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Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?

JeremyC 20 Jul 09 - 10:41 AM
Maryrrf 20 Jul 09 - 10:53 AM
Leadfingers 20 Jul 09 - 10:59 AM
Celtaddict 20 Jul 09 - 11:05 AM
JeremyC 20 Jul 09 - 11:14 AM
Richard Bridge 20 Jul 09 - 11:53 AM
The Sandman 20 Jul 09 - 12:03 PM
The Sandman 20 Jul 09 - 12:19 PM
dwditty 20 Jul 09 - 12:45 PM
Eric the Viking 20 Jul 09 - 12:55 PM
Celtaddict 20 Jul 09 - 12:58 PM
GUEST,Neil D 20 Jul 09 - 01:33 PM
JeremyC 20 Jul 09 - 01:43 PM
open mike 20 Jul 09 - 02:55 PM
Bernard 20 Jul 09 - 04:19 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 20 Jul 09 - 04:27 PM
Richard Bridge 20 Jul 09 - 05:03 PM
Tootler 20 Jul 09 - 07:03 PM
Leadfingers 20 Jul 09 - 07:08 PM
TonyA 20 Jul 09 - 07:18 PM
Mark Ross 20 Jul 09 - 08:07 PM
Ian Fyvie 20 Jul 09 - 09:21 PM
Phil Cooper 20 Jul 09 - 09:28 PM
oldhippie 21 Jul 09 - 05:48 PM
Eric the Viking 21 Jul 09 - 07:02 PM
Art Thieme 21 Jul 09 - 07:14 PM
Mark Ross 21 Jul 09 - 07:52 PM
Michael Harrison 22 Jul 09 - 02:40 PM
oldhippie 22 Jul 09 - 04:29 PM
Michael Harrison 22 Jul 09 - 06:07 PM
dwditty 23 Jul 09 - 03:00 PM
Joe Offer 23 Jul 09 - 03:12 PM
Maryrrf 23 Jul 09 - 03:25 PM
olddude 23 Jul 09 - 03:43 PM
Joe Offer 23 Jul 09 - 04:26 PM
Fidjit 23 Jul 09 - 04:42 PM
Ian Fyvie 23 Jul 09 - 09:56 PM
fumblefingers 23 Jul 09 - 10:50 PM
olddude 23 Jul 09 - 11:18 PM
Maryrrf 25 Jul 09 - 02:42 PM
Bernard 25 Jul 09 - 07:24 PM
Tug the Cox 26 Jul 09 - 02:32 PM
Bernard 26 Jul 09 - 02:37 PM
MikeofNorthumbria 27 Jul 09 - 04:51 PM
Willie-O 27 Jul 09 - 06:04 PM
Tug the Cox 27 Jul 09 - 08:02 PM
Willie-O 27 Jul 09 - 08:50 PM
Seamus Kennedy 28 Jul 09 - 12:13 AM
Michael Harrison 28 Jul 09 - 01:10 AM
Mo the caller 28 Jul 09 - 05:34 AM
Seamus Kennedy 28 Jul 09 - 01:51 PM
dwditty 28 Jul 09 - 02:19 PM
Maryrrf 28 Jul 09 - 02:38 PM
dwditty 28 Jul 09 - 03:00 PM
Maryrrf 28 Jul 09 - 07:43 PM
JeremyC 29 Jul 09 - 09:02 AM
Maryrrf 29 Jul 09 - 10:22 AM
M.Ted 29 Jul 09 - 02:34 PM
JeremyC 07 Dec 09 - 06:35 PM
foggers 07 Dec 09 - 07:05 PM
olddude 07 Dec 09 - 07:24 PM
Jack Campin 07 Dec 09 - 07:30 PM
Maryrrf 07 Dec 09 - 07:52 PM
GUEST,Peadar (formerly) of Portsmouth 08 Dec 09 - 05:26 PM
billhudson 09 Dec 09 - 10:35 AM
JeremyC 09 Dec 09 - 01:26 PM
GUEST 09 Dec 09 - 01:38 PM
McGrath of Harlow 09 Dec 09 - 01:59 PM
skarpi 10 Dec 09 - 06:28 AM
JeremyC 21 Dec 09 - 10:35 AM
Willie-O 21 Dec 09 - 11:07 AM
Maryrrf 21 Dec 09 - 11:16 AM
JeremyC 21 Dec 09 - 01:22 PM
Maryrrf 21 Dec 09 - 09:33 PM
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Subject: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: JeremyC
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 10:41 AM

So not too long ago, I got a gig in a bar that I came to thinking it was a restaurant. My fault, obviously (although the person who booked me didn't bother to listen to my demo), and I did my best to salvage the situation with a radical revamp of my playlist. Anyway, since so many of you are experienced musicians - something I'm not - and have probably done the bar thing before, I had a couple of questions:

1. What is the point of bar music? From what I can tell, the people in a bar are there to drink and watch "the game," and yet the owner wants you to play upbeat stuff that they're clearly not listening to, really loud. As far as I can tell, the only point of this is to provide enough background noise that the patrons have to shout at each other and the staff. I don't get it - why go someplace to drink, watch the game, and shout at people?

2. Okay, I understand that people want to hear upbeat, familiar stuff. But in a given setlist, in your opinion, what is the minimum amount of Jimmy Buffett, Tom Petty, CCR, Skynyrd, etc. relative to music I like (trad/blues/60s "folk") that I can get away with? Or is this the wrong attitude to take? Is there some perspective I can adopt that will allow me to see a different reason to play in a bar besides the money and the sheer number of bars?

I really appreciate any light any of you can shed on this.

Jeremy


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 10:53 AM

I know what you mean. Believe it or not, often some of the people at the bar who don't appear to be listening really are. I've played sets in pubs/bars where I was convinced nobody was paying the least attention, and had people come up afterwards to tell me how much they'd enjoyed the set. You have to just use your judgement as far as including familiar chestnuts on your set list but in general I think unless a song is really, really catchy, if it isn't 'familiar' they tune it out. It is very difficult to play in bars, unless you're somebody who really knows how to 'work a room' and that takes a lot of practice and a certain 'knack'.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 10:59 AM

I have only done Solo Bar in UK , and would certainly NOT Expect a TV to be on in the same room !
But as Mary said , it is often the case that people ARE listening - I
used to look for the tapping toe or finger , even when I was sure I was 'Only Musical WallPaper' .


