Been a while since I have had time to write. Between all my body maintenance appointments and rehearsing for last night's show, I have had a full plate.
Last night I worked the Harmony Corner Cafe. I had "stumbled" on the place when Kim and I sent in for lunch and met the owner, Greg Brice, who showed me the performance area in the back of the restaurant. I liked the set up as he has his own PA sytem and it would mean a minimum of set up.
As we discussed a date, Greg informed me that he had been an on the road musician for thirteen years as a piano player, singer, but wanted to settle down in Eau Claire. On the stage I noticed a spinet piano. When I asked about it, Greg informed me that he likes to get up and play for the customers during the dinner hour and before the entertainment starts. He asked if it would be all right if he sat in with me a bit when I performed.
I wasn't entirely comfortable with that, as we were dealing with an unknown, but I agreed.
Last night when I arrived to set up, I noticed two rather odd situations. Dead center on the stage was a full drum kit. The other odd situation was that Greg had two spotlights only - and both were trained on the area of the piano at the side of the stage.
I figured that sometime during set up, Greg would position those spot on center stage, where I would be working in the small area afforded me in front of the drums.
I was due to perform at 7 PM and about 6:30, Greg got up, accompanied by a drummer, Tyler. and he played tunes up until 7:PM.
I had set up my microphone and wanted him to plug into his PA and get a sound check but he negated that idea, saying I should use his microphone which was stationed at the piano.
At no time did he offer to re-adjust the spot lights. It became clear that they were there for a reason.
Somewhere in the middle of my first set, Greg announced that he was coming up to do a tune with me. I was so taken aback that I said nothing. We did a song or two together that we both kind of knew, and after an awkward pause, I thanked him and he left the stage and I finished my set.
Greg played all the way through my break and into the time set up for my second set.
I began my second set late, but was really starting to roll and had the audience with me. About four songs from the end of the set Greg again came up to the stage and said he was going to come up and sit in.
I told him that would be fine, but that I hadn't finished my second set yet and would he mind if i finished the set as I had rehearsed it the way i wanted to do it, but he insisted that he was coming up on stage, and he did so.
He also brought the drummer up with him and he did "Crying Time" and "King of he Road". At that point, I said good night, left the stage, and started packing away my gujitars.
Greg continued to play and almost the entire audience got up and left.
As I finished putting my gear away, Greg suddenly approached me and picked up my tip jar. "do you mind if I give the drummer some of the tips?" he asked. Completely dumb founded by this I mumbled a tentative "I suppose so", only to find my wife Kim wrenching the tip jar out of his hands, announcing: "I'll take this out to the car."
Early in the evening I had made a statement to the effect that it must be nice for Greg to have bought himself a place to play so he wouldn't have to go on the road.
Guess I inadvertently hit the nail on the head.
In thirty some years of entertaining I have never come across a situation like this.
Someone needs to tell Mr. Brice that if he is going to feature live entertainment, he had best let the people he brings in play the gig by themselves - otherwise he is going to be driving out not only customers, but performers as well.