Most of the shows I've played have all been verbal agreements. I can only think of a few that have required some kind of written application or contract. There are only a few times that I've been mistreated by folks booking events. It is a difficult job, I imagine, to organize events featuring hundreds of performers. I've tried my hand at booking just a few times at very small venues. It was a challenge and not one that I'd eagerly repeat.
Here's a good one. This has to rank right up there as one of the weirdest offers I've had to play at a festival.
Right out of the blue I was called by a festival last year that wanted to book me and a partner of mine to play a couple of rather unusual venues. I was flattered by the call at first, until I heard what the organizer had to offer for venues at this particular event. The stage slots were all filled for the event but they had two other gigs that they wanted to fill.
The first venue was a sort of roving gig that would require us to move from beer garden to beer garden on the evening before the actual event. While outwardly this idea didn't sound too difficult for someone who may play only a guitar, I usually have more than one instrument that I enjoy playing at any particular show. Unfortunately, this idea of carting around a pile of gear from one site to another didn't strike me as a particularly attractive work situation. I guess I could have just brought one or two instruments to this part of the gig. The down side of this was that the majority of folks about town that evening would be enjoying performers at any number of pre-scheduled indoor venues, (bars, etc.) and our performances would be unannounced, unamplified, and impromptu, not exactly the kind of focus as one might receive from an official stage show.
Then the second part of the gig went like this. On the day of the festival they wanted us to play at a service station (uh, you know, where folks stop to pump fuel into their cars) that was located about six blocks from the festival proper near the interstate freeway. I couldn't quite understand how playing at a service station could actually work. The organizer explained that we would be there to casually play music and direct folks that might stop for gas to make a detour from their intended course toward the event taking place. I guess like the cattlemen who herded little doggies down the Chisholm Trail to their intended destination back in the Old West, my partner and I were suppose to attempt to round up and corral SUVs full of vacationers like a couple of modern day cowpokes. Well, I had never heard of a gig at a service station before, and while I'm certain the experience could have been chock full of inspirational fodder that might have spawned many a tale and even a song or two, with tears in my eyes, I declined the invitation.
I think back on it now and wonder, did I make the right decision? The alluring smell of Octane and diesel fuel mixed with benzene and exhaust fumes filling the air, the hustle and bustle of the convenience store clientele choking down assorted fast foods before careening back down the onramp onward to their ultimate ends. It could have been a truly unique adventure and perhaps one that I'll never have another opportunity to experience again. Oh, should I have said yes? Hmmmm? No, I don't think so.
I had hoped that our promo might convince the organizer that we might have something more to offer besides that of a service station tour guide/singing billboard or a beer garden hopping gear schlepers, and that they might consider having us play an actual staged show for the following year's event (this year) but I never received a call back.
Hmmm, maybe it's time to revamp that promo material.