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: Celtaddict
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 11:05 AM

I'm afraid I can't help much, Jeremy, though I can describe my viewpoint, different from yours. I really enjoy a lot of music that has become considered 'pub music' I suppose in part at least because in some places traditionally the public house was where it was shared. I have often thought the main problem with liking 'pub music' is that you have to go to pubs to hear it. In the U.S. of course there are places I consider pubs that offer music to be enjoyed, along with conversation and company. But far too many are what I consider bars, which are much more as you describe. I don't drink, I don't smoke (and am glad most bars around here no longer have smoking), I am not trying to get picked up, and usually am by myself, so these places are far from my favorite venues, but for whatever reason that is where I am most likely to hear some of my favorite performers, doing traditional and tradition-based Irish, Scot, English and American songs, including songs appropriate for singing along. The performers tell me they play there because that is where the money is. I confess that the nights that are worst for business are the nights I enjoy most, when it is quiet enough that the music can be heard, the musician can include quieter ballads and contemplative lyrics, and there is interaction between musician and audience. But that 'coffee house' atmosphere as I think of it involves so few customers that neither the musician nor the business owner can make a living at it. The folk club concerts are of course a much better place to hear, but they tend to have a concert once a month (and not during the summer) and a performer no oftener than yearly and most only every several years, so if I want to hear a regional favorite, the bars are the most likely place. It can be pretty frustrating from the audience point of view too!


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: JeremyC
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 11:14 AM

Leadfingers - It can be worse than that! A friend of mine told me he stopped playing in sports bars after an incident where they were in the middle of a song, he was doing a harmonica solo, and suddenly everyone started cheering. Since that was unexpected, he looked up...and saw that a field goal had just been scored on the television screens directly above the stage.

Mary - Yeah, one thing I really need to learn is how to "work a room." I tend to just play, and I have no idea how to grab attention that isn't already on me.

Celtaddict - I like pub music, too. And I don't normally hang around in bars, unless there is good music to be had, which is extremely rare. It's just such a depressing environment.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 11:53 AM

Music is associated with Western courtship ritual. Most people in pubs and bars are hoping (even if distantly) for a shag. Therefore they expect music. It's the same as the rise of disco in the 80s.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 12:03 PM

it is just wall paper music,its a disgrace,and is disrepectful to the music,and can be soul destroying for the musicians,fortunately there are generally a small minority who genuinely appreciate the musicians efforts,but out of choice I would play in folk clubs and festivals and art centres.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 12:19 PM

tvs are on a lot of the time in Ireland often with the noise turned down,it gets really bizarre,when people are watching the cheiftains but listening to irish trad musicians live.
its a part of the degeneration in irish life,the tv has become more prevalent over the last twenty years.another reason I suspect why singers like to hve their clubs in seperate rooms, away from musicians and away from tvs.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: dwditty
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 12:45 PM

Hi Jeremy,

I have only been playing out for the late 6-7 years, but I will offer my thoughts on the subject, which you my find helpful or rubbish - either way, I am not offended.

Which brings me to my first point: My philosphy is that performing has nothing to do with the performer - it is all about the audience. Whether playing a concert where the audience is seated in rapt attention or in a noisy pub, it is their time. Now, it is up to the performer to make sure the audience is getting what they want. Read the room. If it is filled with people dining or enjoying a drink and conversation with friends, the music should support that - atmosphere, if you will.   If it is friday night and people want to let loose a bit, then putting the music more up front makes sense (and up beat, too). Be advised that sometimes one's style of music is simply not a fit for whatever is going on, in which case, get through the gig as best you can, get paid, and go off to look for other venues. In most instances though, you will find, as leadfingers said, anything from a tapping foot to a full on boogie...play to those people until the rest get it.

Leave your ego at home. I am bewildered when I see a performer get all pissed off when the people they are playing for don't fall down and absolutely love the music. I could easily create a list of hundreds, if not thousands, of musicians I would not really care to see. I think everyone does. So if I am on someone's list, so be it.

You mentioned having difficulty grabbing listeners' attention. I cannot tell how many times I see simply wonderful musicians bore an audience to death. They seem to be playing simply for their own enjoyment...sometimes even doing a bit of navel gazing along the way. While there is usually some (or a lot) in an audience who are simply transfixed by a performer, very often people do not want to have to work too hard to get the music. Go to a classical concert by highly rated performers, and I will almost guarantee you will see people nodding off. Make your music fun and you will get the audience everytime - that does not mean a whole show of novelty songs - it means make sure your audience knows that you are having fun...they will automatically jump on board.

Material.   I can assure you, I do no Jimmy Buffet songs (I think he is great, but Jimmy Buffet is Jimmy Buffet). Same with James Taylor, CCR, on and on. Sometimes at a lively open mic that I visit the same song is done by multiple performers (Think Dead Flowers - a simply wonderful song done to death). Of course you could change the songs up a bit and make them something new, but I believe that people really want to hear Mick Jagger doing a Stones cover - not DW. So what do I do? I do lots of stuff with a real solid 2 and 4 that many have not heard before, or only occasionally. This is due in large part to the fact that I lack the chops and voice to imitate the original - plus I am too lazy to learn it note for note. I do alot of Randy Newman - but not Short People. I do some Tom Waits. Lots of old blues. Maybe some Dave Van Ronk-style stuff. I occasionally pull out something like Singing On a Star, which everyone on earth knows, but never hear in a bar...they all sing along. Sometimes I even do old spirituals like Hush, Somebody's Callin' My Name or Jesus on the Mainline. People never expect to hear those in a bar. (I usually say something like, "This concludes the religious portion of the show." after singing one of those.)

Dare to be different, but not so different that people don't know what the hell you are doing! Put everything you've got into each song, even in a quiet setting - it doesn't have to be loud. And one final tip, make really funny faces - grimaces, if you will, when you sing. People love that!

dw


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: Eric the Viking
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 12:55 PM

Once a long time ago, as a duo, who had played clubs and had been resident singers, we played a rugby club. (As a player myself it didn't bother me) the bar noise was terrible and we seemed to be playing and singing only to the front row (intended pun) of about ten. At the other end, the bar was in full Saturday night swing. Some one at the front shouted to the back to "effing shut up" as they couldn't hear us. The response came. "Well sing some decent effing rugby songs then not poncy stuff". This we did as I happened to know just a few risque songs myself. It turned into a great night with a huge aduience response and offers of a repeat night. (We'd been asked to avoid rugby songs and put on "entertainment of folk and popular music") I did wonder why we'd been asked to perform when it was obvious that most of the group there wanted a Saturday piss up. (Why else go to a rugby club?)

