennis actually created 3 more slots.
Things were going pretty quickly in general. Intermission started a bit before their slot at 7pm. At around 7pm, Dennis came up and said Intermission was playing 4 songs and that he was going to let them complete it and that we might be starting right at our slot of 7:20pm. Perfectly fine I said. I also said that we had 5 songs but we were tight, tight and would be done in 20 minutes without a problem.
When the time came, we jumped up and started getting set up. We were in place in a minute or two max and ready to go.
We couldn’t hear the drum track. See the PA is in front of the band so it’s harder to hear. Morgan said the sound was a loud as it could be. I asked if the monitor could be turned on a couple of times but it never seemed to work. Later when I checked the picture of the mixer I sent to Morgan, the monitor wasn’t even plugged in. Morgan had downloaded our tracks from our website but in order to attach to the sound system via blue tooth, he borrowed my phone which also had the tracks.
While Morgan and Dennis was trying to work it out, we’re standing up there waiting. I started playing I Hate Everything About You just to keep my fingers going and spoke to the crowd about sound issues.
I started playing I Hate Everything About You and Jen started singing it. Then the rest joined in. All of a sudden, someone from the crowd jumps up and is playing drums right behind me (the house set). I will say that acoustic drums can be very very loud!
We made it through the song and it looked like the sound was working but the drummer kept on playing as we started in on Killing In The Name. He didn’t do too badly but when we got to the end, the drum track we brought was also going and just a few beats behind us!
We kept going with Breaking The Law, then Come Out And Play, and then Stacy’s Mom. Sadly I was nervous enough that I fumbled around far too much. I was pretty disappointed with my playing and at least once, I had to stop because I didn’t know where we were. The drummer kept going with us and I had to tell our tech to kill the drum tracks.
We finished with Stacy’s Mom and Jeanne jumped up and said, we’re done, break it down so we did and put things back by our table. We actually played 5 songs even though it wasn’t the 5 we had planned on but we didn’t plan on the sounds problems either.
There were apparently several separate conversations going on with regards to our efforts.
Jeanne said that someone commented that we were playing 4 songs. Since the venue said we had 20 minutes, I assumed we would be allowed to play as many as we could get in 20 minutes. Jeanne asked Dennis a couple of times if she should shut us down but he declined saying it was okay. Someone else said they’d pull us down but Jeanne said nope, he’s my husband and took matters in her own hands, shutting us down. Apparently, and somewhat based on what Dennis said earlier, 3 songs was how many you were supposed to play. Good to know.
In addition, Jeanne was told by Dennis that Killing In The Name wasn’t appropriate. Without context it could be either the subject of the song or that the lyrics weren’t appropriate, “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!” and “Motherfucker!”
Finally we were too loud. Well, without knowing what the level max is, it’s difficult to adjust and honestly I wasn’t even looking at what I thought the decibel meter was showing. I was more interested in playing and to stop screwing up. Again, it’d be good to know what the level should be before the set so Morgan could adjust as necessary.
Jeanne asked if there was another venue he could recommend that our songs might be more acceptable but Dennis said that other than the first one and the decibel level, the songs were fine. Jeanne told me the bartenders were dancing behind the bar 🙂
I will note that the Brewery has one basic goal. To sell craft beer. I noticed that about half the crowd had left. To me, that means we were costing the Brewery business which was absolutely not my goal and I feel bad about that happening.
Additionally, one of the other musicians came up to me as I was sitting and he said our sitting at the board was a “dick move“. That it put us into a bad light and other musicians wouldn’t be charitable about our playing because of it. I did let him know that there was someone there when we got there and being new to all this, we didn’t know it wasn’t permitted. That Dennis and the staff didn’t tell us we couldn’t do it and when asked, said we were fine.
Jeanne let me know though that the lady that was there before us said she’d tried to sign up for an Open Mic Night in the past and the musicians got into a scrum and were fighting over the marker so she’d decided to sit at the board to ensure she would get a slot.
Perhaps a better solution than a disorderly jump up to sign up and fight over the marker might be a hat. Folks who want to play will put a slip of paper into the hat and at 5:30, Dennis would get up, pull names from the hat, and have folks select a slot. When done, Dennis would just say, “all done, better luck next Monday!” and the sets would start.
There are two groups to be considerate of though. The Brewery as I noted above is there to sell craft beer. Running customers away is bad for business.
The second group are the musicians around Longmont. We need to stick together and help each other out. Being a dick about signing up unnecessarily alienated at least one musician. I did approach him a few minutes later and apologized, explained again about the lady already at the board, and asked that he understand that we were new and didn’t know. To let us make and learn from our mistakes, we’d be better next time. He seemed good with that and I got a fist bump.
I did find and thank the drummer for helping us. I also talked to Dennis and said we’d do better next time, apologizing for the issues.
Jeanne said to ignore the mean things said by the guy (apparently he told Eric that we were “a disgrace to the music industry”) and others said we did quite well.
I think as far as playing, we did a good job. But we also have played through our (or “our”) gear. This is the first time we played through someone else’s gear that we didn’t have time to properly get set up. Plus playing with a drummer that’s “faking it” to help out.
Number one. Get details from the owner or music manager. What’s the number of songs? Do we have 20 minutes or are we to play 3 songs and have 20 minutes to play. What’s the decibel maximum. It shouldn’t be more than the venue can manage (and probably should let folks talk).
Number two. Understand the other unwritten rules such as forming a line for Open Mic Night. We don’t want to alienate other musicians in the area who might be able to help us get other gigs. We had one guy come up and provide feedback, however it was couched. Does that mean the other 20 folks who where there to play are just quietly annoyed with us and didn’t let us explain? I’d rather get the feedback we did get so we can try to explain than none at all.
Number three. In this case, I’m still a bit of a newbie but I think Morgan could have managed the sound a bit better. Not the problems we had but either shutting down the drum tracks or chasing off the rogue drummer we had. And understanding the sound requirements, turning us down if we’re too loud according to the venue. Morgan did say that our levels were fine so again, I’m a bit of a newbie 🙂
I will say that according to folks we spoke to, we actually played pretty well. It was the surrounding issues unrelated to the songs (mostly) that were the problem. With more knowledge and experience, we’ll do better next time.
I spoke to a few local musicians to get some feedback from folks with a bit more experience. One of the guys is a drummer for a tribute band and he’s been gigging for 23 years. In general they appreciated the professionalism we displayed and wouldn’t have a problem playing with us. I will note that Morgan has also said we play well and we wouldn’t have a problem getting a gig in Denver.
In general the comments were basically, you got up on stage and played. That’s more than some folks ever do so congrats there. I’m to remember than mostly, Open Mic Nights are amateur hour (which is us too of course) and to take any comments with a grain of salt. Learn from them but be careful about the criticism.
One guy did say we were his new favorite band, which honestly made me feel pretty good.