My Two Cents,
As have been reading the post here it is nice to know I am not alone in a horror
stories one seems to pile up as the years go on in playing in bars, misery loves company they say. Kind of like the gig from hell post.
But getting to your question as to playing in bars, well us musicians are there for one reason, in the eyes of the bar owner at least, that is to sell drinks. If you don't they do not call you back and if the resister adds up at the end of the night, then they do call you back.
I tested this theory one day when I did not care to get the gig or not. I look right at this guy who was in charge of the music and told him, "bla,bla,bla, you have heard it all before, I can sell drinks". His eyes were wide open and he had a big grin on his face and I got the gig. Funny as hell, the guy did not know or hear my music but I got that gig., kind of shows you where you stand in the food chain in the bar business.
That being said, I have met 3 different executive producers in bars who want to help me with my music in a bar. So you never know who is listening. My take on it is T.O.S. time,on,stage everything else is bull, does not matter if you have a web site, and even a bus and all the frills. If you do not deliver in stage, well what's the point? So in a way you don't have to worry what they say out there. Give it your best and you might be surprised but you have to keep at it and at times fall flat on your face.
When I was young I use to drive Pete Seeger to gigs sometimes. He use to really put on the miles and would be beat and would ask me if I could drive him to a gig. I could never say no and I learned a lot just watching him work a crowd, real showmen, he did not waste a second and that is a good lessen.
If anyone out there has done a gig at a ground round then they know a hell, I mean a real hell. Lord knows how many TV's are on, the radio is on, some folks singing happy birthday and then there you are singing to maybe no one but the money was good so you did the gig, hell.
But in a way, a bar is a good way for a paid practice. Or so many years ago when I was hitch-hiking and I played on the streets where ever I was. Traveled with carnies and played in all kinds of situations. That too was good school, not easy at all but you do learn how to get folks attention, which is why you are there, to entertain someone.