Most people in pubs and bars are hoping (even if distantly) for a shag. Therefore they expect music. Says Richard. they'd have been hard put that night, there was only about 15 women there !And I wouldn't have suggested the gay option to this lot !! LOL

Another time, just a few years ago, we playeda ceilidh in a working mans club for a birthday party. Saturday afternoon, open to club members, the party group, and the local boy cafe racers club. Talk about chaos ! We couldn't hear ourselves over the TV.The soccer was on. Cheers, boos and shouting at the ref and "other side" was in full swing. People cutting across the dancers, spilling beer as they went. Boy racers reving up outside to drown the TV, and with 90,000 watts Hifi's on full drum n bass. It was for us and the caller, a nightmare ! The punters who hired us said it was a brilliant time !! (The food looked beautiful but had been well and truly smoked out by the time for the nosh)

Makes you wonder why you do it sometime.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: Celtaddict
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 12:58 PM

Richard Bridge: Very good point about the association with courtship ritual. I had not thought of it that way, but you are likely right.
DW: Well said, and I agree all around.
But I do note that, since it is common that I am the only person in the room who is truly 100% listening, I have become friends with a lot of musicians. I know you know who is really interested.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: GUEST,Neil D
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 01:33 PM

Just play Rawhide.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: JeremyC
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 01:43 PM

DW - Thanks for the comments. Earlier today I was looking at your youtube channel, and I think your cover of "I'm Your Man" is fantastic.

I think in my case, they were expecting something/someone different, especially since the person who booked me didn't listen to the demo I gave her. A half hour or so after I started, I had the general manager of the place come up and say that I had to start playing stuff that was upbeat and loud, and play with "confidence" (which to him meant turn up the volume knob, because after I did so, I had more confidence according to him), and basically rattled me. Anyway, the people there just didn't seem interested for the most part, and what's funny was, once I changed my setlist, the people who HAD been listening left. But hey, the manager was happy.

I've been playing out for maybe a month or so, so I have next to no experience, and I'm having to go by what I can figure out, or what I read online. A big part of it is probably that I should loosen up. It's hard not to be self-conscious in front of any audience, much less an apparently indifferent one.

Eric - I do know some pretty obscene songs; maybe I should have come out with those as well!


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: open mike
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 02:55 PM

once when playing at a bar (hosting an open mike night where i attempted to encourage others to be creative as well) i made a
velcro curtain to cover the huge t.v. screen to remove it from
view. i insisted that the thing be turned off during our session!

Another place i have played is at a cowboy music and poetry fest
that happens on the same weekend as a large rodeo, so the local bar always has the rodeo on the big screens as we try to play music.
makes a nice backdrop, but there is not adequate amplification
for the musicians...


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: Bernard
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 04:19 PM

Unfortunately, trying to 'grab attention' tends only to last for a few bars of a song or tune they briefly latch on to - until closing time, that is, then you are suddenly the focus of attention because they think they'll get some extra drinking time out of it!

I've learned the knack of finding the person who is listening and playing just for them. It usually brings a few others in, but not always, but you do feel better knowing it's not all in vain...

As for being 'wallpaper' - some wallpaper is expensive and very classy, so don't run yourself down!!

Hands up who has been asked to 'sing something we know'...!!


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 04:27 PM

I was listening to a couple of old vinyls of mine recently. One was a "Bud & Travis in Concert" album, the other a "Kingston Trio at the Hungry i." In both cases, you could hear ice clinking in glasses and calls for songs not in the repertoire of either group (Play Melancholy Baby!!) Travis responded to one heckler by saying "We did have a couple of requests for Harbor Lights," which got the heckler heckled. Dave Guard suggested that the group "suck on ice cubes in 4/4 time." The recipe calls for more up-tempo songs and a willingness to forge ahead no matter what happens. The late Tom Clancy once called out, after hearing a beer mug hit the floor, "Hit 'im again quick, lad!" A good sense of humor won't hurt, along with a thick skin. Above all, don't allow yourself to get caught up in a "last word" pissing contest with a heckler.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 05:03 PM

Then, of course, there are the idiots who want "The Wild Rover"...


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: Tootler
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 07:03 PM

Then, of course, there are the idiots who want "The Wild Rover"...

Then give it to them, if that's what they want. You are being paid to entertain after all. Anyway why are they idiots? The Wild Rover is a perfectly good song it's just that at one time it was overdone.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 07:08 PM

The 'Requsts' that wind me up are the people who say "Of COURSE You Know it , it goes a La La " -   For ME , KNOWING a song means ALL the Words , and ALL the Chords AND a decent arrangement !
And in the right place (NOT a Folk Club) Wild Rover will at least get some audience participation


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: TonyA
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 07:18 PM

I tend to expect that other people like to hear music as much as I do. But events often suggest that many people are more interested in the idea of being in a place where music is being performed, regardless of what they can or can't hear.

For example, I played recently in an art gallery, with no amp. After I'd been playing for a while, everyone gravitated to the room I was in, and stayed there, all talking at once, for over an hour. They created a bedlam so loud I could barely hear my own guitar. Yet people kept coming over to tell me how much they enjoyed the music. I guess they were enjoying the experience, though not the actual sound. On the plus side, it meant I could play whatever I wanted.

And many years ago I found myself in an Irish bar in Kansas City where a blues band was playing in the back room so loudly that you could hear them at about the same volume as the music playing on the stereo in the bar. The combination was a bizarre and extremely unpleasant noise. I asked the bartender why he didn't turn off the stereo while the band was playing. He gave me a menacing look and said that the music on the stereo was for the people in the bar. Here again, the idea of music was what mattered. The people in the bar were paying customers and were entitled to music, even if it was impossible to enjoy.

Perhaps the preference people express for cover songs is related to this. It allows them to participate actively in the visual experience of being where live music is being performed -- by requesting a particular song, or simply knowing whether they should like the music or not.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 08:07 PM

Many years ago, in a former life I played honky-tonks in Montana. One weekend we were in eureka, and there were a lot of drunken Canadians who would come across the border due to the cheapness of the potables and the more liberal drinking hours. A couple of times during the course of the evening on of the drunken frostbacks would stagger up to the edge of the stage and blearily request, "Play the RODEO SONG." Not ever having heard the song I would inquire "How does it go?" At which point they would drunkenly chant something along the lines of "..I don't give a fuck and I get in my truck, and I'm off to the rodeo...". finally despairing of getting anything close to a melody out of any of them I proceeded to give them THE CASTRATION OF THE STRAWBERRY ROAN. After that they never came up to the stage to make any request for the rest of the evening.

I haven't played a honky-tonk in 25 years. I decided that I wanted to play for an audience that knew why they were there. It's not that I have against anything against bars(I was usually right up against them in those days), I just realized that playing music in that kind milieu didn't suit what I wanted to do. It was good practice, but the pay usually was less than I wanted, and I had to play more sets than I thought I should have to for that kind of money. the going wage back then was 50 bucks a night, plus you had to haul too much equipment, and put up with too many bar owners who had no idea what kind of music you played when they hired you.

Mark Ross
    Link added by anonymod. -JoeO-


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: Ian Fyvie
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 09:21 PM

"Hands up who has been asked to 'sing something we know'...!! "

Reminds me of a bar singaround a mate tried to start 18 months ago. Apart from a few loyal folkies happy to support any of our colleagues on a new session, all we got was a a group of good natured drunks - who came out with the classic line above.

