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The Club Date Guitarist
  

What, you may ask, is a club date? It isnít always a high profile gig at a happening, swinging club or bar-room. ("Grrrooovy! Dig this, you beatnik you!")

Usually the club date takes place at a catering hall called something "Manor", like Deadwood Manor, Rat-Hole Manor, Fake Tudor Manor, etc. You can also find yourself at a country club or restaurant.

Why is it called a club date? I donít really know. Maybe at one time people actually played gigs at clubs for money. Those days are fondly remembered by club date leaders who will now take their frustrations out on you, the newcomer.

Anyway, the directions to this catering hall are given to you in a casual manner, as if only a complete FOOL could become lost. Consequently, you will almost certainly end up dressed in an ill-fitting tuxedo with a car full of expensive equipment and no gas, no map, no street signs and no way out.

Once you finally arrive at the gig, head straight for the leaking dumpsters located to the rear. Next to them you will find the musicianís entrance.

Carefully make your way through the puddles of grease and grime on the kitchen floor. Important tip! Ask no questions. The hallís employees desire only to make your life miserable.

Always remember that in the elaborate caste system of catering halls, musicians are lower than the lowest pot washer or small woodland animal that feeds on the kitchen scraps. Above all, donít look at the kitchen! To keep your strength up you may have to eat something that was under-or-over cooked in this foul pit.

Once out of the kitchen, blunder on until you find the "stage". The "stage" can be anywhere from 4 feet square to the size of a football field, but rest assured that as the guitarist you face formidable obstacles.

You will almost always be placed in front of one of the speakers. While enabling you to hear the singerís vocal cues, etc., you will also bear the onslaught of their "hipness".

Try to endure. Many of the guests will approach you with incoherent requests or curious anecdotes about friends or relatives who also play guitar. You must send them away quickly without angering them and before their breath has completely paralyzed your motor control. Just point vaguely in the direction of the leader and mumble something in a language of your own invention. If this fails, play something tasteful; it will confuse them and they will stumble on to their next victim.

Tips and tricks
As the guitarist you will need to work on your version of rock & roll. However, your version need bear little resemblance to the real thing. Move your mouth as if you were actually singing songs you donít know and smile often at the leader, even if you are filled with a mindless, burning rage at his incompetence.

Bring an amplifier, or better yet, a rack, that has many lights, pedals and switches. Even if you have other amps that sound better the leader will be mesmerized by any blinking lights or goofy sounds.

Eventually you can turn the volume on your guitar completely off and merely move your left hand aimlessly over the fretboard. This way you can devote all of your time to daydreaming about the leader buried in an anthill located in a distant outpost of the Congo with small monkeys throwing rotted fruit at his endlessly talking head. "Try your Neil Diamond medley now, you hack!" (This one works well for me but feel free to improvise some of your own).

Donít try to impress any of the other players on the gig with your knowledge of the correct chord changes or exotic musical styles (NO jazz!). In fact, any exhibition of taste could spell disaster for your future as a club date guitarist.

The other players, most notably the woodwind and horn players, have a head full of misinformation about the guitar (and often about their own chosen instrument). What they do enjoy is for you to look and sound busy. Play really fast strumming things and twirl around your tiny stage space like a drunken Fred Astaire. They love this.

When the keyboard player plays what can only be interpreted as completely wrong changes, compliment him on his reharmonization. When the bass player studiously avoids any note even close to the actual root of a chord, thumbs up!

The singers, off in a musical world that would frighten even the most hardened criminal, love compliments about their singing and also, looks. "You sound wonderful. Have you lost weight?"

Eventually, the gig is over. Exchange cards with people. You can scribble your own telephone number on the backs of their cards on your next club date. Gather what is left of your pedal board (the sax player has been stomping on it all night while playing his impassioned and yet completely meaningless solos), coil your cords, clean the glasses and plates off the top of your amplifier and stumble back out through the kitchen. Once you have located the correct road home you can smile in satisfaction.

This time, you say to yourself, was really the last time.

 

About the Author
Bruce has featured on recordings alongside Jack DeJohnette, Peter Erskine, Dave Holland and many others. He has toured Europe, South America, Australia, Japan and the United States and is a faculty member of Berklee School of Music where he provides classes in improvisation, jazz harmony, ensembles (John Coltrane/Joe Henderson ensemble) and private guitar lessons. Bruce is also adjunct professor of music at New York University. Check out Bruce's website.


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