The Loss of a Gig
About a month ago I was called and told that I was no longer required for a gig. There was no problem with me, they said, just that their budget had been cut and I was the first thing to go.
It wasn’t that big a deal, they told me they have my phone number and if the situation changes that I would be called back. On top of that it only affected one night of my weeks work, so as I say, no big deal.
Well I thought it was no big deal, but you see, it’s a venue I have played in since 1986. Back then we were a resident band playing six nights a week. In fact, the gig is the very reason I am here on this island (I have told the story in an earlier post) and so, this last month I have felt a little sad and strange not going there. I drive past the gig regularly and look to see if I have been sneakily replaced (I haven’t).
The thing about that gig was, apart from knowing so many of the staff members for a very long time, there was a grand piano. I had the key to it for all of those years. I broke strings on it and learned to replace them and pull them back in to tune. I had to, it’s a very small island and piano tuners are few and far between. I am lucky to have a friend who is a professional piano tuner, and he lived and worked aboard the cruise ships working as a bass player and of course a tuner. He would often get in to our port on the odd Canary Islands cruise and spend the day with me, drinking coffee and tuning the piano. He taught me the basics, told me what book to read, helped me get parts and gave me the tools I needed to keep the piano playable. I watched him like a hawk while he tuned and tried to emulate him. He didn’t turn me into a piano tuner, but I can keep a piano in tune because of him and in an emergency I’d have a go if there was nobody else to do it.
The piano was revered by the staff, they protected it and it felt like they were in turn protecting me. Woe betide any other act who rested even a glass of water on it, the restaurant manager would throw a fit. If I ever needed it moving six to eight maintenance guys would magically appear and carry it like they were carrying a baby balanced on pool table.
I must have played many millions of notes on that piano. When the band dissolved I played in a duo with the drummer. With a synth on top for bass we played LIVE music, just piano, bass and drums and vocals. We attempted all kinds of songs that should never have been played this way. When he eventually left the island I was lucky to be teamed up with a singer (Mila, who I still work with today) and again we built up a strong set, always finishing off acoustically, just piano and voice. LIVE music. We had quite a following.
The original manager who contracted us in 1986 retired two years ago and he gave excellent references
to the new owners and recommended that we were kept on but as 2012 approached we began to lose nights until September of 2013 came, and the death knell sounded.
We were initially cut down to once a fortnight but by that time we had seen the writing on the wall. The last Wednesday in October I shut the lid of the old Yamaha grand for the last time. I still have the key, for when I’m called up, but I’m doubtful it will happen. The dynamic of the business has changed.
I go in today and I’m greeted as always by the staff as one of them, but now I am a customer, despite their homely treatment.
Luckily, the old manager decided he wasn’t ready to retire and has since employed us at another venue he overlooks. This is more comfort than you can imagine. I must do something right in his eyes to keep me in some kind of employment for more than 27 years and I will always be grateful for his faith in me to turn up and do the right thing.
He had me play that piano at weddings of politicians, enormous cultural events including three World Tourism Day concerts hosted at the hotel, even the “get out of jail” party for a local disgraced politician. I just kept my head down and played on that old piano, with its resident lizard who would pop out now and then to see what the fuss was. I never did catch him, he was too quick.
I never thought I would grieve for a gig, but I miss it. I have so many memories forged in those rooms. I have the last photo I took of my Dad in there, holding my first-born son, only a few weeks old. I was tricked into going in there on my 40th Birthday where a surprise party had been organised by my beautiful wife and people from all over the world made the effort to get to. I had my 21st birthday there as well, attended not only by my parents but two of my grand parents. It’s hard to let go.
Tomorrow is Wednesday, the night I should be in there and this week I’m going to raise a glass quietly at home on the sofa, to Los Zocos, to Paco and to my Yamaha.