I said sorry I didn't do well known songs; I'm a singer songwriter. "Oh", said one of our merry viitors: "Can you do Oasis?' .

The good thing was that we discovered a very keen guitarist through that venture who comes along to our well established singarounds from time to time.

On the main issue, I really can't see any point in a musician/performer playing whilst the Bar Tele is on unless they're getting well paid.

However, given that a publican might offer lots of money to compete with penalty shoot outs, then certainly look around for anyone enjoying what you do despite the odds, and get them along to a singaround where they can experience our preferred music in a better environment.


Ian Fyvie


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 20 Jul 09 - 09:28 PM

I used to play a pizza joint/bar. Like Mary said, people would listen, even if they didn't appear to be. I played what I liked (for four sets and low money, what else would you do?). If there was a celtofile in the crowd they would like what I did. If not, they liked the guitar playing. I looked at it as a paid rehearsal. When I teamed up with Margaret, we got turned down at the same place as "not squire material" (the place was called The Village Squire). We thought about putting that on our promo material.
   Later on, we did some St. Patrick's Day gigs where the owner hadn't listened to the demo. The paid rehearsal thing pays off sometimes.
   I did get someone commenting that I looked like (on stage)like I didn't care if the audience liked what I did or not. Which might not work to your advantage. I wound up getting a day job, and just playing gigs where they want to hear what I do. (Check out tradfolky1 on youtube). Good luck.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: oldhippie
Date: 21 Jul 09 - 05:48 PM

Ever hear the song "Piano Man"?; that about sums up bar music.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: Eric the Viking
Date: 21 Jul 09 - 07:02 PM

Along a similar line.We once played a ceilidh for a wedding, as we did most weekends after we'd been at it for a good hour or more with loads of dancers up for every dance, someone asked if we could "play music they could dance to" !! LOL


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 21 Jul 09 - 07:14 PM

Drunks and kids have about the same attention span!!

Art


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 21 Jul 09 - 07:52 PM

Art,
Kids have a longer attention span!

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: Michael Harrison
Date: 22 Jul 09 - 02:40 PM

Well, it's a slow day for me so here's my two-cents: I just don't play pubs any more for all of the reasons you all have mentioned above and probably a few more.

Please know that I am probably older than most of you here, but my song sack carries songs from the 1800's to the 1990's and the twenty and thirty-somethings who are going into bars/pubs are simply not interested in what I do. As for the individual above who stated something to the effect that if you are a good entertainer you will find a way to get the bar patrons attention, I say - horseshit.

I do not recall who it was, but years ago I was told that the relationship between an audience and a performer is a communion that has two components that are absolutely required for the communion to work: an audience that is receptive, and, a performer who can. I would submit that in a bar setting where babes abound and t.v.'s are on - your receptive audience is miniscule.   

I would be willing to bet that in America, if you do current stuff, and other songs that are familiar to the 20 and 30 year olds, you will be listened to and your tip jar might get some attention; on the other hand - if you don't, you won't. Singer/songwriters, and folk types - forget it. Rock-n-roll bands, blues, Americana and pop bands who can raise the roof - you'll probably do all right.

For some of you folkie-type newbies, you might consider keeping your day job a bit longer and playing Starbucks, etc., for tips to cut your music teeth on. Take a look around and see what other options you can create for yourself, too. If you choose to play in bars - great, but be prepared to be largely ignored and left with a damaged ego. Cheers,.....................mwh


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: oldhippie
Date: 22 Jul 09 - 04:29 PM

I remember hearing a woman piano player in a little bar in Oakland California in the 70s who sang mostly bawdy songs. One of the few bar singers who commanded audience attention. Anyone recall her name?


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: Michael Harrison
Date: 22 Jul 09 - 06:07 PM

Hey, oldhippie, it was a different time, but I'd be willing to bet that a woman piano player who sings bawdy songs in little bars would probably fare pretty well today, too. Could it have been the funny gal named Rusty Warren? She did a series of lp's with variations on the title, "Knockers Up!" I think some of her material was done in song, but not sure. She was hot in the 50's. Cheers,........mwh


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar music to me?
From: dwditty
Date: 23 Jul 09 - 03:00 PM

I still maintain,
that if you entertain
the audience will jump right in
and sing the refrain.


....and if you don't, they won't.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 Jul 09 - 03:12 PM

I added the word (tavern) to the thread title because my first impression was that this might be a thread on music theory. Hope nobody minds.

I wish Rick Fielding were here to share his thoughts. He was a perfectionist about his music, but yet he played in a lot of smoky, noisy bars and didn't mind at all. He said it gave him a chance to be paid for the opportunity to perfect his craft. He could play more-or-less anything he wanted - and since somebody was paying him, he learned not to mind that people weren't listening.

Can't say I've ever been able to achieve Rick's Zen attitude about bar music. For me, it's annoying when people are talking and I can't hear a good musician; and even more annoying when a bad musician is playing and I can't hear the conversation. I think maybe it's best if bar music doesn't have lyrics. Either that, or if it's really loud music and people go without the expectation of being able to converse. If my kid's punk rock band is performing, people don't expect to talk - they dance.

Maybe others will remember some more of Rick's comments on bar music.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 23 Jul 09 - 03:25 PM

Probably a good idea to change the title, Joe.

I guess the experience of playing in bars depends on how you look at it. Mostly, I played slower nights or smaller places and it wasn't too bad. Sometimes I could get the crowd (or some of them) to listen. Other times it was just not going to happen and I would go into the "play whatever I want and practice songs" mode. If you have a fragile ego that is going to be devastated if people ignore you better not play in a bar or pub.   If you want to really be able to 'work a room' (I wouldn't consider myself to be an expert on that) take a look at some of the people around who do it well. Our own Seamus Kennedy comes to mind. It takes a quick wit and a good sense of humor, and a lot of self confidence. Not many people can do it.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: olddude
Date: 23 Jul 09 - 03:43 PM

Just my opinion but I just won't do it. I have been there especially in the 70's when I did it pretty regular. I would play at a holiday inn or some pretty nice place where people were having dinner and everyone would enjoy and listen. I played at the bars and all they wanted to do is drink and look at the girls. I could have been banging on a wash tub for that matter. Today, I like the concerts in the park. Loads of people, they bring their baby's their beer sit on a blanket and all listen. Some walk around looking at the farmers market items .. love it .. I play at the retirement home, and once in a while like recent a school aud for some benefit show. No more bars ever for this guy. I just don't do bar music. At least the bars around here if it ain't loud and electric ... there is no interest. Heck James Taylor could be performing and they would still be scoping out the girls and drinking. Even the better bars around here want very loud modern country and even if a person was really good at it ... few I think really listen. It is the wall paper thing. Agree with Richard for sure


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 Jul 09 - 04:26 PM

I don't think folk music lends itself to bars. Folk music demands that people listen. It's music meant to tell a story, and the story gets lost in the noise of a bar.

