As I said in Part One, the first and foremost of my money made is through playing live, mainly in pubs and bars. It’s not the glamorous lifestyle that you believe in as a teenager but it has its perks and rewards much like any other area of the musician life. It also has its downsides, but we’ll get to that.
What cover band work requires above all else, is a solid database of tunes in your head, you need hours of music that you’re able to recall without fail. That’s not to say you can’t have a few chord cheat sheets hidden by your feet but you can’t be reading every song, it looks slack if you’re buried in papers instead of engaging the crowd. Which leads nicely on to the next big factor of being the entertainment, you have to be entertaining. It sounds so obvious and like it shouldn’t need to be explained, but I can’t remember how many bands I’ve seen with members who are just downright boring to hear and see. I know many people who think I’m arrogant and egotistical and they’d be right, I used to be very shy and terrible in any social situation and I realised that if you’re like that on stage, people are never going to pay attention so I learnt about faking it till you make it. You have to believe you’re the shit before you come close to becoming it. And that’s all there is to cover gigs really, don’t forget the music and act like you Mick Jagger in the 70’s.
Now we come to the pros and cons of cover work. Apart from the sheer joy of playing live which is honestly one of the most exciting and rewarding feelings that I’ve ever experienced, the best thing about these gigs is the money, seems obvious doesn’t it? But when you’ve finished your 3 or 4-hour stage time, it’s always nice when someone hands you cash for your troubles. As for how much you’re paid, that depends on the location, the crowd and whether you were actually any good. Just remember to get some kind of price in writing to have for your records, even a text or email with a figure in it is important, you don’t want to get shafted for the night you’ve just put your heart and soul in to and if you have a number on record, you’ve got a point of argument to start with. My second favourite part of these gigs is the free food and drink policies most venues have in place, all jokes aside, the starving artist has a hint of truth to it and at the end of the day, if someone’s going to cook me dinner and water me all night, you’re going to have a pretty happy guitarist on your hands. And as the old saying goes, the way to a mans heart is through his stomach.
The cover gig work has its problems though, and sadly most of them aren’t going to go away. Let’s start with travel, obviously driving is a bonus but as I just mentioned, free drink for the night doesn’t really go well with driving, nobody should be driving when you’re 6 beers deep in the night because that’ll probably be the last gig you play. So what’s left? Trains, bus, trams and foot for local gigs, sometimes can cost you a bit in train fares when travelling out of the city but the bigger annoyance is carry half a ton of kit on your back around train stations and city streets. So unless you’ve got the strength or ingenuity to traverse these problems you’re left with one more choice, taxis, and that is a killer dent in the pocket, it’s always such a sting when you miss a train and have to fork out a huge chunk of what you’ve just been paid so you can get home again. Transport is always going to be a pain in the arse, whatever way you look at it, just be prepared for it. It’s time for my real pet peeve of these gigs, and this one is sadly so unavoidable, it makes my uncorrupted, purest musician heart wail when I think about it. Now I use Wonderwall as an example but there’s several song that fall into this category. Now, Wonderwall isn’t a bad song by any standards, Oasis nailed it as perfect piece of song writing and a perfect example of how a simple progression and melody line can make a no. 1 hit. But if I have to play that song one more god damn time, I may break. Without fail, a member of the crowd will ask for, and god forbid the rest of the crowd hear cause then the chants start, and you’ve got to play it then. Never forget why you’re there, the public is the client at the end of the day. There’s a whole range of songs that I could happily never hear again in my life time and I would never miss them. I think Wonderwall makes it to the top of that list, closely followed by Stand By Me.
And there you have it, I’ve probably forgot some little obscure aspects of this area of work but I hope that gave you a bit more insight to the musician’s side of pub gigs. And please, if you’re ever in a pub or bar and you see a band playing, never, ever, ask them to play Wonderwall, in fact probably best not to ask them to play anything cause who knows what their kryptonite is.