I feel that it’s important for you, as newcomers to the music world to realize how important it is to network and do gigs wherever you can. And by gigs I mean recording, sitting in, cover bands, original bands, solo gigs and whatever else can come your way. It’s all experience, and experience is the one commodity you just can’t put any kind of price tag on. It is what builds your chops, but also your character and your ability to handle many different kinds of situations. And believe me, I know from my experience that just about any kind of gig can and will come along!
I can recall doing some of the most outrageous things….playing with my band “Steel” outdoors in front of a “Chuck Wagon” restaurant in Philly, playing poolside during the Asbury Park riots in downtown Asbury Park, N.J., wearing Hawaiian leis and sitting and playing lap steel guitar in front of an opening of “South Pacific” in mid-town Manhattan, and on and on. Admittedly, some of these kinds of gigs can be a bit humiliating, but just remember that the alternative is most likely not gigging at all. At least you make some money (as long as someone doesn’t “stiff” you!), and if you do a good job, it usually tends to always lead to something else that is even better. And of course, never forget that it’s the experience of doing these gigs as a young fresh-faced rookie that later on turns into part of the resume’ of a wise old “veteran.”
I especially recall how when I moved to the town of Woodstock, NY, with its famous music scene I was sure to always do whatever gig I could possibly get called on to do, because I first of all knew that even in the smallest “dive” bar, I may get heard by someone who could really help me later on, and that this was a way that many of the finest musicians there would occasionally do gigs locally, just to do them! It seemed like many times people didn’t even realize what great musicians they were being treated to. To them it was just another night out in the local saloon, with a band of musicians onstage that came from “somewhere.” Of course, in the town of Woodstock itself there were several “hip” places to play where you really did get heard by the right people, and in many cases the audience was even fuller of musicians than the stage was! Another great thing about that scenario was that you’d never know who might show up and sit in with the band, and that person was very often me!
Many of these gigs were seemingly “fruitless”, but they would often prove later on to actually make a difference in my reputation. It’s amazing, but even to this day people will come up to me and actually recount some gig where they saw me play in which even I can’t recall until giving it real serious thought! But the fact is that to them, I made a difference and they remembered me and my guitar playing! Isn’t that all we can ever ask for as musicians…..to be remembered, and to connect with our audience!