Now, I remember a piano bar that I really loved. People sat around the piano, which had a shelf to hold their drinks. The evening was more-or-less a musical converstation between the pianist and the patrons, and people often sang along - mostly "old standards."

I had a church choir friend who used to have a bar. He had retired before I met him, but the bar was a legend in the community. Ed and his partner had microphones behind the bar. Every once in a while, between mixing drinks, they'd pick up the microphones and sing a duet - often with everybody in the tavern singing along. I usually sang church music with Ed, but once we sang a duet of "Tiny Bubbles" in a concert in the church hall. He did the Hawaiian part - and did it darn well, too (hey, and I did a solo on "Chantilly Lace" in the same concert - oh baby, you KNOW what I like....).

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Fidjit
Date: 23 Jul 09 - 04:42 PM

Same the world over. What do other people expect?

As I'd lived in Norway (34 years) I was asked very recently (As recent as last Friday) to assist a lady at a Norwegian sing along. I went along for the try out, last Sunday. Found out there was no real arrangement. We were expected to know it all. After all I HAD lived in Norway!

Well turned out we, I and the lady that was to sing, only knew four songs that I could accompany her with. These I'd heard, but I had never played before.

For a two hour sing a long. This was never going to happen. And it didn't.

By the way, gave up singing to drunks in the seventies.

Chas


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Ian Fyvie
Date: 23 Jul 09 - 09:56 PM

Unusually, our singaround will be in the bar a week sunday (private function in the regular club room).

Normally I'd cancel or move venues for one night but thesedays our singarounds frequently outnumber punters in the main bar so... probably no problem.

But its also an opportunity. We're seperated just by glass doors from the main bar and often local drinkers have a look through to see what's going on - and read the folk club notice. So this is the chance for the casually inquisitive to actualy hear what we do - and we'll certainly be welcoming those who enjoy the forthcoming bar session to join us next normal club night.

Ian Fyvie


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: fumblefingers
Date: 23 Jul 09 - 10:50 PM

I used to play in bars with various C&W groups. The bars were actually Texas and Oklahoma beer joints. A few listened, some danced but most people just drank and talked. We played what we liked and answered requests. The more they drank; the better we sounded--or so they said. People seldom complained. I like playing beer joints, but it is in no way like performing.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: olddude
Date: 23 Jul 09 - 11:18 PM

I suppose it also has to do with what bar. Like I said, around here you won't find one that plays anything but very loud modern country. and that is ok but not for a folk singer with a geetar.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 25 Jul 09 - 02:42 PM

Another thing - it's a lot easier to play in bars/pubs with a group, or at least a duo. It's very hard to pull it off solo. At least with some other people on stage you've got some moral support and somebody to bounce jokes off of.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Bernard
Date: 25 Jul 09 - 07:24 PM

Yep - and somebody to help put the PA away again afterwards, too!


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Tug the Cox
Date: 26 Jul 09 - 02:32 PM

Most of what has been said applies to a 'performance to an audience' in a pub. Once uponn a time, sing songs in pubs, where there is no demarcation between performer and audience, were popular, I used to go to a great friday night sing song in Anstey, Leicestershire, about 25 years ago. I still do them occasionally, its a matter of getting the feeling of the crowd, starting with stuff that people are likely to know, doing stuff with easy join in lines, and inviting all and sundry to start a song. No mikes. Even the slightest bit of PA is an invitation to talk rather than listen or join in, and move around the bar as well.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Bernard
Date: 26 Jul 09 - 02:37 PM

Quite so - as my old Education tutor at college used to say... 'noise breeds noise'. It holds true equally well in a classroom as a pub.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: MikeofNorthumbria
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 04:51 PM

Fellow-sufferers – I feel your pain!   Been there, done that, and got the scars to prove it.

Playing in a bar, to an everyday crowd of people who didn't come there specially to hear you, is always hard work. Performers who enjoy a challenge, who know about "working the room", and who have extensive repertoires to draw on can still make magic happen under these circumstances. But with some audiences, even the ablest and most committed performers eventually have to give up and say "the magic's not working tonight".

When that happens you should ask yourself questions like:
How much am I being paid for this?
How badly do I need that money?
Am I enjoying myself?
Am I learning anything useful here?

If the answers are "not enough", "not that badly", "no" and "no", then perhaps you should look for a different wall to bang your head against.

But if, despite the disappointments, you still feel this is a worthwhile activity, then keep trying. Many people who now do this sort of thing fairly successfully have experienced a few disasters in their time. Billy Joel is an obvious example - and as somebody has already pointed out, he survived, and made a great song ("Piano Man")out of the experience.   

Wassail!


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Willie-O
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 06:04 PM

Mark Ross: "The Rodeo Song" was a common pitfall for Canadian musicians for a decade or so. Once I was playing a bar in Ottawa, (full of Newfoundlanders, who hated all the Newfoundland songs I tried and just wanted Stones songs) and made the mistake of letting someone borrow my guitar while I'm on a break. (Yeah, yeah, what the hell was I thinking?) Of course, the guy tears into "Rodeo Song", which got ME some furious words from the manager, who I guess was having noise problems with the neighbours and bylaw officers...it was a warm night so the doors were open...nope I didn't play there again. And I got a lot more cautious about requests.

The Rodeo Song was written by a seasoned Alberta cowboy singer named Gaye Delorme...life ain't easy for a cowboy named Gaye.
"Its forty below and I don't give a fuck, got a heater in my truck and I'm off to the rodeo..." it's kind of soothing when you get the hang of it. "Here comes Johnny with his pecker in his hand, he's a one-ball man and he's off to the rodeo". Theres also a chorus, but ladies and gentlemen, that's all the verses.

I play bars sometimes, but not SPORTS BARS. And the cardinal rule: I don't play any bars during NHL playoffs. And I don't generally play bars I wouldn't enjoy patronizing.

Like busking, playing bars is an honourable profession, but it's not for everyone.

W-O


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Tug the Cox
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 08:02 PM

Spot on, Mike.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Willie-O
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 08:50 PM

I thought I'd revisit your original questions, cause I have a few minutes to kill...

1. What is the point of bar music?

Two possibilities: a) the bar's reputation is as a music venue which has live music several nights a week, or at least consistently one or two nights a week. People actually come there because of this. Best case scenario. (Doesn't mean they come to sit and listen and applaud, btw.)

b) the bar doesn't really have a hook, and they try a little of everything they've seen elsewhere--karaoke night, NASCAR night, darts, scantily clad women, and something they list as "live music" (rarely being more specific). Worst case scenario. But you might get lucky and do OK.


2. . But in a given setlist, in your opinion, what is the minimum amount of Jimmy Buffett, Tom Petty, CCR, Skynyrd, etc. relative to music I like (trad/blues/60s "folk") that I can get away with?

