"Bar gigs" have their benefits, and they have their drawbacks too. On one hand, they generally pay pretty well. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a meal out of it. And usually, there will be people there. But on the other hand, the majority of those people probably won’t be paying attention. The ones that are paying attention will mostly want to hear cover songs. And lastly, you almost always have to play for three hours. That is the main characteristic here. While I’m perfectly capable of this every once in a while, doing it several nights in a row can be exhausting. The strings of my guitar become indented into my fingers. My voice starts to fade. And mentally, I’m just no longer there.
My attraction to the American southwest has grown strong since I first toured through last fall. But for some reason, I am only able to book bar gigs in this part of the country. And some of them can be quite good. But when five shows in a week are bar gigs, I’m going to be drained. After playing three of them in a row, I was about ready to cancel last night’s show. Not to mention, my show count is outnumbering the number of days I’ve been out for. I could barely even hold a conversation. My fingers cringed at the thought of picking up a guitar. But I reminded myself of the new tires I would have to buy soon. I literally couldn’t afford to cancel a show.
I played a pretty mediocre set. I kind of knew I would. Usually I’d say that I made my own fate, but considering the amount that my voice and hands were hurting, I don’t think there was any other possible outcome.
As I was playing my last song, two drunk girls stumbled in from the street. After the song was over, and one of them realized I was done for the night, she got upset.
"WHAT?! No, you can’t be done."
"I’m afraid that I am."
"But… no! We want more! We came in because we heard YOU. C’mon, my name is Lisa"
"Well my name is Austin, but I just turned everything off, and I already played for three hours."
"Just play ONE more."
I handed her a CD.
"Here, you can listen to me ten more songs. I won’t even charge you for it."
She took it and hesitated for a second.
"…but I want to hear one more NOW."
"Fine, I’ll play just a chorus."
I sang the end of When The Rain Comes, completely unplugged, tip-toeing the edge of the stage. She let out a big yell after, and went to the bar to drink more. As I was packing up the bartender walked by the stage and said “You’re such a trooper”, with a laugh.
Lisa left her free CD sitting on the bar. I threw it back in my merch case and called it a night.