In My Mind's Zen Garden
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Dreaming of Nightmare Gigs

Last night, I had a bit of a Nightmare.

I dreamt I finally had this chance to perform with a few of the top Jazz Musicians in the world. I’m not going to mention any names because this turned out to be a bad experience for me, and after all it was just a dream.

from behind the drumset
Before The Gig, Behind The Drumset

So, I got this chance to perform at this concert hall, but every possible detail of the concert went wrong for me.

  • 1. For some reason, these jazz musicians remained elusive in the dream. Meaning, they seemed hard to get a hold of to get details of the concert.
  • 2. I didn’t know when the proper soundcheck and rehearsal was going to be, and without knowledge of the appropriate time frame, I was left in the dark and not knowing when or where to set up my drums!
  • 3. I assumed this would be a free-form jazz gig open to interpretation. Well, you know what happens when we assume things. At the very last minute, I was told that I had to learn these specific songs that the vocalist was going to perform. I was given a CD just an hour before everything was going to start, so I remember listening to the music but not being able to do a quick rehearsal with the jazz group!
  • 4. Where was everyone? For some reason I couldn’t find any of the musicians who were on this gig! I went to the concert hall, and they were already going to start, people were already making their way into the concert hall. I had feelings of hopelessness and panic.
  • 5. I didn’t have my drums set up, and couldn’t find any musicians to talk to about the details of the gig.
  • 6. In a way, I’m glad I woke up before the concert started, because that was going to be a disaster, for sure. I just hope I will never have a disastrous gig like that in real life.

jazz quartet...

Normally, in real life, I get details about the gig beforehand. And I usually arrive at the gig with more than enough time to setup and do a soundcheck. And, I allow enough time just in case something else happens, like a flat tire.

There are usually a few key bits of information that I try to get before a gig/show:

  • 1. Time and Place – obviously very important. The big detail is, when is “downbeat”, and which venue.
  • 2. When to Load In: for a drummer, it’s important to get there before the rest of the band. Maybe, this is the “lot in life” of a drummer, having to get there extra early and bringing drums, hardware and cymbals. And, usually if there’s a sound engineer, the drums will be mic’d and there’ll be an overhead mic or two. Especially in a dance band situation it’s important to properly mic and soundcheck the drums.
  • 3. The Attire: Usually, musicians wear a lot of black. So if one is not sure of the attire, all black is safe. But, ideally it’s best to ask what the attire will be to avoid any embarrassing situations where you don’t “blend in” with the rest of the band. I know I could improve on this. The hard part is that drummers sweat a lot and feel constricted in suits. So I am constantly looking for clothing and shoes that would look really nice and appropriate, yet give me a feeling of freedom to drum, since my arms and legs are always flailing while I perform.
  • 4. What type of Music: Of course, it’s my responsibility to know what music will be played, to rehearse if necessary, and to ask for MP3s or YouTube videos of songs that need to be learned. Recently, this has applied mostly to church and gospel gigs, because they always have new artists coming in and new music every Sunday.

Once, and I won’t name any names, but once I was given something like 3 cassette tapes of music to learn just a few days before the gig. Now, this band never hired me again, but was that really fair to me? And cassettes!!! C’mon, this is the new millenium of MP3s, CDs, etc… having to learn 4 hours worth of music by listening to cassettes nowadays is the equivalent to Chinese water torture!

But, this nightmare I had is sort of a subliminal reminder that I should go out of my way to ask questions about all the necessary details of a gig/show. Being a freelance drummer who “subs” for many bands throughout the year, I am blessed that I have the ability and experience to basically walk into a gig and play the music with little or no rehearsal.

I am a professional musician, and I know I need to keep my standards up, get all the details of the gig and do my best to be a team player.

Okay, I just hope I don’t get another one of those nightmares again. I’ve had a few in the past. I had another nightmare once where I couldn’t find the venue!



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About the author:
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Carlos Rull is a musician living in the San Diego area. His interests include Yoga, Eastern Philosophy, Zen Buddhism, and Gardening. He plays drums, piano, and composes New Age & Ambient music, and his albums are available on iTunes and Amazon.com.

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