In a bar such as you were in, I'd say about 50-50. As long as the stuff you slip in there by choice is reasonably close in overall feel and tempo to the other stuff. (You know what I mean). But if you regard the examples you cite above as a drag and a chore, you probably should not be pursuing these venues. Because you'll be playing those songs every night you're there. Anyway, those artists have all written some fine material, and (USEFUL) you don't have to stick to their most shopworn overdone ones--you still get points for doing less-remembered repertoire from well-known artists.

3. The Dreaded Bar Manager.    (We'd been asked to avoid rugby songs and put on "entertainment of folk and popular music") "A half hour or so after I started, I had the general manager of the place come up and say that I had to start playing stuff that was upbeat and loud, and play with "confidence".

Well, at least he gave you timely feedback. A lot of bar managers have this conceit that they know what their customers like, and that they can fine-tune the acts they hire to make things work. Never mind they're not making sense (although this fellow may have been), just smile and nod diplomatically and do your thing. Uptempo is good, and slow and over-long is not. Managers also have their upper management to placate, and a lot of these folks have ideas of what kind of music should or should not be played there.

Good luck. Have fun doing it, just for yourself. And don't expect anyone to listen to your CD. Getting these gigs is all about timing--approaching them with a bit of professional-looking promo at the time when they're about to book the next season.

W-O


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 28 Jul 09 - 12:13 AM

Well, as a 38-year veteran of the folk scene here in the U.S., the first 23 of which were spent in bars, I have to say that I really learned my craft, paid my dues, served my apprenticeship (pick one) and mastered the art of handling just about any kind of crowd.

From working with drunks and hecklers, to outlandish requests and working up comedy routines on the fly, there's no better place than a pub.

Nowadays, I do mostly festivals, folk clubs and concerts, and let me tell you that the entertainment and communication skills I picked up in the bars work in the quieter listening venues as well.

If you can handle a barful of noisy drunks, you can work a quiet listening room with no difficulty. Maryrrf who worked one of the bars I performed in is also a fine musician who can work both kinds of room.

A fellow bar-room graduate once put it to me very succinctly:
We can go into a nice, quiet, listening folk-club, or a festival stage and entertain the audience; but a folk artist who demands a listening audience couldn't get up in front of a barful of drunks and do what we do. (But then again, why would he/she want to?)


Seamus


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Michael Harrison
Date: 28 Jul 09 - 01:10 AM

Seamus - all is well said and good; but, I would suggest that the pub patrons have changed over the last thirty-eight years and it's a different scene. I too, can handle an audience, but again, you cannot wring something out of nothing. It's one thing to have a throng of drinking, chatting folks who come to a bar to drink and chat; it's another thing to try to get something out of a throng of people who came there to drink, chat, and watch the ballgame, AND, contend with a club manager who insists that you turn it down because you're too loud when you can't even hear youself on stage.
That, in conjunction with the idea that virtually the whole crowd doesn't really give a damn that you're up there because if you were any good - you'd be somewhere else.

Seamus, I love ya, but pubs and bars just are not the same training ground they used to be. Cheers,...................mwh


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Mo the caller
Date: 28 Jul 09 - 05:34 AM

I don't (and never intend to) play for money, but we notice the same thing when we go to the pub session at Audlem.
There's a really nice crowd go, quite a diverse mixture of singers and tuners, tolerant of each other. And there is a board outside saying 'live music Monday'.
The atmosphere varies according to the 'crowd' standing at the bar. The musicians fill most of the seats.
Sometimes we have the place to ourselves and we can play the slow stuff, experiment a bit, listen to each other. As well as the all-join-in chestnuts.
Last night the bar was crowded with people who spent half the time shouting at each other, the other half joining in lustily with the choruses (Wild Rover, Whiskey in the Jar, in a key we could all play along to), laughing at Ian's comic songs (he has a loud enough voice to sing unaccompanied and command attention in any setting), and jigging around to the tunes. It was a night for playing things that everyone knew and would join in with, raising the roof a bit.

Either way we can enjoy the evening.

But if you are paid it can be diconcerting to be booked for something which doesn't work - at least as a caller if people won't dance I can turn roud and ask the band to give them a tune.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 28 Jul 09 - 01:51 PM

Michael - you're probably right. It WAS a good training ground 38 years ago, and I learned to reach out and grab a crowd's attention even if they weren't there specifically to hear me, because unlike today there WEREN'T cell-phones and I-pods and MP3 players and a dozen TV sets to contend with.

Without those distractions, I had a better than 50-50 chance of winning them over.

And people who had come to hear me were a bonus!

Seamus


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: dwditty
Date: 28 Jul 09 - 02:19 PM

mmmm...I guess what I get out of all this is that if a performer is having a problem gaining attention/respect/adoration/etc. from the audience in a pub (and presumably anywhere else), it is the audience's fault.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 28 Jul 09 - 02:38 PM

DWD, on the contrary, I think there were a lot of good suggestions as to how a performer might go about gaining the attention of a difficult audience. And what is that "presumably anywere else" comment supposed to mean? Did anybody say they had a problem getting the audience's attention in a concert setting? The original poster asked a legitimate question. He didn't deserve sarcasm.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: dwditty
Date: 28 Jul 09 - 03:00 PM

I quite agree, Mary. I apologize for being flippant. My original post to this thread was fully intended as helpful recommendation for Jeremy. I also agree, there are lots of good thoughts here. There is also a fair amount of blame being thrown onto the audience who, in my opinion, is under no obligation to forego their own good time to accomodate the performer. In this regard, I mean the audience as a whole, not the rude behavior of one or two (or more) hecklers disrupting a peformer to whom the audience is trying to hear.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 28 Jul 09 - 07:43 PM

Sorry if I misunderstood your intent, DWD. I agree that it's the entertainer's job to get the attention of the audience. Some venues/audiences make that harder to do than others.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: JeremyC
Date: 29 Jul 09 - 09:02 AM

Willie-O: I see what you mean about looking for other venues if the pop songs are a drag. The main thing for me is that it seems as if most venues are like that.

And on the other hand, I think that DWD makes some valid points. You get booked at a place to play things that the most typical customers will want to hear. So clearly I need to update my repertoire, since the most familiar stuff I know is Simon and Garfunkel (and obviously, this is not bar music). I've been looking around for likely suspects to add to a setlist, but the fact is, a lot of this stuff is pretty boring. I mean, one song that seems to be a near-requirement is "Wonderwall" by Oasis, and it's just a lousy song. On the other hand, stuff like the usual Tom Petty ("Free Fallin'", "Last Dance") isn't so bad. I was also recently reminded of how much time and effort the Beatles put into their arrangements compared to a lot of stuff that's come out in the past 20 years. So there is certainly bar music that ISN'T boring - it's just not stuff I customarily listen to, so I have a lot of catching up to do.

