Seven Gigs And A Mixer12/3/21
It's been a long damn pandemic, boy howdy. Not that I've been through enough of them to know what a short pandemic would look like. Probly considerably less attractive.
But long or short, all good things must come to an end. And while COVID-19 has shown the resilient propensity of an unwanted guest to hang around picking crust off the pie and feeling up the chambermaid long after it wore out its welcome, bought the teeshirt and used it for a car rag, it and all its little Greek-letter bastard offspring are going to be on their merry way soon enough. I hope.
That hope springs eternal within me is a mark of my dedication to the essentially delusional trade of performing musician. Within the great purview of professions, entertainers rank right up there with gamblers, freelance writers and assassins for precarity of income and loucheness of lifestyle. Becker and Fagen, the extremely unlikeable but undeniably brilliant auteurs of yacht-rock irregulars Steely Dan, wrote an entire song, Deacon Blues, drenched in the depths of the world-view of a world-weary schlub desperately aspiring to the towering role of burnt-out bluesman. Not fame, not fortune, just the conveniently soft-edged imagining of a world of smoky bandstands, furtive transactions, cheap women and expensive drugs. "This is to me the essence of true romance," Fagen croons nasally over close-harmony horns and female vocalists.
But my upwelling of the yar companion of Faith and Charity has more than mere self-indulgent delusion to impel it. We'll just let someone else Learn To Work The Saxophone right this minute, because right this minute, as it has occasion to do, the Biz has done a turnaround. After 18 months of hens-teeth and accompanying chicken-feed, I'm back performing again. Specifically, I'm on the trailing edge of 7 gigs in 8 days.
Like all great historical events, there are primary and secondary reasons for this glorious glut.
Primarily, the world in general and Seattle in particular are fucking sick of being fucking sick, and while the headline feeds are still shrilling their interminable warnings, people are getting antsy to get up and boogey, masked or not. The Parks Department responded to the second (or was it third?) false dawn of infection reduction this past summer by reinstituting my long-time good-paying side hustle the Buskers In The Park program, much to my merriment and glee and ongoing reimbursement, thank Wha?.
Secondarily, it's Chanukah.
I've been a participant in a semi-miraculous assemblage of Yiddish musicians operating under the moniker The Klez Katz for a touch north of 20 years now, which beats me to the ground in astonishment whenever I chance across the realization. Over the years we've done just about everything you can do in a klezmer band in the PNW, which is to say it's a good thing we mostly have day jobs. With a core constituency of accordion, flute, sax and trombone (me), the group has at times also included bass, drums, keyboard, and for a year or two there a cantorally trained singer who was just a touch rockstar. The current lineup includes a clarinet, and I swapped out bone for guitarron, or as Harvey the squeezebox and ground-zero klezmer guy calls it, the guitarski. Whatevs — it's ethnic, and I get paid the same either way. And besides, a Mexican bass in a klezmer band? Why not — there are Jews in Mexico. There are Jews everywhere.
Anyway, while weddings and simchas and festivals and such occur all through the Jewish year, somehow the (actually pretty low-key) celebration of the Festival Of Lights, situated as it is somewhere in the moon-calendar vicinity of the Winter Solstice and That Other Well Publicized Holiday, brings out the party animals in the congregation and associates. It also encourages local communities to put on harmlessly performative Our Judeo-Christian Heritage celebrations of lighting candles and handing out treats (a religious holiday that enjoins you to eat jelly donuts? l like it!). So three of the gigs are municipal menorah fests in conjunction with neighborhood religious organizations, with the intrepid Klez Katz to provide the spiel and the spritz.
Along with my sparkling personality, scrupulous punctuality, keen ears and moderate but consistent chops, one of my value-added features as a sideguy is my possession of a fully-functional PA and the willingness to shlep it out to the performance, monkey it together, make sure it's doing its thing by the time the rest of the reprobates arrive, then do it all again backwards in high heels after the show, a service (I might add) for which I get paid what amounts to the big bucks for this outfit. Over the course of doing this yea these several years I've had occasion to replace a few bits and pieces, but my standing rule with regards equipment is, if it ain't broke, don't mess with it.
On the other hand, I'm also a fully-functional modern musician with the gear lust so endemic to the breed, and after my trusty-but-heavy powered board blew a main channel right before the epidemic, I'd been weighing my options for replacing the outmoded cinderblock, and what kept coming back to haunt my dreams was a Swiss Army but-wait-there's-more 16-track digital mixer that did everything but wash the dog and take out the compost. It mixes! It records! Control it with your iPhone! Wow! What stopped me from pulling the trigger was that it was also disgustingly expensive. My Inner Accountant would bash me with a rolled-up Wall Street Journal screaming DROP IT! NOT YOURS! until I temporarily gave in.
But then...there was hope. And gigs. And the prospect of more gigs. And a few extra COVID bucks in the bank. And lo, there on Craigslist was my dream mixer, gently used, at a price point that only made me scream in agony instead of see spots and black out. Reader, you know exactly what I did.
Fine. Call me Deacon Blues. Or Schlubnick Klezmer, even. Just don't call me late for soundcheck.