Well folks, it was time to get back on the horse musically – so yesterday One Less Karen (that’s us) performed at the first gig we were offered…at the 1st annual motorcycle rally at Jerry’s Saloon in Fortine, MT. Yep. We did. Not fricking kidding. The following is our tale of yesterday’s experience. Let me start by exclaiming that, contrary to popular belief, sometimes alcohol is INDEED your friend. Don’t believe me? Yeah…well try performing original tunes at a motorcycle rally and get back to me on that, ok?
Let’s begin at the beginning…this is an rving blog after all, right? Believe it or not, Jerry’s Saloon has about a dozen rv sites available with full hookups but no bath house ($300/month including electric in summer, if interested) – and it is a gorgeous area. We aren’t camping there, of course, because we have a great private site in Trego – but thought we should tell you about it. It is also one of the few areas up here that has, at least, spotty cell phone service (plus they have wifi). Not many people know about the “rv park” here, so if heading this way, we highly recommend it….it is quite quiet most days and it is on a golf course, for all you golfing folks. There’s a grocery store (the Fortine Mercantile/gas station) and post office and it is only 10 miles from the more “urban” (I say this sarcastically) town of Eureka, which is an awesome little town with art, antiques, cafes…adorable, honest. We are biased because our home, before rving full time, was in Fortine…and Jerry’s was our old stomping ground. In fact, my daughter’s middle school graduation was held in the private room in the back…so in our hearts, we love Jerry’s Saloon and Fortine is our “home.” But that love only goes so far, as you will see….
Ok…let’s get back to the motorcycle rally…………………….
We were supposed to play from 5:30pm to 8pm. Our only instruction was that we “follow the women’s mud wrestling tournament.” Gulp. Ok….
So we get there early, to unwind a bit. That’s when it all began. The realization that, unfortunately, people just don’t give a damn about live music anymore. The musician before us was put out in an rv site in the sun with NO SHELTER (I can’t even touch my black 12 string guitar when it is in the sun), using an rv post for his electricity. It was HOT and not a cloud in the sky when he was playing. There he was, sun sick and burning to a crisp, trying to play his heart out for an audience that was all inside, in the “cool” of the bar.
We were fortunate enough to see the dilemma (sorry, but how in the hell can you not think musicians need a sun shelter…about $40 bucks at Walmart?) so we set up FURTHER AWAY from the main party area, securely underneath the shade of a tree. However, our small PA system is great in a small venue, but not made for standing in a field, far away from the audience. So welcome continual distortion from having to crank up the volume on our speakers so people could hear. Lovely sound! Really made us sound GOOD! (sarcasm again). I will add that the other reason we moved far back is because they put the mud wrestling area right in front of the musicians….are you kidding me? Not willing to destroy all of our equipment with airborne globs of mud flinging around.
Breathe in…1,2,3….Breathe out…1,2,3…..continue on, Robin……………………..
So, expecting to begin at 530pm, we were told at 515pm to start playing because the mud wrestling contest was delayed (gee…wonder why…lack of people willing to sign up perhaps, haha?). But after just getting into our show and playing two songs, we were stopped and told the tournament would now begin. BREAK TIME!! Yeah!! How time flies!!
Well this contest went on forever….and the judges couldn’t decide who won each 30 second attempt at women trying to kill each other (one woman was reprimanded for trying to drown the other in mud – hey single guys, this is the ultimate place to meet Miss Right!), while covered in mud. I started getting tired of the announcement, “rematch!!” and sarcastically went to my microphone and said, “ladies, looks like it is rock/paper/scissors time!!” Being a smart ass comes in handy sometimes…just can’t help myself, I admit. Oh well. No one beat me up, Jim didn’t have to yank a female mud wrestler off of me, so that’s a good thing.
Of course, they used our PA system for the entire contest. So now it is about 615pm, the contest is over and we are instructed to begin playing. We are loving performing again (it’s been so long) and we practiced all week, feeling on top of our game. But then we are interrupted for raffle winner announcements. Then we play again. Then interrupted again for more winners. Make a long story short….we never got through one full set (we’d prepared for two full sets). We were there, it was apparent, solely for using our PA. I will add here that we have thousands of CDs on our laptop, so we played “motorcycle music” at every opportunity to keep the crowd happy. Yep…we were becoming DJ’S!!! Any musician knows that DJ’s have killed live music…forever.
When all announcements were finally over, at about 745pm, the woman who was assigned to announce everything from our PA system said that “THE DJ HAS ARRIVED AND PEOPLE WANT ROCK N’ ROLL MUSIC NOW.” We were done! That was it….we were there for 2 1/2 hours and barely completed one set. The joke is that the “DJ” played music that no motorcycle rider would care to listen to…our music selection would have at least pleased them.
But let’s balance the griping with the good stuff….here are the good things that came from this gig (not in any particular order):
- Jim’s love for me grew deeper, giving thanks he didn’t marry a mud wrestler.
- One young “kid” who still recognized that original music was a dying art form tipped us $20, securing our faith in the younger generation which we thought was hopeless
- A couple who was camping at the rv park tuned out the rest of the event, set up their lawn chairs in front of us, applauded, talked to us, took our business card, bought our CD, etc. They were our typical fans we were used to…and we were so glad they were there.
- One guy, about 30, came up to us and stuck a wad of cash in my hand…complimented our music and said “I’d just spend the money gambling, you take it.” Made our day!
- Someone who saw us play years ago said, “You’re playing? You guys are GREAT! Can’t wait to hear you!”
- For any rving musicians out there, we conveniently discovered that having a pickup truck is fantastic! We simply backed up to our grassy “stage” and dropped the tailgate down, using it for our mixer, etc. (Hint, this will not work in an indoor gig)
So how to sum this up? Well, here’s the thing…
The motorcycle crowd couldn’t have been nicer – and many applauded, even though they were far from where we were playing. But people only want to hear songs they know. In the music world, these are called cover songs. We love music so of course we enjoy hearing our favorite tunes…but when a bar completely ignores the needs of musicians (like shade, for example), keeps interrupting a performance without telling them what to expect in advance, promotes a DJ…and crowds only want to listen to music written years ago…well, where is music headed? If people only listen to songs from long ago, and venues don’t support the creation of new music…well, better enjoy listening to the same songs over and over, because no one will be creating anything new. We love hundreds of different musical artists…and when we see a talented musician playing original tunes live, we are inspired to know that more music is still being made and we applaud like wild to let him/her know we are out there in the audience.
So how did the evening end? Well, when we were done, the couple who enjoyed listening to original music were still sitting in front of us. Because we never played a long block of time in a row, it appeared they were ready for our true show to begin…but then they saw us taking our equipment down. I blurted out to them, “DJ’s killed the music industry” and they replied, “we know.”
Those going to hear live music…just remember these few little words, “there have been many great songs created since ‘Freebird’.” Give ’em a listen!
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