This doesn't stop me from lamenting the current taste in music, but we are all traditionalists here and this is itself a long-standing tradition. :)


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 29 Jul 09 - 10:22 AM

If you do Irish themed pubs you can get away with slipping some "folk" into the mix - even Simon and Garfunkle if it's a quiet night. You will have to do things like Whiskey in the Jar, Wild Rover, Wild Colonial Boy, Molly Malone, etc. as well. But even though those songs are overdone, there're not bad songs.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: M.Ted
Date: 29 Jul 09 - 02:34 PM

The bar entertainer isn't really even there to get the attention of the audience--if the audience doesn't want to pay attention, the entertainer has to find a way to play in the background.If the audience wants to sing, well, the entertainer has to do that.
Playing in bars is a job, and, if you need to work, you find a way to do your job. If you don't need the work, you find some other way to spend your time.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: JeremyC
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 06:35 PM

I have another, kind of related question: The other night, I was playing at a cafe/bar/restaurant...relaxed atmosphere where you can order dinner or have a glass of wine, that kind of place. It was very lightly populated, and sitting right in front of me was a table of very loud people who were paying no attention to me whatsoever. Now, the attention thing is fine - I don't begrudge anyone the option to ignore me. What kept throwing me off was the extra noise. If I played a ballad or something similar, I was off my game, and if I tried something uptempo and louder, I felt like I was competing with them in volume; they actually seemed to get louder if I did.

I know this is a common situation, yet it never fails to mess up my concentration, even on things I should be able to play in my sleep. How do the rest of you deal with this kind of thing in your chosen venues?


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: foggers
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 07:05 PM

Jeremy - I have come to the conclusion that I am just not made of the right stuff to do bar/pub gigs, as the scenario you describe is just too depressingly distracting and affects my concentration and performance far too much. I guess if I really needed the work I would have to develop a way to screen out loud people, (practising self hypnosis? Ear plugs?)


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: olddude
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 07:24 PM

Jeremy,
I just went through the exact same thing friday of last week. Not doing anymore of them. Sometime I get people clapping and listening. Too often now there is a group of very loud talkers and I just don't want to try and compete


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 07:30 PM

Michael Harrison wrote on 22 Jul 09:
Could it have been the funny gal named Rusty Warren? She did a series of lp's with variations on the title, "Knockers Up!"

The YouTube video that linked to has been removed due to terms of service violation. Got another source for it?


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 07 Dec 09 - 07:52 PM

I'm afraid it just goes with the territory. Playing bars and pubs, and even coffeehouses - places where food and drink are being served and talking is permitted, is difficult. What I've done when I find myself in that situation is just soldier on as best I can, trying to concentrate on the music and tune out the rowdy group. It's hard, but then again with that much racket if you make a mistake nobody will really notice, so sometimes I use it as practice time to play songs I'm working on but haven't quite polished. If there's lots of noise it's going to be virtually impossible to get through to other people in the audience who might enjoy what you are doing, if they could hear it. It's the down side of working that type of venue, and it really can be difficult. But then there are good times when you're able to get a big part of the audience listening and responding to the music. Our trio managed to do that at our last bar gig, and it was fun. It's much easier to do that when you're on stage with other musicians - hard if you're solo. Good luck!


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: GUEST,Peadar (formerly) of Portsmouth
Date: 08 Dec 09 - 05:26 PM

I think your experience the other night actually explains one of your original questions.

I've never understood why people will sit close to the stage when they have no visible interest in the performance, especially if they'd have more room and greater privacy further away. I'm convinced there's an unconscious desire to be "near the action" -- whatever that action is -- which is something bar managers recognize. So bar managers are just trying to create some/any kind of action when they book live music.

For what it's worth: When we have a table of talkers like you had the other night, I usually try to get them talking to me. I usually ask some kind of question to them -- How's the meal? How's it sound? Anything you want to hear? Want to hear a joke?

It doesn't always work, but at least they have to acknowledge your presence...and sometimes that's enough for them to tone it down. (It's kind of like the greeter at Walmart...they don't really care that you're there, but studies prove it helps deter shoplifting because someone has said "I see you" to the potential thief.)

And, when it DOES work and you can engage them, you can turn potential headaches into a drunken chorus who are at least on your side.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: billhudson
Date: 09 Dec 09 - 10:35 AM

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.
Still Pickin'
B.H.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: JeremyC
Date: 09 Dec 09 - 01:26 PM

Great ideas, guys, thanks! As a long-time introvert, it never occurred to me to try to talk to the offending table, but it seems like that could work. It's really distracting and demoralizing to be out there performing (not easy for me in any case) and competing in volume with a loud table. Practicing songs sounds like a good approach, too.

Peadar, your idea makes a lot of sense. Maybe if I look at it as simply providing "something going on" as opposed to a performance to be listened to, it'll make it somewhat more palatable, or at least less mystifying.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Dec 09 - 01:38 PM

I think a heckler is one person you can get the crowd going for you if you can handle it.
Once I had a good crowd at a bar and all was well until these two airborne guys came in with this one girl. Of course they keep getting louder and louder. The way I got these guys to settle down was not in a loud voice but a very soft voice said, "behave yourself", right in the middle of a song. They both stopped dead and looked like deer in the headlights thing. Then they got loud again after a while and I said the same thing and it worked. So you could say they were apart of the act.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 09 Dec 09 - 01:59 PM

Maybe others will remember some more of Rick's comments on bar music.

One practical bit of advice Rick had was, have something handy to jam the one-arm-bandit - chewing gum, super-glue...
............

Isn't one of the functions of having live music in such settings as a way of drowning out the kind of loudmouths JeremyC mentioned? And the air-conditioning. What it sounds like is secondary.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: skarpi
Date: 10 Dec 09 - 06:28 AM

leave your ego at home ?
is it about your ego ? I think not .

I play only Irish, Scottish Icelandic ,and music from Norway
english and other Folk music , and I have played in a bar
where there is pther things goin on noisy place realy ,

and I at the first time felt like noone was listen , and when the
we messured the loudness it over 120 Dcb.

I have stopped playing at bars that have tv on at the same time
and its not about the ego .

I love to perform to people who wants to listen to folk music and sing along with it , and enjoy music, them self and me and my band .

sorry but thats just me ,
I have not same years of playin like Seamus and Mary , but
this what I feel about this matter .

Good luck in the future .
all the best Skarpi


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: JeremyC
Date: 21 Dec 09 - 10:35 AM

Well, my most recent gig was yet another fiasco. The owner of the cafe expected me to magically bring in tons of business after engaging me for three weekends at $50/night+two meals. The final night, there were nine people in total, two of whom came specifically to see me, and I made $10 in tips. I was, I learned, competing with the high school Christmas pageant (small town). The owner lit out just as I started my last song, leaving the staff to stiff me on one of the meals and the chef to tell me he didn't want me to come back. What's great is that I gave him several opportunities to let me know, since I was expecting this after getting an idea of his unrealistic expectations (I was to bring a crowd of "family and friends" - family is 2,500 miles away and friends are mostly working musicians with gigs) every single night. Instead of telling me, he avoided me the entire night and left the chef to do his dirty work. At least I got the $50, though. And the customers who were there all seemed to enjoy themselves.

So, I've been reading with interest other people's experiences in bars and pubs - what kinds of setlists do you guys do, and in what kinds of venues? I have a weird repertoire, and obviously I haven't found the right kind of place for it.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Willie-O
Date: 21 Dec 09 - 11:07 AM

Ah, the old change-the-deal scam. (I have met a lot of managers who feel that they're not doing their duty if they don't screw you out of five or ten bucks somehow. These are always the venues where the payment is marginal at best.) Hasn't happened to me recently, but since most gigs are arranged by email, I always spell out the payment & hospitality agreed on, and ask the mgr to reply, then I print it out and bring it (even if they don't reply), cause thats a contract. Which can be useful both to avoid the five-dollar screwover, and the legitimate confusion that the closing staff don't always know what your deal is.   

In this day and age, though, you were lucky to get three weekends in a row at the same place. Except that it suggests they don't have the knowledge to book a rotating roster of players to keep the audience interested...then they wonder why it's quiet after three weeks and blame you!

You shouldn't think of these as "fiascos"--unless you don't get paid--you're learning something new every week!

W-O


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 21 Dec 09 - 11:16 AM

If you don't already have a fan base (friends, family or people who've seen you at other venues and will turn up based on your mailing list) you would need more than three weekends to establish a following.   Is it a 'theme' pub (Irish or Celtic) or just a generic type place? Do they have other live music, and if so do those acts seem to bring people in? Give us an example of your repertoire. Definitely you need to have a fair number of songs everybody knows. The owner treated you crappily - he could have just nicely said he didn't think it was working out, or something like that.

My trio usually does Irish pubs. We are all three members of the local Irish American Society, so a fair number of them turn up to see us. Also I run a separate folk concert series, and therefore have access to that mailing list. We do the usual pub songs which is what our audiences enjoy and expect - Whiskey in the Jar, Wild Rover, and throw in some lesser known ones as well, but most of the music is lively. Occasionally I have a chance to do a gig where I can get away with what I really like to do, which is ballads - but that has to be a coffee house type of place. I've been gigging around here for close to 10 years, so there are some folks who will turn up.

There are some places, however, that just aren't a good 'fit' and we've had plenty of those fiascos. If it's a young crowd that wants rock and roll, and a trio of fifty something's starts playing diddly dee Irish music, it doesn't tend to go over well no matter what.

Oh and I've also run up against the scenario of competing events - not much you can do about that.

If the people there seemed to be enjoying themselves that's good! We worked one place where we did pull people in - in the beginning, but the food and service were so poor that after a couple of times they didn't come back. That place eventually closed. Again - not much you can do there!


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: JeremyC
Date: 21 Dec 09 - 01:22 PM

Willie-O: You're right, at least I did get the cash and tips. Could have been much worse. The first weekend there, the closing staff didn't know I hadn't already been paid and closed the register without giving me any money. I was able to recover it the following weekend, though.

Really, every time I perform, I learn a lot about performing. I don't get that opportunity much, as a sometimes-working musician, and my natural personality is introverted and shy, so I have a hard time wanting to do anything besides just get up and play guitar. I'd rather play guitar than talk to people - when I played last summer at a winery, some people who were there the entire evening commented on how I played really long sets and took short breaks in between. It's really hard for me to work a crowd or even make eye contact, much less actually talk to anyone. And I'm learning how to do that. So next time will be better, I hope.

Maryrrf: It's just a generic kind of place. In fact, it's mostly a lunch cafe, and it's only recent that the owner got a liquor license and started serving dinner. They do a Thursday night singalong that's well attended, where there's a pianist who performs for a bit and then passes out sheets for old tin pan alley chestnuts. Maybe he expected something equivalent from me, but I can't imagine why - he's seen me play before and knew what kind of thing I did.

I try not to play too many obscure songs, and I try to make sure I have enough uptempo stuff. Let's see, the last time I played, I did "One Meatball," a raggish version of "Puff the Magic Dragon," a country blues arrangement of "Blue Eyes Cryin' In The Rain" followed by an approximation of Blind Blake's "West Coast Blues" (for some reason they make a good segue), Scarborough Fair, Loch Lomond, a dropped D arrangement of "Little Drummer Boy" and a few other Christmas songs. I play a lot of Paul Simon/Simon and Garfunkel, some Townes Van Zandt (including, obviously, "Pancho and Lefty"), and "Don't Think Twice" plus a few other Dylan songs if I'm in the mood for that. If there are kids there, I play "They're Burnin' Down the House I was Brung Up In," which for some reason is a consistent hit with them (I don't know why) and "The Fox," and maybe "This Land Is Your Land" or anything else I can think of that might appeal to them. I have a really hard time classifying my repertoire, since it includes folk ballad rearrangements of pop songs (e.g. Friday I'm In Love), traditional stuff, country blues (a la Blind Blake, Roy Book Binder, and Rev. Gary Davis), a Joe Hill song or two, and some 70s singer-songwriters like Townes, John Denver, and Paul Simon, plus a touch of Willie Nelson, Warren Zevon, and other random things that just haven't come to mind at the moment.

Maybe there's still too much slow stuff in my repertoire. The bar experience I posted about when I started this thread involved the owner complaining about that, but I also got the impression that he wanted me to be a Rolling Stones/Doobie Brothers/Tom Petty/etc. jukebox, and that's just not what I play (well, I do play "As Tears Go By," but you don't identify that with the Stones so much). I don't know what the problem is, or how to even market myself to avoid this kind of thing in the future.


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Subject: RE: Can someone explain bar (tavern) music to me?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 21 Dec 09 - 09:33 PM

Jeremy, for a 'generic' cafe type place that sounds like a good set list - maybe it's the place, and not you. Venues have their own 'ambience' and sometimes a surly owner is a reflection of the general atmosphere of the place. Keep working on the eye contact, talking to the audience, etc. It's very important. Keep in mind that any kind of venue where there's eating, talking and especially drinking is probably going to be difficult. Don't get discouraged.

I used to perform solo a lot, but now for pubs and restaurants I have a banjo player and a fiddler that I work with. It is MUCH easier to keep the audience's attention with a couple of other people up on stage. The music is usually fuller, and you can banter with each other and bounce jokes off one another - and that sometimes helps to get the audience interested. Solo work in pubs is hard!


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